5 STEM careers in fighting fires

Fire fighter
There are loads of opportunities in tech + disaster relief. Image: Shutterstock

If your thing is STEM + emergency management, there are loads of behind-the-scenes positions in tech-based disaster relief. Here we hash out five of them. 

1. Data scientist

OK, so they’re not exactly hanging out on the frontline – but a data scientist’s ability to pull meaningful insights from facts, figures and studies is a major asset when prepping for a fire season. Assisting emergency services by uncovering climate trends and patterns to better predict and prepare are all in a day – and life’s – work, along with conducting surveys, creating data management systems and developing more effective data capture procedures post event.

Study: Bachelor of Computer Science at Deakin University
Salary: AU$50K – AU$103K*

RELATED: Data science could help California battle future wildfires

2. Geographic information system (GIS) analyst

Experts in geographic information systems use their navigation, map-making and data processing skills to assist in emergencies and relief work. During increased fire activity they create maps to assist in-situ field workers access hard-to-reach places, as well as process geographic data to predict, prevent and improve response time for future scenarios.

Study: Bachelor of Applied Geographical Information Systems at Flinders University
Salary: AU$53K – AU$96K*

3. Civil engineer

We often think of civil engineers as championing large-scale public construction projects, but we should also be thanking them for tackling global challenges like population growth, climate change and – in the case of fire-fighting STEM gigs – natural disasters. Following the devastation of a fire, engineers work tirelessly to re-rebuild public infrastructure – re-establishing roads, waste and sewerage networks, public transport systems and improving fire defences.

RELATED: Meet a heatwave expert

Study: Civil Engineering (Honours), UNSW
Salary: AU$53K  –  $AU113K*

4. Meteorologist

When extreme weather hits meteorologists play a key communication role, using a variety of scientific techniques to interpret data from weather stations, satellites, radars and remote sensors in order to predict and monitor further conditions. The reports they generate not only prove vital to emergency service teams on the ground – managing strategy, evacuations, aid relief and road closures – but also to the public who use forecasts to make informed decisions regarding their safety, and better prep for future incidents.

Study: Bachelor of science (environmental science), Western Sydney University

Salary: AU$61k –   AU$110k

5. Software engineer

Notoriously desk-bound computer science grads aren’t usually associated with fighting fires, but with emergency management teams relying on technology to forecast, track, photograph and monitor large-scale blazes there are loads of opportunities in tech + disaster relief. Software engineers, developers and programmers are the brains behind live story maps, digital infrastructure, hot-spot mapping and app initiatives like Fires Near Me. Although most of their work is done in preparation for fire season, IT teams are constantly innovating to ensure that the latest – and most effective – tech is being utilised.

Study: Masters of Engineering (Software), The University of Melbourne
Salary: AU$54k –  AU$115k

Meet real-life STEM + climate management professionals:

  • Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick uses climate models to study heatwaves at the Climate Change Research Centre at UNSW.
  • James Hooper is investigating how different land uses like farming and grazing affects the amount of dust produced and emitted to the atmosphere, and the impacts of this on the ecosystems where the dust lands.
  • Sujita Khadka hopes to use her civil engineering skills to develop her home country, Nepal.

*Salaries taken from PayScale.

Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital assistant, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.

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