Supervisors: Dr Tim Baker, Prof Oliver Phillips
Why did you decide to study for a PhD, and why Leeds?
At the end of my MSc, I went to the Amazon for the first time for a month long course through the Organization for Tropical Studies. I loved it and wanted to return for my PhD work. All my searches ended up at the University of Leeds. I wanted to do a project that was already proposed and thought this description was perfect for me – willing to spend long periods in the field, speak Spanish, and then make equations! I was accepted to the School and awarded a full scholarship, so I took it.
What was your experience of PhD study in the School and the skills you learnt?
Studying at Leeds was different for me because I am used to US universities. I probably would have preferred taking more classes and having more time to delve into certain aspects of the research and collaborate with others. On the other hand, it was nice to be able to focus on my own project right away, have time to attend different kinds of seminars, and finish a fair bit faster. I enjoyed how political, applied, diverse, and globally-focused the School of Geography is. My supervisors were very good scientists and writers and quite famous in the field. I was used to having more colleagues that work on similar topics, but we tropical forest researchers formed a good little group. We’re getting a lot more Brazilians in the programme, which is great!
What is your current employment situation and longer term career aspirations?
After graduating, I worked for almost a year as an independent consultant with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), World Wildlife Fund, and the Center for Global Development. I have now landed a postdoc at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies working with The Nature Conservancy and Wildlife Conservation Society on tropical forest management and land use planning strategies to optimize conservation and human well-being outcomes, while still maintaining steady supplies of forest products. It’s very challenging but also really interesting and exciting. After doing a PhD, you really become an expert on your particular topic, so it’s difficult to accept that you basically have to start all over again on the next project –especially when you’re not a student anymore and only have two years to do it. I am not sure what I’ll do next: I could keep going in academia, move more towards the conservation NGO world, or keep dabbling in the interface.
More generally, what would you say to someone else who may be considering studying a PhD in the School of Geography?
Before coming, make sure you pick a good advisor and keep a good relationship the whole time. Meet her/him/them in person and talk to current or former students so that you know what their style is (and can make sure that it fits with your expectations). Make connections with other students, especially in years above, to get general advice for how to be a PhD student. Go to conferences, meet people, talk with colleagues, and connect with people from other schools. Also, think about what you’re going to do after you graduate well in advance. Basically, make the most of your time as a student and set yourself up as well as you can for after you finish. Also, remember to be a healthy and well-balanced human. Get involved —join a club through the Leeds University Union and be sure to check out Green Action. Yorkshire is great for outdoor activities and full of brilliant people.