Using science to understand bushfires

How do scientists help us better understand how bushfires behave?

Focus statement

In this case study, students view a video of scientists studying how different types of eucalypt bark behave when ignited, and the role these embers have in the spread of bushfires.

Key message

Spot fires are caused by embers, which can be carried by the wind well ahead of the main fire front. Science helps us understand this process and informs better bushfire management approaches.


To introduce students to how scientists, science and technology contribute to better understanding of bushfire behaviour, watch the CSIRO video 'Eucalypt bark and bushfires'. This video is available as NDLRN digital curriculum resource, ID R9191. FUSE users can access this resource by searching in FUSE for R9191. Other users can find it in their own educational portal (for example Scootle, TaLe, the Learning Place, the Student Freeway digital curriculum resource search or the DET portal). Go to the National Digital Learning Resources Network website for more information about access.

Before viewing the video, prepare students by asking questions such as the following:

  • What terms relating to bushfires do they expect to hear? (make a list)
  • How might the video start, what might be an introductory statement you would use?
  • If the video shows scientists studying bushfire what would you expect to see?
  • What might be some possible findings you expect to see highlighted?

Ask students to record the key messages and findings they learn during the video. Compare their predictions about what they expected to see and hear to what they viewed.

Summarise their findings. Have students work in pairs to combine ideas about the key information that they learned from the video. Suggest some of these questions as a starting point.

  • What are spot fires and how do they start?
  • Why is it important to learn about the ways in which bark burns?
  • How do the burning embers rise in a bushfire? What type of heat transfer is involved?
  • How do scientists test the effect of different types of burning bark?
  • How can scientists apply what they found to fighting bushfires?

Students use the questions as a basis to present their information electronically to an audience.


Eucalypt bark and bushfires, NDLRN ID R9191.