Disrupting Disaster: Pushing the Limits of Innovation

At Disaster Lab, we're creating and implementing visionary technologies that tackle the most pressing issues facing our world today. From natural disasters, pandemics, new energy solutions, pollution and beyond, we're pushing the boundaries of what's possible, and driving the adoption of these game-changing technologies to make the world a better place.

From the grant RFP response for climate resilience funds we wrote for the university recently: “Disaster Lab supports the development of innovations which aim to prevent, mitigate, and foster faster recovery from climate-change related disasters in California and beyond — currently  focusing on wildfires, earthquakes, and ocean impacts.”  We focus on those technologies with the potential to significantly improve prevention and response, particularly those with disruptive potential.

We foster disruptive disaster innovations via a pipeline from the lab to the field:

  1. We engage in targeted primary research to innovate in environmental technologies and disaster response;
  2. We support other early stage innovators on the campus conducting novel research in climate resilient technologies through courses (e.g. ENGIN 183C Challenge Lab: Creating Innovative Solutions to Environmental Change), guidance, connections to industry experts with domain knowledge, undergraduate and graduate research support, and collaborative grant writing;
  3. We facilitate field pilots and/or early evaluations of novel climate resilience technologies in partnership with industry experts and/or end users, comparing efficacy, robustness, efficiency, environmental performance, and equity of end user access to those technologies;
  4. We partner with the innovators to write white papers documenting the results of these pilots and/or evaluations;
  5. We write academic peer-reviewed papers feeding the results of these evaluations back into the academic pipeline, bringing it full circle.
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Renewable Energy

Disaster Lab is at the forefront of shaping the future of energy, pushing the boundaries of what's possible in renewables, energy storage, and energy mobility. We work in collaboration with industry leaders and experts to test, integrate, and drive the adoption of cutting-edge energy technologies that will change the world.

From revolutionary energy storage solutions, to mobile power generation and advanced energy monitoring systems, we're building a more resilient, sustainable power grid. Discover how we're shaping the energy landscape and learn more about our groundbreaking work.

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Energy Technology Development Projects

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Sustainable Development

Disaster Lab pioneers sustainable and resilient infrastructure solutions. We understand the urgent need for housing, infrastructure, and improvements across California and the world, and we believe that this development must be done in a way that is sustainable, equitable and resilient to a changing climate.

Our team of experts works with developers, constructors, startups, and researchers to bring about innovative solutions that change the way the world thinks about infrastructure. Imagine a future where housing and infrastructure are designed to withstand the toughest challenges and promote sustainable living. Join us in shaping the future of sustainable development and learn more about how you can be a part of this change.

100506-N-6070S-819 Gulf of Mexico (May 6, 2010) -- Dark clouds of smoke and fire emerge as oil burns during a controlled fire in the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. Coast Guard working in partnership with BP PLC, local residents, and other federal agencies conducted the "in situ burn" to aid in preventing the spread of oil following the April 20 explosion on Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit Deepwater Horizon. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Stumberg/Released)

Pollution and Remediation

Disaster Lab is shaping a cleaner and healthier future through our work in environmental remediation and habitat restoration. We're dedicated to restoring areas that have been degraded, damaged, or destroyed by natural or man-made disasters. By working with researchers, governments, and innovative technology companies, we're driving the adoption of game-changing solutions that will shape a brighter, more sustainable future for all. Join us in creating a cleaner and healthier environment.

Environmental and Ecology Projects 

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FIRE Foundry 

Dr. Azwell launched an innovative program, FIRE Foundry, that is revolutionizing the way we approach wildfire prevention. The program's objective is to train and empower underrepresented and underfunded community members in Marin County and the Bay Area to become a science and technology-savvy, community-oriented wildfire prevention workforce. The program provides job training and skills development for full-time work at Marin Fire and Conservation Corps North Bay.

FIRE Foundry is in its pilot year and is getting ready to launch the second cohort of soon-to-be firefighters who will be kick starting their own path to a sustainable wage career in fire service.

Deploying Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV) in Tubbataha Reefs National Park, Boracay Island, and Bolinao

Tubbataha Reef National Park, a no-take Marine Protected Area in the Sulu Sea, is a haven for biodiversity, but has seen a decline in coral reef health over the past three decades due to human activities such as dynamite fishing, cyanide fishing, collection of aquarium fish, and large anchor casting. The park's remote location is a double-edged sword, protecting it from coastal externalities, but making it harder to monitor and protect.

 

Disaster Lab is working with the University of the Philippines and the Philippine-California Advanced Research Institutes to utilize Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) for environmental monitoring and maritime surveillance in the marine park. We obtain high-resolution spatial and temporal data of physicochemical parameters during the dry and wet months of the year. Specifically, we aim to:

  1. Characterize surface water properties and circulation patterns within the park, especially during off-season months.
  2. Demonstrate the surveillance capabilities of the USVs by performing regular transects of Jessie Beazley Reef.

By using state-of-the-art technology, we aim to assist the Tubbataha Management Office in effectively monitoring and preventing violations of MPA policies, thus helping protect and conserve this precious marine environment for future generations.

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— FALL 2022 COURSE

Disaster Technology: Creating Innovative Solutions to Environmental Change

ENGIN 183C

Learn how innovative solutions are being used to detect, prevent, and manage environmental disasters like wildfires. Explore the technology gaps that exist at every level of disaster response and discover how new solutions can empower industry, government and other experts to become more effective at preventing and managing disasters. With a hands-on approach, you'll use the Berkeley Method of Entrepreneurship and Lean Methodology to ideate and innovate potential solutions, while understanding the stakeholders, end-users, and problems involved. Join this class and be at the forefront of shaping the future of disaster management, and make a real impact on the world.

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Disaster Lab is led by:

Dr. Thomas Azwell

Dr. Azwell, a visionary leader at Disaster Lab, brings a wealth of experience in environmental science, corporate sustainability, technology innovation, and entrepreneurship. With a Master's in Science Education and a Doctorate in Environmental Science from the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Azwell is at the forefront of shaping the future of environmental remediation and restoration.

At Disaster Lab, Dr. Azwell is providing students, researchers, and faculty with the unique opportunity to collaborate with industry experts and work on cutting-edge solutions to address some of the world's most pressing environmental problems. Join us and be a part of the team that is driving innovation and making a real impact on the world.

Disaster Lab is directed by:

Sukh Singh

Sukh is a trailblazer at Disaster Lab, pushing the boundaries of innovation in the critical field of disaster detection, mitigation, and remediation. He leads the demonstration and independent evaluation of cutting-edge technologies and manages Innovation Challenges - opportunities for students to tackle technology gaps identified by first responders with mentorship from industry partners.

Sukh is also a key member of the development team for FIRE Foundry, a revolutionary workforce development program built in collaboration with Marin County and Marin Fire Department, aimed at bringing underrepresented groups into fire service careers. He is proud to be preparing the next generation of firefighters and equipping them with the state-of-the-art tools and technology that will be essential for their success as they ascend in their careers.

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Disaster Lab Chief Scientist:

Josh Dimon

Josh is a seasoned expert in documenting and addressing the injustices caused by climate change and inadequately supervised large energy projects, both domestically and internationally. He dedicated his PhD research at UC Berkeley to investigating these issues in the contexts of Mozambique and Bangladesh.

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Lab Members

At Disaster Lab, we collaborate with the top researchers, faculty, and labs globally to conduct thorough evaluations of the latest technologies in disaster detection, tracking, mediation, and response

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Kaitie Penry

Visiting Scholar

Kaitie is the University Program Director of the National Security Innovation Network, where she guides students at Cal and universities across Northern California on a journey of discovery of the cutting-edge opportunities presented by the Department of Defense.

Research Affiliates

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Michael Gollner Ph.D

Michael is faculty in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Cal. He leads the Fire Research Lab where his team tackles an array of problems having to do with fire science and combustion.

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Alasdair Cohen Ph.D

Alasdair is a professor of Environmental Epidemiology at Virginia Tech, and serves as Research Director for the Berkeley/China/Virginia Tech Program for Water & Health.

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Ritwik Gupta

Ritwik serves as Principal AI Scientist at the Defense Innovation Unit where his research is focused on efficient machine learning for humanitarian assistance and disaster response. He's currently pursuing a Ph.D at UC Berkeley.

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Alice Agogino Ph.D

Mechanical Engineer, Product Design Concentration Founder, and Head Advisor, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

Research Assistants

Disaster Lab also works with talented UC Berkeley students to facilitate the creative processes and innovations happening within the lab.

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Kyle Zhao

Kyle studies Chemistry at UC Berkeley and works as a Research Assitant at the Disaster Lab. Kyle utilizes technologies such as high-performance liquid chromatography and NMR spectroscopy to prepare, analyze, and study plant-based therapeutics.

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