Jack Sykes

Jack Sykes

University of Birmingham


Enhancing peatland resilience to wildfires through ecological and hydrological reclamation; Building the evidence base


  • Dr Nicholas Kettridge
  • Dr Sami Ullah

PhD Summary

Peatlands are extremely important habitats because of the wide range of ecosystem services they provide such as carbon sequestration, water quality regulation and flood regulation.  But wildfires on peatlands can result in large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere as well as having implications for human health. The costs associated with extinguishing remote peatland wildfires are also extremely high. Peatlands are thought to be naturally resilient to wildfires due to their high moisture contents but a large proportion of UK peatlands are in a poor, heavily degraded condition with large areas of dry, bare peat. Peatland restoration can be used to improve peatland condition, increasing wetness and vegetation cover but there is very little research showing the benefit of restoration for wildfire resilience on peatlands. Therefore, this project aims to assess the impacts of wildfire and the recovery trajectories on peatlands with differing levels of degradation and restoration to investigate the potential of restoration to increase peatland wildfire resilience. This research will hopefully provide the grounds for more vital peatland restoration to be undertaken.

Previous activity

Before starting my PhD I studied a BSc in Geography at Durham University followed by an MSc in Conservation Studies at the University of St Andrews. My studies have always had an interdisciplinary focus, for example, from assessing the success and perceptions of success of peatland restoration for my undergraduate dissertation to assessing the potential of blue economic degrowth to contribute to a greater consideration of justice in marine conservation for my masters thesis.

Why did you choose doctoral research?

I chose doctoral research because I was still thoroughly enjoying studying and relishing any opportunities I had to conduct independent research and so a PhD for me felt like the logical next step. I was excited by the opportunities it provided me to become an expert in a field I was passionate about and gain advanced training to benefit my future career. It also provides me with the chance to make a real contribution to peatland and wildfire research which are both extremely topical at the moment.

Why did you choose CENTA?

I was interested in a CENTA studentship not only because it provided me with the chance to undertake my ideal PhD project with financial security but because of the opportunity it presented to receive advanced training in a wide variety of areas allowing me develop academically, personally and professionally. It also allowed me to become part of a network of other doctoral researchers and academics across disciplines from a group of world class institutions.

Future plans

I think studying a PhD with CENTA will provide me with the skills and training to follow a wide range of career/research paths and so I am trying to remain open minded about my future plans. However, following my PhD I would particularly like to pursue a career in policy advising within Defra in the Civil Service or work for an NGO promoting environmental justice within conservation such as the Environmental Justice Foundation where I am hopefully undertaking my CENTA placement.