Post of the month 04/2021: Miriam Morrill

About me:

I am recently retired from a federal fire management position in the United States, where I managed a statewide fire prevention, fire mitigation and wildland fire cause investigation program in California. I am now leveraging my fire knowledge in combination with my skills as an illustrator to promote nature journaling as a fire education tool. 

My approach is to create illustrations, nature journaling guidance and workshops that integrate fire science with personal journaling practices to connect people to their fire environment, increase situational awareness, and hopefully contribute to community readiness and resilience. 

What is Nature Journaling? This is an old-school practice that consists of collecting on paper (journal or sketchbook)- through words, drawings, and numbers – observations, questions, connections, and explanations from personal field experiences. 

There are neural science reports describing how place-based and full-bodied learning techniques such as nature journaling enhance understanding and social-emotional learning but the practice has not been used much as a fire education approach- not that I know of. 

I assume that nature journaling has not been a part of most fire education programs because fire, and the fire environment, is considered a higher risk scenario, from a safety and litigation perspective. 

Part of my current work is trying to network and promote nature journaling opportunities during prescribed burns or in post-fire areas. I think the best fire journaling practice or program would include local observations before, during, and after fire to build a good sense of the overall fire environment. Note- I do not promote fire journaling when a wildfire poses any risk to home and safety.  My recent consulting and illustration efforts have included illustrations for a Canadian forest management plan and US-based smoke and air quality study, several virtual workshops to US-based fire adapted communities and networks, coordinating nature journaling efforts for several prescribed fire training program events and developing a youth fire journaling program and guide for a county-wide fire safe council in California. I will also be providing a fire journaling session for the International Association of Wildland Fire Conference in May. 

I see my role and challenge as finding the best ways to integrate trauma-informed perspectives and fire science with easy to follow journaling practices that enhance learning and connections to the fire environment- how to outline nature signs and signals that connect to a changing environment and fire conditions with fluctuating fire risk conditions- and how to provide relevant and meaningful examples and exercises that help guide the fire journaling experience.  

I would love to hear from the FIRElinks community about any fire journaling programs and partnerships and would be happy to share some of my ideas and examples that could be evaluated and or modified for your local fire education efforts. 

Learn more about my efforts on my website at pyrosketchology.com and through my Facebook Page called Pyrosketchology. You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

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