The first part of the project is associated with the contribution to the global data collection effort and meta-analyses within the Centre, specifically by synthesising the limited number of existing available records from the Neotropics and applying new analytical approaches for disentangling fire-vegetation interactions. Within the centre, a new palaeofire database has been created. The RPD (Reading Palaeofire Database) allows an increased coverage of palaeofire the Neotropics to be assessed. The map below shows an example of current coverage within the RPD.



The second part of this project is associated with the contribution of new palaeofire data to improve coverage across the Neotropics. The history and diversification of South American ecosystems result from complex interactions between climate, ecological processes and human impact. Yet, the lack of continuous and spatially-representative palaeoecological series in many tropical regions limit our understanding of the long-term processes driving tropical ecosystem dynamics, such as for the Holocene expansion of savannas and the role of pre-Columbian communities in shaping vegetation structure and composition.  This project will develop new high-resolution pollen and charcoal series in Guyana and integrate the long-term perspective with the available Indigenous knowledge on the use of fire in the region.

This project will use the environment proxies of charcoal and pollen. These can be extracted through the collection of sediment cores. After processing the sediment in a laboratory, the pollen grains within the sediment can be analysed to interpret past vegetation patterns. These microscope slides also contain microscopic charcoal which can be analysed to suggest past fire events.

Project timeline: 2020-2024


Leadership Team

Recent studies show that Indigenous peoples manage or have tenure rights over a quarter of the world’s land surface, which intersects with over 40% of all terrestrial protected areas and ecologically intact landscapes. Understanding Indigenous land management practices, such as fire, therefore, are becoming increasing important in a context of changing climate, loss of traditional knowledge, and calls for extending protected areas across the globe.

This PhD project investigates changing fire management practices of the Indigenous people living in and around the Kanuku Mountains Protected Area in southern Guyana. In particular, it looks at the changes in social-ecological relations and land management practices, including administrative and land policies and climate trends within a historical context.   It focusses on the fire calendar; the different months and seasons of fire, and how these relate to current cultural practices with implications for land management (including fire) across a myriad of land tenure systems and ecosystems in savanna/forest dynamic. The project involves a mixture of data collection techniques including archival research, remote sensing, participatory methods, ethnographic field methods and interviews.

Project duration: 2019-2023

Leadership Team

Wildfires and other forms of landscape burning are complex, dynamic and in some ways difficult to predict and certainly potentially dangerous phenomena. Fires up to even extreme mega-fire events can be studied using the techniques of remote sensing and modelling, but these studies and those of smaller burns often need to be informed by and sometimes combined with data from in situ investigations, for example on the spectral properties of the fires if using remote sensing and on the different composition of their smoke and what controls that if estimating emissions. This in situ data can be collected in the field on planned burns or even on wildfires were possible, and can also be supplemented – where appropriate – by data collected in laboratory fires under more controlled conditions. The purpose of this technical postdoctoral project is to deliver the capability to make and analyse these measurements to support specific aspects of the Centre’s work on fire spectral signatures and smoke emissions, as well as wider investigations.

Project duration: 2019- ongoing

Leadership Team