Congratulations to third year BSc Geography student Heather Needham, who has received a letter of commendation from Sir David Attenborough on her dissertation, entitled “Forests as a casualty of peace: consequences of conflict cessation on forest loss within Colombia”.
Sir David’s work on the impact of deforestation on the planet – in particular his most recent book, ‘A Life on Our Planet’ – has always been a source of inspiration to Heather, who felt that this was the perfect opportunity to send him her dissertation as it focuses on one of the biggest threats to the global environment.
Her previous work on the NERC and AHRC funded POR El Paramo Project, which was supported by a £1500 research grant she won from the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), developed her knowledge about the value and significance of Colombia’s tropical forests. She said “Over 50% of Colombia’s territory is covered by forests, which are cleared at an alarming and unsustainable rate. In 2016, the Colombian government signed a peace agreement “End of Conflict and the Construction of Long-Term Peace”, with the FARC rebels (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), which ended five decades of internal conflict.”
This project, as well as the lack of knowledge around deforestation following cessation, led to her dissertation examining deforestation in post-conflict Colombia. Heather used a “remotely sensed forest loss dataset (Terra-i) to examine forest cover, four years before (2012-2015) and after (2016-2019) the peace-agreement within Colombia, protected areas and surrounding 10 km buffers zones.”
She described herself as ecstatic to receive a handwritten reply, stating that “Sir David Attenborough is the world’s greatest environmental advocate who has inspired millions. To have my dissertation research recognised by him is incredible. A Geographers dream!”
Heather, who believes that more work needs to be done to protect forests in regions beset with conflict, aims to pursue a career in conservation research and policy advice.