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Department of Plant Sciences




Supervisor: Dr Adam Pellegrini


In most of the developing world, fire is the primary agent used to clear land in between cropping cycles (i.e., swidden agriculture). Although some of the charred crop stimulates soil fertility, burning results in the combustion of carbon, stimulating global warming, and volatilization of most key nutrients such as nitrogen. In fact, agricultural fires are the dominant source of fire-driven carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Eliminating burning from these landscapes is not sustainable, because it is required to clear fields, thus this project seeks to understand both the sustainability of swidden agriculture, what are the carbon and nutrient consequences, and how do macroeconomic and climate change trends shift the use of fire. The PhD will draw heavily on methods in data science to build statistical models determining the distribution of agricultural fires, the factors that determine changes in their intensities and frequencies (e.g., global warming and rising commodity prices), and how changes in the fire return interval may threaten the ability of countries to achieve sustainable food supply. The skills learned: data science and processing of agricultural data and remote sensing products.