Exploring the impact of wildfire smoke in Western Canada

New survey by UAlberta scientists examines how wildfire smoke is affecting Canadians.

Andrew Lyle - 23 January 2020

A new study by University of Alberta scientists, including undergraduate student researchers, is exploring how wildfire smoke is affecting Canadians-and could use your input to an online survey.

"The survey is examining the general public's perception of and response to the risk of wildfire smoke," explained Devon Healey, an undergraduate student conducting the research as part of his thesis. "Wildfires are becoming much more intense and frequent, and-especially in Canada-wildfires are becoming a much more regular part of the landscape."

The survey is timely for Western Canada, where wildfire smoke has become a regular occurrence in the summer. It comes with an increased need to understand how Canadians perceive the risk of wildfire smoke, said Healey-and how they respond to it.

"The results of this survey will provide information for government agencies responsible for reducing impacts of wildfire smoke," explained Healey. "We've shared the survey with several groups via Facebook, but the more responses we receive, the better our data will be."

Involving undergraduate students in research provides an opportunity to work on real-world science, as Healey's supervisor Tara McGee, professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, explains:

"Active involvement in research is an excellent opportunity for students-and, in this case, it's especially important as wildfire smoke and its effects have received little attention by researchers," said McGee. "We want to learn more about the perception of the risk and whether people plan to take action to reduce their exposure-as well as from people who have experienced wildfire smoke and whether they have made any changes to reduce their exposure or experienced any health effects."

The survey was available to the public online until January 31, 2020.

"We don't have a preference as to where people live in Canada," said Healey. "Anyone and everyone can respond on their perception of wildfire smoke and share their experiences-and their responses will be very helpful."

Want to learn more about environmental science in the Faculty of Science? Visit our online hub on Sustaining Earth's Systems, and learn about campus research, initiatives, and news in environmental sustainability.