The course definitely delivered what I was hoping for in terms of hands-on practical and marketable skills. From using satellite imagery to map flooding to building air quality sensors, each module taught new techniques from theory through to execution and was assessed by letting us apply our new expertise to our own scientific research projects. There was a great deal of freedom in how we could engage with the literature and explore the application of the techniques we had been taught. King’s also facilitated an internship with the Zoological Society of London, carrying out research on the impacts of climate change on coral reefs, which I found really fulfilling and has actually further influenced the direction of my career.
Anyone who is vaguely interested in the environment, and many who are not, will be aware of tropical deforestation. Despite massive media coverage and growing awareness of tropical deforestation over the last few decades, it still remains an issue of global importance. My own interests and past experience are in conservation, so when I started developing a topic for my dissertation I looked at protected areas and how they prevent tropical deforestation. Protected areas are a major tool in the arsenal of conservationists and governments in preserving important habitats, ecosystems, and species. Currently 15% of all land and 8% of the oceans are under some form of protection; these vast areas are major commitments so their legitimacy must be backed up by robust evaluation. I discovered a gap in the literature regarding the concept of ‘leakage’, where protecting an area of forest pushes the demand for the land or timber to the immediate surroundings, offsetting the benefits of the designation. I used deforestation data derived from satellite imagery to assess if newly created protected areas had significant levels of ‘leakage’, with the hope that a better understanding or identification of the issue could inform management of existing reserves and the planning of new ones.
I was overjoyed when I received my results. It is so gratifying to see all the hours and hard work pay off, especially for the dissertation. It was honestly a complete shock – sometimes when you work on something so closely for so long it becomes impossible to see if it really is at the high standard that you hope for. To then get the news that I had won two departmental awards was one of the highlights of my adult life, it still hasn’t really sunk in. It is such an honour, especially considering the quality of work that my peers and classmates have produced.