Most of the time our work in disturbance ecology is focused on the natural world, where these dynamics are a natural part of the landscape and while we may be concerned about their trajectory or their impacts, it's somewhat removed. Our work on landslides (Buma and Johnson 2015) and regional disturbance patterns (Buma and Barrett 2015) was just like that - unfortunately, a strong storm hit Sitka, Alaska (within our study area) and triggered a landslide which killed three people. Our funded work from NASA is directly relevant to this - improving spatial and temporal landslide warning systems. It's an unfortunate reminder that many places in SE Alaska are in slide zones and the ecological phenomena we love to study can certainly collide with real life.
The folks in Sitka are doing an amazing job coordinating the scientific response. A large and strong taskforce has been assembled, NASA has made a special effort to collect extra data, funds have been identified, and proposals planned. Hopefully this turns into a productive lesson which enables not only new scientific understanding of disturbance ecology, but improves safety in the region.