Fulbright US Scholar Jacquelyn Chase just finished her project in Portugal and shares what Fulbright means to her:


“My name is Jacquelyn Chase. I am the recipient of a Fulbright Scholar award for fall 2023 in Portugal. I came to Portugal to investigate the contributions that new rural populations were making to managing fire in the central region of the country. This research took me to mountainous areas where six years ago two catastrophic fires—one in June and another in October—blackened almost 350,000 hectares of land, killing more than 100 people. Although the region has recovered to an amazing degree, there are still signs of that summer’s extreme fires on the land and in villages.


I was affiliated with an academic program well known for its research on the interaction of changes in forest management and fire–the Center for Forestry Studies at the University of Lisbon. Professor José Miguel Cardoso Pereira provided ongoing referrals and suggestions throughout the research period. I also made many contacts in Coimbra, where I lived so I could be close to my fieldwork sites.
Many of the people I interviewed in fall 2023 are introducing more native trees in the valleys and mountains where they live. Cork oaks, strawberry trees and chestnuts are a few of the plants that are known to resist fire. Agriculture, too, breaks up the contiguous monocultural forest plantations that occupy much of this region and which are prone to fire, especially when poorly maintained. The neo-rural populations are, in an incipient way, turning around a decades-long trend of land abandonment and neglect in this region.

Throughout my field research, I asked myself how the findings could provide some insights to fire resilience in California. I live only minutes from where the Camp Fire destroyed 19,000 buildings and displaced thousands in 2018. Living with fire is a way that many communities in Portugal and California define themselves. This common goal could bring people and organizations together to share ideas and resources. At the request of Dr. Dulce Lopes of the Instituto Jurídico da Universidade de Coimbra, I presented my research on planning in the wildland urban interface in California at the VI Debate Florestas e Legislação: A Proteção da Interface Urbano-Florestal (IUF)/Dimensões Jurídicas. The series of conferences and publications are part of the research consortium The House Refuge Project of the University of Coimbra.

In collaboration with forestry and social services personnel in Góis, Arganil and Vila Nova de Poiares municipalities, I visited farms and villages in these municipalities to learn how landowners were fighting the tide of invasive eucalyptus and acacias. They are overwhelmingly turning to regenerative agriculture, forestry and animal husbandry. Their stories are written in the mountain valleys where they live, in a language of land management that is just beginning to be understood, spoken and translated. Fulbright has given me the time, resources and encouragement to travel to where these innovations are emerging. I can now perhaps be an interlocutor between these and other communities shaped by fire.”





Dr. Jacquelyn Chase is Professor Emerita of Geography and Planning at California State University-Chico, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences