Joint ARIES-SENSS Studentships

Joint ARIES-SENSS Studentships

October 2019 saw the launch of an exciting new opportunity for a student to work at the boundary of NERC and ESRC research, with studentships offered that were selected for funding by both the ARIES DTP and the SeNSS DTP.

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

In October 2022 we look forward to welcoming a new ARIES-SENSS student under the supervision of Dr Rachel Carmenta at the University of East Anglia.

Second Supervisors

Dr Matthew Jones (University of East Anglia)

Liana Anderson (CEMADEN)

Dr Iokine Rogriguez (University of East Anglia)

Prof Jos Barlow (University of Lancaster)

Home institution: University of East Anglia

Collaborative partner: Centro Nacional de Monitoramento e Alerta Antecipado de Desastres Naturais (CEMADEN)

SeNSS Pathway: Human Geography

ARIES Theme: Ecology and Diversity

Degree structure: either a three and half -year, or a one year Masters degree, followed by a three-year PhD programme

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.


The successful candidate was awarded a NERC-SeNSS studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£15,609 p.a. for 2021-22) and research funding.

ARIES-SeNSS students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES-SeNSS provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences. Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area.

Studentship structure

This studentship was available on a +3.5 or +4-year basis, depending on training needs, and was also offered part-time or full-time.

Applicants specification:

We awarded this studentship to a highly-motivated individual, who was excited by the prospect of cutting-edge interdisciplinary research of policy relevance. They demonstrated enthusiasm for working collaboratively with social scientists and ecologists, have an interest in applying qualitative and quantitative methods, strong analytical skills and GIS expertise.

Starting date

This studentship started on 1 October 2022 .


The deadline applying to University of East Anglia for a place is 23:59 GMT on 23 February 2022

 The deadline for submitting your application on HEIApply is 12:00 GMT on 28 February 2022

 No extensions to this deadline will be permitted.

 For further enquiries:

For enquiries related to the studentship topic, please email Dr Rachel Carmenta (

For enquiries related to your eligibility for this studentship, and the application process, please email:

Click here to apply for this joint SeNSS-ARIES studentship

Finding the Feel-Good Factor: Relating Human Subjective Wellbeing to Biodiversity

In October 2019 Alice Milton became the first student to be jointly funded by the ARIES and SENSS DTPs in an exciting cross-council research project under the supervision on Prof Zoe Davies at the University of Kent.

Alice’s project is looking for evidence to characterise how biodiversity underpins the theory that interacting with nature is fundamental to human subjective wellbeing by:

(1) Exploring how people relate to different biodiversity attributes (e.g. particular morphologies, sounds, smells, ecological behaviours), both positively and negatively.
(2) Quantifying variation in how people value different biodiversity attributes in relation to their social characteristics/identities (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity, experience of rural-urban living).
(3) Examining whether increased biodiversity awareness/knowledge and biodiversity on sites interact to deliver non-additive wellbeing benefits.

Building resilience in coastal governance: Ethics and justice in responsible innovation

In October 2020 we welcomed Isabel Cotton, a new ARIES-SENSS student under the supervision of Dr Johanna Forster at the University of East Anglia.

This project is focused on understanding the effect of innovative and strategic approaches to coastal management focused on adapting to the effects of climate change. The introduction and application of these approaches raises questions and issues for coastal managers and policy makers on the effects and impacts of innovative approaches on different temporal and spatial scales, for example:

  • Which actors and communities do these innovative projects directly aim to benefit? Over which timescales? Which trade-offs are made in the choices to implement these innovative projects?

  • Could some of these projects be ineffective or even harmful in the longer term?

  • Are these projects able to enhance social and ecological resilience of coastal areas? If so, how and over which timescales?

Developing a stronger understanding of these complex issues requires bringing together natural science data, such as modelling of geomorphological change, to underpin understandings of social change and implications for environmental justice.

This project focuses on the Norfolk coast, an area particularly at risk from erosion and storm surges, and one with a long and, at times, contested history surrounding its coastal management practices.