Maria Mills

University of Leicester


Carbon fluxes along environmental and altitudinal gradients in the Colombian Andes


  • Dr. Juan Carlos Berrio
  • Dr. Joerg Kaduk

PhD Summary

My PhD focuses on how carbon fluxes vary along elevational and environmental gradients in the Colombian Andes. Elevational studies provide a unique opportunity to investigate the impact of temperature and soil moisture changes over short geographic distances on carbon dynamics. This can improve our understanding of how climate change will impact these landscapes and provide new data necessary to complete models of carbon fluxes and biomass estimations for the complete Amazonian-Andean area from Peru-to-Colombia.

Previous activity

Before starting my PhD, I undertook an undergraduate degree in Physical Geography at the University of Sheffield followed by a Master of Research at Imperial College London in Tropical Forest Ecology. During my undergraduate degree I became interested in forestry landscapes and their global importance. This led me to undertake a summer school at the University of Helsinki in managing suitable forest landscapes. This course was interdisciplinary and provided a global perspective covering topics such as forest-atmosphere interactions, ecosystem services and functions, and risk and vulnerability to climate change. This fuelled my desire to continue studying forest landscapes and continue with research. I then completed a master’s degree where my research focused on the impact of selective logging and forest degradation on carbon fluxes in Malaysian Borneo.

Why did you choose doctoral research?

Between my undergraduate and master’s degree I spent a year working in sales. It was during this time that I realised that wanted to make a contribution to science and that I have a passion for field ecology. I truly enjoyed my master’s research and want to build upon improving the understanding of tropical carbon dynamics.

Why did you choose CENTA?

The CENTA studentship delivers a wide range of training opportunities that will complement my research and will provide me with a variety of transferrable skills necessary for both industry and academic future endeavours. All these training opportunities are necessary to make me into the best possible researcher I can be and with the confidence I need for all aspects of research. The project offered by CENTA suited my research interests perfectly and is supervised by academics who are leading in their fields.

Future plans

Following my PhD I would either like to continue in academic or work in long-term ecosystem monitoring. This DTP will provide me with the training, experience and transferrable skills for either opportunity.