The Beacon Project

Combining Biodiversity And Energy justice to resolve Conflicts between Sustainable Development Goals

Hydropower dams can provide energy for people and industry, but may also impact people and communities by submerging homes, land, and important cultural and spiritual sites. While hydropower is a renewable energy source, the construction of dams can destroy habitats important for biodiversity and change the flow and water quality of the river downstream. This can further impact biodiversity and people who rely on healthy functioning ecosystems for their food and livelihoods.

The Beacon Project (MR/T019018/1) uses hydropower dam development as a model system to understand challenging trade-offs between UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By working at local to global scales, we aim to understand the multiple dimensions of conflicts between different stakeholders, human decision-making and trade-offs between SDGs. We work in Brazil, India, Kazakhstan and the UK with diverse project partners including including IIED and The Amazon Dams Network.

Dam-B: social + environmental dimensions of dams in Brazil

Quantifying the costs and benefits of dam development in Brazil through space and time

Dam-B is a GCRF-funded project aimed at quantitatively reviewing the costs and benefits of dams in Brazil, in relation to the environment, people and the economy. We aim to produce a summary synthesis valuable to local people, NGOs and policy-makers in Brazil. I am PI on this project and work with a fantastic team:

Maísa Assano (Research Assistant, Brazil).
Dr Maíra Benchimol (Collaborator; Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, Brazil).
Maria Isabel (Bel) F.P.O. Martins
(Collaborator; Instituto de Desenvolvimento Sustentável Mamirauá, Brazil).
Dr João Vitor Campos-Silva (Collaborator; Projeto Médio Juruá & Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU).

Conservation Conflicts

Using socio-ecological surveys, games and modelling to understand stakeholder decision-making regarding natural resource management.

I have worked on conservation conflicts involving goose hunting in Kazakhstan, combining socio-ecological surveys and species population modelling to understand the two-way relationship between how global conservation policies can affect local actions, and in the opposite direction, how local social and cultural values and governance can influence conservation policies. This work was funded by UN-AEWA.

As a Postdoc in the ERC "ConFooBio" project, I have also researched conservation conflicts involving Scottish farmers and migratory goose conservation, using innovative digital games to understand farmer decision-making regarding land management.

'No Net Loss' of biodiversity

Combining ecology and policy.

I am interested in how development processes and policies can be improved for biodiversity and people through space and time. For example in Uzbekistan I used ecological surveys to investigate the spatial footprint of linear infrastructure on vegetation of the Ustyurt Plateau, in order to generate the evidence to inform conservation policy. Broadly, I want to understand and overcome the challenges of achieving “No Net Loss” of biodiversity in different contexts.

Human-modified tropical landscapes

Impacts of landscape-scale habitat fragmentation and dynamics of regenerating tropical forests.

My PhD focused on the long-term impacts of landscape-scale tropical forest loss and fragmentation in the Balbina Hydroelectric Reservoir (Brazilian Amazonia) and on how forest biomass and carbon stocks change as forests regenerate (Barro Colorado Nature Monument, Panama).

My PhD supervisors were Prof. Carlos Peres and Dr Daisy Dent and we continue to work together in tropical ecology and conservation.

Other exciting avenues

Diverse projects and collaborations involving biodiversity and sustainability across the world.

PhD projects:

Co-supervisor for PhD project “The conservation ecology of mandrills in Lopé National Park, Gabon” (2018-2022; Josh Bauld). Project development and supervisory team: Dr Luc Bussière (University of Gothenburg), Prof. Kate Abernethy (University of Stirling), Dr Jason Newton (SUERC), Dr David Lehmann (Lopé National Park).

Co-supervisor for PhD project “Does woodland use by bats depend on landscape context? Implications for woodland creation schemes” (2020-2024; Eleri Kent). Project development and supervisory team: Prof. Kirsty Park (University of Stirling), Dr Elisa Fuentes-Montemayor (University of Stirling & SRUC), Prof. Mark Whittingham (Newcastle University), Dr Chloe Bellamy (Forest Research), Dr Carol Williams (Bat Conservation Trust).

Co-supervisor for PhD project “Atlantic woodland health: long-term interactions between climate, ecology and management” (2020-2024). Project development and supervisory team: Dr Eileen Tisdall (University of Stirling) and Dr Althea Davies (University of St. Andrews).

Undergraduate Dissertations:

“Investigating the biodiversity and carbon storage capacity of the University of Stirling campus: implications for biodiversity conservation, climate change and sustainability” (2020).

“How are green spaces used and valued within Stirling and Clackmannanshire and how can the ‘City Region Deal’ support peoples’ use of green spaces and wider biodiversity conservation” (2020).