Prof Bibiana Bilbao
” To understand the science of fire is to understand the dynamics of tropical ecosystems and the people and their culture”
Which area of fire science do you specialise in?
Initially, I started with fire ecology to understand its role in the dynamics of tropical savannas. However, when I started doing fire experiments with Indigenous peoples, I looked around and discovered people and their fantastic knowledge! From that moment, I incorporated the human component of fire!
What do you like about working in fire science?
Fire is a key, omnipresent, and unifying factor in all ecological processes in tropical ecosystems. To understand the science of fire is to understand the dynamics of tropical ecosystems and the people and their culture.
What challenges have you faced in getting to where you are now?
The biggest challenge was combining my values as a woman, as a mother and a wife, dedicating myself to my family and at the same time aspiring to pursue a committed scientific career. In academic terms and socio-political arenas, a big challenge has been to develop integrated and intercultural fire management policies that include the traditional knowledge and participation of the Indigenous peoples. It’s not easy in highly competitive and traditionally men-dominated fire-science academic and policy spaces.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I love plants and working in the garden and being in contact with nature.
Do you have any advice to give women wanting to pursue a career in science?
We have a huge challenge ahead of us, but the most important thing is always staying authentic by maintaining our values as women. The advice I would give is to aim at conciliation, inclusion, and the integration of science to the expression of historically silenced voices (including the women’s voices).
Prof Bibiana Bilbao is a member of the Centre’s Advisory Board, and Professor of Biological Sciences at Simon Bolívar University in Venezuela
Read about other women in the Centre
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