- Name: Annie Rosenthal
- Number of lab members or colleagues (excluding PI): We do not have a lab,
but there were 3 researchers in our study
- Location: Berkeley, CA
- Graduation Date: May 2019
Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?
I am a social worker in the San Francisco Bay Area working at the intersection of climate, health and social issues. My team and I recently finished up at qualitative research study looking at the health and social impacts of the recent wildfires that we have had in California. In addition to looking at how these fires are impacting health and well-being in the surrounding communities, we also looked at the perceived effectiveness of the response and recovery resources that survivors utilize after the wildfire.
Fig 1. 2017 North Bay Fires Burn Area (Tubbs, Atlas & Nuns).
Fig 2. 2017 Thomas Fire Burn Area.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I graduated with my Masters in Social Welfare from UC Berkeley in 2019. I had always been interested in how our social environment impacts health outcomes, which is what led me to go back to school. While I was at Berkeley, Northern California saw two of its most destructive wildfire seasons on record. I kept thinking about what short and long-term impacts these fires would have on various social issues that I was learning about in school–mental health, housing, substance use, etc. As social work students, we also think a lot about the effectiveness and sustainability of health and social programs, so I was also interested in the role of response and recovery resources in the aftermath of wildfires. I teamed up with a professor of mine, Dr. Rohini Haar at Berkeley’s School of Public health, who is an emergency room physician, and together we decided to conduct a research study on the health and social impacts of climate change with a focus on the role of response and recovery resources.
Fig 3. 2018 Camp Fire Burn Area.
Fig 4. 2018 Woolsey Fire Burn Area.
Please describe the process of learning, iterating, and creating the project
We read a lot of research articles about the health and social impacts of wildfires and natural disasters prior to beginning our own study. We found many articles discussing some of the immediate, physical health impacts of wildfires, such as issues related to smoke inhalation. But we found less articles that talked about long-term health and social impacts, so we knew we wanted to make sure we asked participants about those outcomes. We also read a lot of articles that talked about housing and employment issues quantitatively, such as how many homes burned, or how the wildfire impacted local employment rates. But we were really interested in how wildfires impact those same social issues qualitatively. What kind of impacts do wildfires have on housing and employment that cannot be captured in numbers? What we found through our qualitative research was a series of what we called “ripple impacts” in the communities surrounding the wildfire.
Please describe the process of launching the project
First we submitted a proposal to our University’s IRB. Once that was approved, we began recruiting participants to be interviewed for our study. We sent out some recruitment emails on health and social service professional listservs asking. We also attended community meetings in disaster impacted areas in Northern California to recruit participants and to learn more about the long-term impact that the fires were having on the community. We conducted interviews for four months in late 2019 and then bega