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School of Geography

Greta in the Congo Basin

Quantifying and understanding the tropical peatlands of the central Congo

Funding: National Environment Research Council (NERC)

Supervisors: Dr Simon Lewis (University of Leeds)
External supervisors: Dr Ian Lawson (University of St Andrews), Dr Edward Mitchard (University of Edinburgh)

Why did you decide to study for a PhD, and why Leeds?

During both my undergraduate and MSc, the things I enjoyed most were the research projects. Both my undergraduate and MSc dissertation projects involved fieldwork in the tropics and related to the role of soil in the carbon cycle. I enjoyed both the subject and the opportunity to do fieldwork abroad. I knew that I wanted to continue on in research and if possible working on similar projects. I saw an advert for a PhD at the university of Leeds looking at carbon storage in peatlands in the Congo Basin and thought it covered everything I was looking for.

What is your experience of PhD study in the School and what skills have you learnt?

The School of Geography has a good community of PhD students which is good for socialising, but also for providing support with your PhD. Being a Geography department means that everyone is working on quite different projects; the advantage of this is that there is a wide range of experiences amongst both staff and students which you can draw on.

Personally one of the good things I find about the department is the number of people who carry out research in the tropics. Doing research in some areas of the tropics can be challenging. Having a large number of people I could ask for advice, both before and during fieldwork, made it a lot easier.

What are your career aspirations?

Since the area of research my PhD covers is quite new, there is still a lot of work to be done. I’d love it if my PhD was just the start of a much longer career in research working in the Congo Basin. My PhD involved quite extensive fieldwork and gave me good experience of not only the science aspects of research but also the logistics of working in remote environments. I now feel much more confident about pursuing a career that involves research in challenging regions of the world. 

More generally, what would you say to someone else who may be considering studying a PhD in the School of Geography?    

The most important thing is finding a PhD that you’re interested in. If that’s in the School of Geography then great; it has a good mix of both UK and international students, working on a wide range of projects. So whilst studying for your PhD you also get to meet a lot of interesting, friendly people.