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

   School of International Development

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  Dr Rachel Carmenta  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Responding to the reality of pervasive tropical forest fires is an urgent social and environmental challenge. Tropical fires emit disproportionate quantities of carbon, harm public health and human well-being, burden the economy and negatively impact biodiversity.

This project takes the notion of brightspots to the case of tropical fire for the first time. Brightspots 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 legacies have transformed into 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 to contribute towards steering the Amazon away from a fire-prone future. The project uses geospatial analysis of fire over time to determine the brightspot typology, which guides fieldwork to understand the processes generating fire outcomes.  

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

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, climateUEA, and Tyndall Centre.

The student will have a strong first degree in human geography or similar, and excellent field and analytical skills. Experience of working with geospatial analysis, regression modelling and social science participatory methods, will be valuable. This PhD would particularly suit someone with an interest in an interdisciplinary research/practice career in conservation.

Applications are required to both UEA (for the PhD) and SeNSS (for the funding).

Funding Notes

This project has been selected for funding by the SeNSS ESRC and ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships. The studentship may be taken as either a 1+3 year award to include a Master’s degree, or a +3.5 (PhD-only) award, and may be taken full-time or part-time.
The studentship award covers your university fees, and provides you with a stipend at UKRI rates (£15,609 for 2021/22). Additional funds are available to cover project costs.
Additional funds are available to students with disabilities or, through Disabled Students’ Allowance.
Unfortunately, no additional funds are available to assist with visa or other relocation costs.


i) Carmenta, R., Cammelli, F., Dressler, W., Verbicaro, C., & Zähringer, J. (2021). Between a rock and a hard place: The burdens of uncontrolled fire for smallholders across the tropics. World Development, 145, 105521.
ii) Berenguer, E., Carvalho, N., Anderson, L. O., Aragao, L. E., França, F., & Barlow, J. (2021). Improving the spatial‐temporal analysis of Amazonian fires. Global Change Biology, 27(3), 469-471.
iii) Barlow, J., Berenguer, E., Carmenta, R., & França, F. (2020). Clarifying Amazonia's burning crisis. Global Change Biology, 26(2), 319-321.
iv) Cinner, J. E., Huchery, C., MacNeil, M. A., Graham, N. A., McClanahan, T. R., Maina, J., ... & Mouillot, D. (2016). Bright spots among the world’s coral reefs. Nature, 535(7612), 416-419.
v) Carmenta, R., Vermeylen, S., Parry, L., & Barlow, J. (2013). Shifting cultivation and fire policy: insights from the Brazilian Amazon. Human ecology, 41(4), 603-614.

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