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University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute



Frank Jackson Research Fellow at Wolfson College

Rachel is an interdisciplinary environmental scientist, broadly interested in the human and governance dimensions of tropical forest conservation.

Rachel is an interdisciplinary environmental scientist broadly interested in the human and governance dimensions of tropical forest conservation with a geographic focus in Indonesia and Brazil. Rachel holds a Ph.D in interdisciplinary environmental science from Lancaster University and is inspired by combining methods and scales of analysis to study environmental change. At Cambridge Rachel is a Frank Jackson Research Fellow at Wolfson College in an interdepartmental position (Geography, Plant Sciences, Zoology) based at the University of Cambridge Conservation Institute (UCCRI). Before joining UCCRI, Rachel was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) where she led a research project contributing a human dimension to understanding the performance of fire management policy in Indonesia's oil palm frontiers.


My research interest focuses on the performance of environmental policy in the forested tropics of the global south. My entry point in this area has been through analysis of human-fire interactions and forest governance, particularly in rural marginalized communities of the Brazilian Amazon and more recently in the dynamic carbon-dense frontier of Indonesia's peatlands.

My most recent research explored the governance challenges related to sustainable management of peatland forest landscapes in Sumatra, Indonesia. I approached this through generating an improved understanding of the perceptions and discourses of diverse stakeholders (e.g. from farmers to National and International policy makers) in the governance arena. Research at the site level gave additional insights in to the performance of interventions. Socio-economic determinants of land management decisions complement a set of potential cultural determinants, namely place-based value data, to explain divergent performance. Using QCA, village level (e.g. connectivity, land use cover) remote data was analysed with proximate data to identify the configuration of conditions (proximate and remote) that create outcomes through multiple-causation.

Previously I focused my academic energy on improving the knowledge base regarding the performance of sustainable use reserves in the context of fire management in the Brazilian Amazon. I used multiple geographic scales of analysis - from large scale, Amazon wide, to micro-scale (household level) and appropriate methodologies (from earth observation to ethnography) to quantify the impact of reserve establishment on fire densities, and to quantify and explain the performance of fire management policy. I have worked with a global comparative research team to understand the equity, effectiveness and efficiency of REDD+, specifically focusing at the national policy level, using policy network analysis.

Currently, I am working in an interdepartmental research group with Dr. Bhaskar Vira, Prof. Andrew Balmford and Prof. David Coomes at the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute. The goal of this new research project is to test the emerging idea that if they are to be equitable and effective, efforts to safeguard (or restore) tropical forests must be linked to compensatory increases in agricultural outputs outside of forests.


Key publications: 

Maharani, C.D., Moeliono, M., Wong, G. Y., Brockhaus, M., Carmenta, R., & Kallio, M. (2019). Development and equity: A gendered inquiry in a swidden landscape. Forest Policy and Economics.

Carmenta, R., Coudel, E; Steward, A. (2018) Forbidden Fire: Does criminalizing fire hinder conservation efforts in swidden landscapes of the Brazilian Amazon? Geographical Journal.

Carmenta, R., Zabala, A., Daeli, W, Phelps, J. (2017). Perceptions across scales of governance and the Indonesian peatland fires.Global Environmental Change.

Gebara, M. F., May, P. H., Carmenta, R., Calixto, B.,Brockhaus, M., Gregorio, M. D. (2017). Framing REDD+ in the Brazilian national media: how discourses evolved amid global negotiation uncertainties. Climatic Change. doi:10.1007/s10584-017-1896-1. Selected for "Research Highights" paper with Nature Climate Change

Wijedasa, L. S., Jauhiainen, J., Könönen, M., Lampela, M., Vasander, H., LeBlanc, M. C., ...Carmenta, R, ... & Lupascu, M. (2016). Denial of long-term issues with agriculture on tropical peatlands will have devastating consequences. Global Change Biology. doi:10.1111/gcb.13516

Gaveau, D; Pirard, R, Salim, M; Prayoto, T, Yaen, H; Parks, S; Carmenta, R., (2016). Overlapping land claims limit the use of satellites to monitor No-Deforestation commitments and No-Burning compliance. Conservation Letters. doi:10.1111/conl.12256

Carmenta, R; Blackburn, A; Davies, G; de Sassi, C; Lima, A; Parry, L; Tych, W; Barlow, J. (2016). Does the Establishment of Sustainable Use Reserves Affect Fire Management in the Humid Tropics? PloS one 11.2: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0149292

Babon, A; McIntyre, D; Gallemore, C; Carmenta, R; Di Gregorio, M; Brockhaus, M. (2014). Advocacy coalitions, REDD+, and forest governance in Papua New Guinea: How likely is transformational change? Ecology and Society. 19(3): 16. doi:10.5751/ES-06486-190316

Pham, T; Di Gregorio, M; Carmenta, R; Brockhaus, M; Dung Le. (2014). The REDD+ Policy arena in Vietnam: participation of policy actors. Ecology and Society. 19(2): 22. doi:10.5751/ES-06389-190222

Brockhaus, M; Di Gregorio, M; Carmenta, R. (2014). REDD+ policy networks: exploring actors and power structures in an emerging policy domain. Ecology and Society. 19(4): 29. doi:10.5751/ES-07098-190429

Carmenta, R; Vermeylen, S; Parry, L., Barlow. (2013). Shifting cultivation and fire policy: insights from the Brazilian Amazon. Human Ecology. 41(4), doi:10.1007/s10745-013-9600-1

Barlow, J; Parry, L; Toby A. Gardner, T.A; Ferreira, J; Aragão, L. E. O. C; Carmenta, R; Berenguer, E; Vieira, I.G;, Souza, C.,Cochrane, M. A. (2012). The critical importance of considering fire in REDD+ programs. Biological Conservation, 03 (34): doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2012.03.034

Carmenta, R; Parry, L; Blackburn, A; Vermeylen, S., Barlow, J (2011). Understanding human-fire interactions in tropical forest regions: a case for interdisciplinary research across the natural and social sciences. Ecology and Society, 16 (1)

Shanley, P; da Serra Silva, M; Melo, T; Carmenta, R., Nasi, R. (2011). Conflict of use to multiple use: Forest management innovations by small holders in Amazonian logging frontiers. Forest Ecology and Management. 268. 70-80. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2011.05.041

Reports and policy papers

2017, Carmenta, R., Daeli, W., Jefferson, U., Phelps, U., Porter-Jacobs, L., Trihadmojo B., Zabala, A. From perceptions and discourses to policy content: A mixed method analysis of peatland fire management in Indonesia. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), InfoBrief, CIFOR, Bogor. doi:10.17528/cifor/006470

2017, Hergoualc'h, K., Atmadja, S., Carmenta, R., Martius, C., Murdiyarso, D., Purnomo, H. Managing peatlands in Indonesia: Challenges and opportunities for local and global communities. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), InfoBrief, CIFOR, Bogor. 10.17528/cifor/006449

2016, Carmenta, R., Daeli, W., Zabala, A., Phelps, J. Dimensi manusia pada kebakaran lahan gambut di Indonesia: menentukan perspektif pemangku kepentingan dalam berbagai skala. USAID LESTARI Quarterly. Article, USAID, Jakarta.

2016, Wong, G.; Angelsen, A.; Brockhaus, M.; Carmenta, R.; Duchelle, A.E.; Leonard, S.; Luttrell, C.; Martius, C.; Wunder, S. Results-based payments for REDD+: Lessons on finance, performance, and non-carbon benefits. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Policy Brief, CIFOR Bogor.

2015, Carmenta, R., Zabala, A., Phelps, J. Indonesian peatland fires: Perceptions of Solutions. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), InfoBrief, CIFOR, Bogor.

2015, CIFOR, Finding and Mainstreaming Long-term Solutions to Fire and Haze in Indonesia, Centre for international forestry research (CIFOR), Infobrief, CIFOR, Bogor, Indonesia.

2015, Kweka, D; Carmenta, R; Hyle, M; Mustalahti, I; Dokken, I., Brockhaus, M. (2015). The Context of REDD+ in Tanzania: Actors, agents and institutions. Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Occasional Paper, CIFOR, Bogor, Indonesia.

Media and outreach

2017, Indonesia's peatland fires and toxic haze: Media discourses across scales of governance. Infographic summary of Porter-Jacobs, L., Dressler, W., Carmenta, R.

2017, Jefferson, U. and Carmenta, RPeatland Fire Policy: from Past to Present. CIFOR Forest News.

2016, Carmenta, R. and Vaughn, Bjorn. Living in a toxic haze: The daily reality of Indonesia's peatland fires. CIFOR Forest News.

2016, Carmenta, R., Pod Cast interview with Prof. Alan Tay, Dr. Helena Varkkey led by Yew Lee Jin (University of Cologne): Indonesia is burning again, covering east Asia with smoke - a special report, in: Waking Up to Abrupt Climate ChangePodcast for Radio Ecoshock

2016, Carmenta, R. "How can stakeholder perceptions inform high performance fire management interventions?" Fire Free Village Launch event. APRIL, Jakarta, Indonesia

2015, Carmenta, R. "Stakeholder perceptions of fire and haze". Multi-stakeholder workshop on fire prevention, Pekanbaru, Riau, Sumatra

2015, Co-Coordinator: Expert Meeting and High-Level Policy Dialogue. Finding and Mainstreaming Long-term Solutions to Fire and Haze in Indonesia. CIFOR facilitated event held at IPB International Convention Center, Bogor, and Manggala Wanabakti, Jakarta, Indonesia

2014, Carmenta, R. "Shifting Cultivation and Fire Policy: Insights from the Brazilian Amazon". CIFOR TV.


Teaching and Supervisions


Student supervision

  • 2018 - ongoing: Carbon and biodiversity responses to climate change mitigation initiatives. Alejandro Guizar Coutiño, Ph.D candidate (Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge)

  • 2016 - 2018: The Dayak at the crossroads: Traditional agricultural practices and the challenge of change in West Borneo, Indonesia. Willy Avriely Daeli, Msc (School of Forest Resources and Conservation - University of Florida)

  • 2016 - 2018: Stakeholder Perceptions of local institutions for fire management (MPAs): an assessment using SWOT-AHP in Indonesia peatland frontiers. Metia Lembasi, Msc (School of Forest Resources and Conservation - University of Florida)

Other Professional Activities

  • Member, Regent House, University of Cambridge
  • Vice Chair, Peatlands and Society Commission, International Peatlands Society.
  • Governing Body Fellow, Wolfson College
  • Senior treasurer, The Cambridge Indonesia Association
  • Member, Cambridge Conservation Forum
Jackson Research Fellow
Dr Rachel  Carmenta

Contact Details

David Attenborough Building, Pembroke Street
01223 333389