Dennis Trewin Prize – 31 October in Canberra

This year the Canberra Branch established the Dennis Trewin Prize, inspired by the JB Douglas Prize awarded by the NSW Branch. The Canberra prize is for the best presentation by a PhD student (current or very recently graduated) from an ACT university or a regional NSW university not covered by the NSW Branch prize. Candidates are judged on a recording of a 10-15 minute presentation, and the winner receives the $1000 prize and is invited to give a full presentation at a Canberra Branch meeting.

The 2017 (and inaugural) winner is Rachael Quill, who did her degree at UNSW Canberra and is currently an ACEMS Research Associate at the University of Adelaide. The prize will be presented and Rachael will give her presentation at ANU (Allan Barton Forum) on Tuesday 31 October 2017 at 6:00pm. In addition we are privileged to have Dennis Trewin coming to the meeting and doing the first presentation of the prize named in his honour.

Full details of the talk Rachael is giving and a brief biography are:

Topic Statistical characterisation of wind fields over complex terrain for applications in bushfire modelling


Wind is known to account for much of the variability observed in the spread of bushfires, but the current physics-based diagnostic models used in fire prediction do not well capture the variability of wind flow in key areas of complex terrain. This research focusses on the analysis of wind across such regions to statistically characterise wind flow, thus allowing for better characterisation of its variability in relation to emerging probabilistic fire prediction frameworks.

Directional wind response across the landscape is probabilistically represented using joint distributions of wind direction, dependent on prevailing wind speed. Due to the toroidal nature of such distributions, specialised techniques are considered to estimate the underlying continuous wind response process using the observed discrete data. This toroidal topology is also considered in the comparison of directional wind response under varying environmental conditions. Sensitivity analysis of non-parametric comparison tests allows for more detailed investigation into the influence of physical parameters, such as surface roughness, on the probabilistic representation of wind fields. Finally, the new datasets collected as part of this research are utilised to evaluate wind modelling approaches currently used for operational fire spread prediction. The new data and new approaches considered throughout this research provide new insights into the impacts of terrain and vegetation on wind flow, and allow for better representation of wind field variability in the fire modelling process.

Rachael Quill is currently an ACEMS Research Associate at the University of Adelaide, researching the statistical analysis and modelling of the reliability of the South Australian wind power network. Rachael studied for her PhD at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra. Her thesis focusses on the statistical characterisation of wind fields over complex terrain for bushfire modelling applications, with particular interest in the impacts of surface roughness on wind fields as well as the development of probabilistic approaches within fire modelling. Rachael’s PhD was funded by UNSW Canberra and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre. Rachael holds an MSci in Mathematics and Statistics from Lancaster University in the UK, during which she took part in a 12-month exchange program to the Australian National University (ANU). Following her undergraduate studies, Rachael relocated to Australia and completed a multidisciplinary Master’s program at the ANU.


Warren Müller

President – Canberra Branch


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