Hugh Safford Ice Climbing

Hugh Safford ice climbing.

Renowned Ecologist Hugh Safford Named Chief Scientist at Vibrant Planet

Vibrant Planet to Deploy Best Available Science to Protect Forests from Catastrophic Wildfires, Fight Climate Crisis 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Dr. Hugh Safford has been named chief scientist of Vibrant Planet, which is pioneering new data, science and technology driven tools to protect our forests from devastating wildfires and ensure they remain a powerful solution to climate change

For decades, Dr. Safford has spearheaded solutions to major climate, forest, and fire challenges as Regional Ecologist for the USDA-Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region and through his innovative research and field work with UC Davis. As Vibrant Planet’s chief scientist, Safford will incorporate the best science in its software applications and strategic planning, and help guide its efforts to keep the world’s ecological systems from tipping. 

“Dr. Safford will advance our efforts to make communities and ecosystems more resilient in the face of catastrophic wildfire and the climate crisis,” explained Vibrant Planet CEO Allison Wolff.  “Hugh is as comfortable in the field as he is in the lab and his deep experience linking science with on-the-ground action will make our work even more impactful.”

Safford is well-known in science and management circles worldwide and as Regional Ecologist for the Forest Service, he helped lead efforts to sustain and restore healthy, resilient landscapes on the 20 million acres of National Forest land in California. Safford also managed a team of applied ecologists that provided science translation and delivery to Forest Service field units. Through this work, he helped establish the region as a center of excellence for vegetation, fire, and restoration ecology, climate change adaptation, and inventory and monitoring. 

“At a time when climate impacts are cascading and intensifying fires, droughts, and pest outbreaks are wreaking ecological havoc, Vibrant Planet is offering real, innovative solutions,” said Safford. “I’m thrilled to join this dynamic, growing team, and accelerate wildfire and climate resilience by bringing science, tech, and land management together.”  

In synergy with his work at Vibrant Planet, Safford is an adjunct member of the research faculty in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis and leads the Safford Lab, which provides applied ecological support to resource and fire management in California and worldwide. Safford is director of the Sierra Nevada section of the California Fire Science Consortium, he leads the California Prescribed Fire Monitoring Program (a partnership with CALFIRE), and he was the founder of the multipartner Southern California Montane Forest Conservation Strategy. 

Safford has provided technical assistance on fire, forest management, and climate change issues across the U.S. and around the world since the 1990s. Recent international projects include fire hazard and risk mapping in the country of Georgia, fire management planning in Mexico, climate change adaptation in Brazil, and forest restoration in North Africa and the Levant. Safford was a Fulbright Global Scholars fellow between 2017 and 2019, where he studied post-fire ecosystem restoration practices in the Mediterranean Basin. Safford was also co-editor of the 2021 Postfire Restoration Framework for National Forests in California, which provides guidance for management decision-making in burned ecosystems under changing environmental baselines. 

Safford was featured in the 2020 book Trees in Trouble by Daniel Matthews, and was the subject of a recent episode of the UK-based Conservation Careers podcast. Safford grew up in southwestern Montana, he has lived in California since 1986, and splits his time between Davis and the Lake Tahoe Basin. In his free time, Safford plays the piano, skis, climbs mountains, and reads foreign novels.

Safford joins a team at Vibrant Planet with decades of collective experience in climate policy, science, forestry, and technology across a diverse set of organizations including the U.S. Forest Service, CalEPA, University of California, Lyft, Netflix, Guidewire, Facebook, and Omidyar Network. 

About Vibrant Planet

Vibrant Planet is a public benefit corporation focused on adaptive planning and market-based solutions for restoring the biosphere and the climate, with a 501(c)(3) Data Commons that makes high-resolution data publicly available to the scientific community. Vibrant Planet is backed by investors and philanthropists focused on building wildfire resilience and nature-based climate solutions, including: Facebook’s chief product officer, Chris Cox; Netflix’s former chief product officer, Neil Hunt; The Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust; Halogen Ventures; Earthshot Ventures; Elemental Excelerator, and several private family foundations. 

Last September, Vibrant Planet launched its first application – called Land Tender™ – which catapults the country’s decades-old, paper-based land management system into the Cloud and provides land managers with the integrated, dynamic, high-resolution data and modeling they need to make more agile and informed decisions. With this new tool, land managers can plan, prioritize, and execute fire prevention and forest health projects in months rather than years, including thinning hazardous timber, clearing fuels from roadsides, and conducting prescribed burns. In 2022, Vibrant Planet is expanding Land Tender to include a monitoring and resilience reporting system, automated environmental regulation paperwork processing, and forest carbon market solution.

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