Integrating art and science to communicate the social and ecological complexities of wildfire and climate change in Arizona, USA

Melanie Colavito, Barbara Satink Wolfson, Andrea E. Thode, Collin Haffey, Carolyn Kimball

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: This paper describes Fires of Change, a collaborative art exhibit designed to communicate about the shifting fire regimes of the United States Southwest through the lens of multimedia art. The Southwest Fire Science Consortium and Landscape Conservation Initiative, both of which are boundary organizations that facilitate collaboration among managers and scientists to develop and apply actionable science, organized Fires of Change by convening scientists, managers, and artists in the co-production of science-based artwork. Surveys were conducted with Fires of Change exhibit visitors to assess the impacts of viewing the exhibit, as well as with exhibit creators to assess the effects of participating in the project. Results: The visitor survey results demonstrate that Fires of Change exhibits increased visitors’ understanding of the effect of climate change on fire regimes and increased visitors’ support for management actions to address the effects of climate change on fire behavior. The exhibit creator survey results demonstrate that the development of Fires of Change created new relationships and networks among the participants and increased appreciation for collaborations among scientists, managers, and artists. Specifically, science-management relationships, networks, and boundary organizations may have facilitated the project. Conclusions: Fires of Change demonstrates that art can be an effective mechanism for communicating about complex ecological issues and that, by collaborating in the development of artwork, scientists and managers can create new partnerships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number19
JournalFire Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • US Southwest
  • art
  • climate change
  • fire science
  • science communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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