Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society

Dr Lydia Cole

Research interests:

Valuing Intact Tropical Peatlands

Career history:

2012-2013: Stipendiary Lectureship at St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford
2012-2013: Postdoctoral Research Assistant in the Department of Zoology and Plant Sciences, University of Oxford
2013-2018: Ecologist for Rezatec Ltd.
2018: Knowledge Exchange Assistant and Landscape Analyst at the University of Liverpool
2019 on: Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Ecology at the School of Geography and Sustainable Development, University of St Andrews

Active research projects:

I am a Conservation Ecologist with a keen interest in how tropical ecosystems can be managed sustainably in the face of agriculture expansion and the other pervasive impacts of population growth and globalisation. I am particularly interested in peat-scapes, and how they can be responsibly managed through an understanding of their unique hydrological requirements. Past projects of mine, involving time in both academia and industry, have included: creating a mapping and monitoring system for peatlands in the UK, Malaysia and Indonesia; reconstructing past vegetation change and assessing future prospects for the coastal peatlands of Malaysian Borneo; exploring the dynamics of human-wildlife interaction in northeast India; and training Government, research and NGO partners in Ghana, Indonesia and Malaysia on the use of a decision support tool for restoring connectivity in landscapes for biodiversity under climate change.

I am currently working as the Ecologist on a two year Leverhulme Trust-funded project entitled: Valuing intact tropical peatlands – an interdisciplinary challenge. With the expertise of an interdisciplinary team of physical and human geographers, we are exploring the range of values associated with some hydrologically intact peatlands within the Peruvian Amazon. One of the major goals of the project is to assess which and where values assigned through a western scientific perspective align or differ from those perceived by people living in the locale of these peatland environments. This knowledge can then be used to help inform how these unique ecosystems might be effectively protected from ongoing development in the Amazon basin.

In order to engage with the next, and multiple generation(s), with industry and with the wider scientific community, I am engaged in the following roles:
– Chair of the Conservation Ecology Special Interest Group of the British Ecological Society
– Coordinator of the Expert Group: Peatlands and Biodiversity, within the Peatlands and Environment Commission of the International Peatland Society’s Scientific Advisory Board
– Volunteer for Action for Conservation (

Recent publications:

Cole, L.E.S., Bhagwat, S.A. & Willis, K.J. (2019) Fire in the swamp forest: palaeoecological insights into natural and human-induced burning in intact tropical peatlands. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, 2(15): 48.
Thornton, S., Cook, S., Astiani, D., Hapsari, K., Varkkey, H., Cole, L., Dargie, G., Sjogersten, S., Zawawi, N. & Page, S. (2019) “Pushing the Limits”: Experiences of Women in Tropical Peatland Research. Marine and Freshwater Research.
Wijedasa, L., Jauhiainen, J., …. Cole, L.E.S., et al. (2016) Denial of long-term issues with agriculture on tropical peatlands will have devastating consequences. Global Change Biology, 23: 977-982.
Cole, L.E.S., Bhagwat, S.A. & Willis, K.J. (2015) Long-term disturbance dynamics and resilience of tropical peat swamp forests. Journal of Ecology – Special Issue on Forest Resilience.
Cole, L.E.S., Bhagwat, S.A. & Willis, K.J. (2014) Recovery and resilience of tropical forests after disturbance. Nature Communications, 5: 3906.

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