Research Assistant Blogs

Post-Fire Monitoring on the Elephant Hill Fire

In the summer of 2018, five student researchers undertook post-fire monitoring to help determine the fire severity and recovery of the 2017 Elephant Hill fire, which burned 192,000 hectares in the Kamloops Fire Centre. Here are some of their stories…

Adrianne Lam

The good…

Who: Arial Eatherton (left), Adrianne Lam (right)

Photo taken by Judah Melton

On one of our last weekends at Cache Creek, we decided to take a nice hike to see some petroglyphs. Although it was tiring, the view once we reached the caves was breathtaking. It was also my first time seeing petroglyphs, which made this day especially memorable.

…the bad…

Photo taken by Adrianne Lam

This photo was taken along HiHium road near Cache Creek. Towards the end of the season, there were multiple wildfires near the area. Some of the smoke spread towards Cache Creek, and created a haze so thick that it prevented us from seeing beyond the cliffs.

…the ugly

Photo taken by Adrianne Lam

Photo taken in Cache Creek. A typical day on the job. No matter how many plots we finished in a day, we always end up with charcoal and dirt all over our faces. It has become such a regular occurrence in the field that I did not realize how ugly we looked until I came back to Vancouver.


Arial Eatherton

Canoeing in my off time during the Gavin Lake project (1 August 2018)

Hiking with the field crew on the Cameron Ridge Trail, overlooking the Cariboo Mountains (5 August 2018)

The Elephant Hill Crew hard at work in a moderate severity site north of Scottie Creek (24 July 2018)

Photo of me using my mystical divining powers to ascertain the DBH of this Douglas Fir in a site on Back Valley rd. near Cache Creek (19 July 2018)


After spending part of the summer working on the Elephant Hill Fire, some research assistants moved up to the Williams Lake area to undertake post-fire monitoring in part of the Central Cariboo Complex and in several small fires that burned in the UBC Gavin Lake Research Forest also in 2017.

Corbin Manson

This severely burned stand near Pressey Lake was my first encounter with the devastating potential of wildfires. Walking amongst charred trees and bare soil, I developed an appreciation for the importance of wildfire research, and for the resilience of communities that coexist with wildfires.

For me, one of the most thrilling experiences of the summer was watching life return to burned areas. The fungi we found were particularly amazing. Morel mushrooms are a rare delicacy in the city, so being able to harvest them in the wild added an unexpectedly savoury dimension to our work.

Working alongside wildlife is both fascinating and dangerous. Luckily, one of the employees of the Alex Fraser Research Forest, Greg, brought his dog Costner along. Costner served as an early warning system to the presence of bears, moose, and any other wildlife. Costner was also happy to sit in your lap and help you finish your lunch!


Valentina Coy

Photo taken by Bryn Gerson on July 31, 2018. Part of our job at the field was doing vegetation transects to assess ecosystem recovery and surface fuels after a wildfire event. Here’s a photo of me collecting forest floor, duff and leaf litter samples at a control site.

It was amazing to see how live returned to areas previously affected by fires. Photo 1 shows a Douglas Fir seedling growing on a plot previously burned by wildfire. Photo 2 shows life regenerating on a previously burnt log at a high severity site.

Photo taken by Marcos Kavlin on July 30, 2018.  Picture of Devan and I with matching outfits on a sunny start to our field day. As a field crew, we would start our day like this and finish it covered by charcoal and dirt.

Photo taken by Devan Stewart on August 6, 2018. I was lucky I got to work with an amazing group of people this summer. Here is a photo of some of us hiking the Cariboo Mountains during the weekend. It was my first time hiking in the interior of BC. The landscapes, rocky formations, and views at the end of the hike were simply beautiful.


Fire History at the Williams Lake Community Forest

Three student assistants accompanied PhD Student Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz into the Williams Lake Community Forest, Flat Rock Block, to help collect fire scar samples and tree cores that will be used to reconstruct the historical fire frequency and fire severity in the Community Forest. 

Bryn Gerson

From our first week of field work in the Williams Lake Community Forest, in early June, where we happened upon a meadow of wildflowers.

Taken by: Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz

Showing: Marcos Kavlin, James Bergal, Bryn Gerson

Collecting fires-scarred samples in the Williams Lake Community Forest. This was a chainsaw training day where we learned how to make various cuts, scary but exciting!

Taken by: Bryn Gerson

Showing: Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz

Having to take cores at hard to reach places during a Danger Tree assessment in the Williams Lake Community Forest.

Taken by: Gregory Greene

Showing: Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz, Bryn Gerson