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Conservation Research Institute



Frank Jackson Research Fellow at Wolfson College

Rachel is an environmental scientist specialising in interdisciplinary research at the intersection of environment and development, environmental risk, governance, and the relationship between place and well-being. Rachel's work is both academically motivated and applied. She engages multiple methods, scales of analysis and a range of analytical lenses to inform just, equitable and sustainable futures in dynamic landscapes of the global south. In these contested frontiers, multiple interventions seek conservation and development objectives, many of which are aggravated by uncontrolled fires—a leading environmental challenge at the interface of social and environmental systems. Rachel is particularly interested in the drivers, policy responses and distributional impacts of global environmental change, wildfire and environmental governance in the Brazilian Amazon and Indonesian peatland frontiers. 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 Cambridge, Rachel was a post-doctoral researcher at the Center for International Forestry Research where she led research on the political economy of fire and (toxic) haze in the Forests and Governance group.

Rachel's work can be summarized along the following broad themes:

  • Political ecology of tropical fire
  • Policy responses and distributional impacts of global environmental change
  • Environmental justice and bio-cultural approaches to natural resource management
  • Relationship between the environment, relational values and human-wellbeing

Within her Fellowship, Rachel aims to understand the distributional impacts of policy approaches to integrating environment and development objectives in the tropics. Engaging with an interdisciplinary set of collaborators in order explore what strategies perform better to reconcile the imperatives of food production, forest protection and human wellbeing in forest agriculture landscapes. Rachel's specific emphasis centres on expanding conventional impact metrics to capture the often invisible, place-based impacts of interventions , particularly on food security, health and locally defined human well-being.

A central strand of Rachel's work is concerned with the tropical wildfire complex-- influenced by complex and interacting drivers, wildfires are a leading environmental challenge at the interface of social and environmental systems. Her work seeks to recognize how policy responses to wildfires, informed by power dimensions embedded in the broader political economy and strengthened by narratives of burdens at aggregate scales, can create new injustices for small-scale farmers. Current research is attentive to the changing risks to ecologies and the profound and uneven distributional consequences of uncontrolled fire for traditional small-scale agricultural communities. Including how livelihood transitions, landscape transformation and drastic land use change impact the place-based attachments, relational values and well-being of small-scale farmers.


Political ecology; Environment and Development; Governance of forests and fire; Agrarian transitions; Place-based and biocultural approaches to conservation; Relational values and human well-being; Environmental justice


Key publications: 
  • Zafra-Calvo, N; Balvanera, P; Pascual, U; Merçon, J; Martin-Lopez, B; van Noordwijk, M; Mwampamba, T; Lele, S; Ifejika Speranza, C; Arias-Arevalo, P; Diego, C; Caceres, D; O`Farrell, P; Subramanian, Suneetha M; Soubadra, Di; Krishnan, S; Carmenta, R; Guibrunet, L; Elsin, Y K; Moersberger, H; Cariño, J; Diaz, S. Plural valuation of nature for equity and sustainability: Insights from the Global South. Submitted. Global Environmental Change.
  • Carmenta, R; Carmona-Estrada, N, Coomes, D. A., DeClerk, F., Hart, A., Harvey, C., Milder, J., Reed, J and Vira, B. (2020) Characterising and evaluating integrated landscape approaches. One Earth.
  • Jefferson, U; Carmenta, R; Daeli, W., Phelps, J. (2020) Characterising policy responses to complex socio-ecological problems: 60 fire management interventions in Indonesian peatlands. Global Environmental Change.
  • Dressler, W; Smith, W; Kull, C; Carmenta, R., Pulhin, J. (2020) Recalibrating burdens of blame: Anti-swidden politics and green governance in the Philippine uplands. Geoforum.
  • Barlow, J; Berenguer, E; Carmenta, R; França, F. (2019) Clarifying Amazonia's burning crisis. Global Change Biology.
  • Mansourian, S; Parrotta, J; Balaji, P; Belwood-Howard, I; Bhasme, S; Bixler, R. P; Boedhihartono, A, K; Carmenta, R; Jedd, J; de Jong, W; Lake, F. K; Latawiec, A; Lippe, M; Rai, N. D; Sayer, J; Van Dexter, K; Vira, B; Visseren-Hamakers, I; Wyborn, C; Yang, A. (2019) Putting the Pieces Together: Integration for Forest Landscape Restoration Implementation. Land Degradation and Development.
  • Reed, J; Van Vianen, J; Carmenta, R; Barlow, J; Sunderland, T. (2019) Engaging multiple stakeholders to reconcile climate, conservation and development objectives in tropical landscapes. Biological Conservation.
  • 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? The 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 Highlights" 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

Teaching and Supervisions


Geographical Tripos (undergraduate)

Other Professional Activities

Fellow, Wolfson College
Vice Chair, Peatlands and Society commission 
Senior treasurer, The Cambridge Indonesia Association

Jackson Research Fellow
Dr Rachel  Carmenta

Contact Details

David Attenborough Building, Pembroke Street
01223 333389