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Following the light: using ‘brightspots’ to avoid future Amazonian fires.


   School of Environmental Sciences

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  Dr Rachel Carmenta, Dr Matthew Jones  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Collaborative Partner: Centro Nacional de Monitoramento e Alerta Antecipado de Desastres Naturais (CEMADEM)

Project background

Responding to the reality of pervasive tropical forest fires is an urgent social and environmental challenge of our time. Tropical fires emit disproportionate quantities of carbon, harm public health and human well-being through smoke exposure, and damage the economy. Reducing their incidence, especially during droughts, has the potential to deliver benefits to people and nature, as well as contributing to climate commitments. Yet leading top-down approaches have failed, and underscore the need for integrated approaches that combine methods and scales of analysis across the natural and social science to inform management responses.

This project will take the notion of brightpots to the case of tropical fire for the first time. Brightpots are sites where outcomes are better than predicted, apparently defying the odds, whilst darkspots have worse than expected outcomes (are fire-prone), and transformation sites are where historic fire-prone trajectories have transformed in to success stories. Locating sites in Amazonia across this brightspot typology will inform our understanding of how, despite high fire-risks, some endogenous local responses have been successful and provide evidence needed to contribute towards steering the Amazon away from a fire-prone future. This project offers an important and timely opportunity to inform adaptation and mitigation policies with locally grounded knowledge, experience and practice.

Guided by a set of research questions, the student will first use geospatial analysis and regression modelling to identify, locate and quantify the brightpot typology across Amazonia. This desk-based analysis will guide selection of fieldwork sites, that will be visited in a field season using social science and participatory methods to understand the processes that explain fire prevalence.

The funded student will receive support from a team of leading interdisciplinary researchers and non-academic partners at the forefront of risk-reduction in the Amazon (CEMADEM). The studentship comes with an exceptional cross-disciplinary training programme and will benefit from the dynamic research centres at UEA, including the Environmental Justice group, the Critical Decade DTC, and the Tyndall Centre.

Project aim

The aim is to combine methods, scales of analysis and knowledges to inform more effective and more equitable adaptation and mitigation policies to contribute to reduced prevalence of tropical fire within Amazonia. 

Training Opportunities

The funded student will receive support from a team of leading interdisciplinary researchers and non-academic partners at the forefront of risk-reduction in the Amazon (CEMADEM).  Training opportunities through UEA, SENSS and ARIES DTPs will ensure the foundations for excellent cross-disciplinary research capacity, supporting the student to develop the methods and theoretical approaches needed for this project. The focus will depend on the background and specific needs of the student, and the training programme adapted as needed, however will likely include courses on: data science methods and modelling; geospatial analysis; research design principles; philosophy of science; participatory methods; language training.

Applicants: essential and/or desirable attributes/skills

The student will have a 1st or strong 2.1 undergraduate degree in human geography or related field, and excellent field and analytical skills. Must be committed to working across disciplinary boundaries and have strong Portuguese and English. Experience of working with geospatial analysis, regression modelling and social science participatory methods, will be valuable.

Studentship Details:

  • This studentship may be taken as either a 1+3 year award (a one-year MSc followed by a three-year PhD), a +3.5 award (a three and a half-year PhD)
  • It may be taken full-time or part-time
  • The studentship award covers your university fees, and provides you with a stipend of £15,609 per year. You will also be able to apply for small amounts of additional funding via the SeNSS Research Training Support Grant.

Residential eligibility

  • To be eligible for a full award you must be a Home or International student who satisfies the criteria below:

To be a home student, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK national (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have settled status, or
  • Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If you do not meet any of the criteria above, you are classed as an international student.

How to apply for this studentship

In order to be considered for this SeNSS studentship, you must first apply for a place to study University of East Anglia, noting that you are applying for the collaborative studentship. Please go to University of East Anglia, How to apply for a PhD for information on how to make your application.

You will then need to make a separate application to SeNSS for this collaborative studentship. Please read the SeNSS Collaborative Studentship Application Guidance Notes before completing our online application form. The Guidance Notes are available at the bottom of the following webpage: Applying for a SeNSS collaborative studentship

Starting date: On or about 1 October 2022.

For further enquiries:

For enquiries related to the studentship topic, please email Dr Rachel Carmenta ([Email Address Removed])

For enquiries related to your eligibility for this studentship, and the application process, please email: [Email Address Removed]


Funding Notes

This competition is open to Home and International students, subject to certain conditions.
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