Jess_R Pre-Course Blog Post

Jess Rickenback


  1. What is your background? Where are you from? What do you study? What are you most interested in, scientifically?

I live in Scotland, in Edinburgh, which is an incredibly beautiful city with an ancient volcano at its heart. Originally my academic background is actually in the humanities, I studied English Literature at university the first time round. I came to ecology/botany through campaigning to save ancient woodland in the UK. I felt a need to be able to communicate scientifically about threatened habitats. I am in the third year of my PhD at the University of Edinburgh, and I’m part of the Tropical Diversity group at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and the Functional Biogeography lab group. I study tropical savannas and their resilience to climate change. The meeting of biogeography and botany is what gets me excited.



  1. What are your goals for the upcoming course in Peru? How will you know if you’ve met these goals?

I want to become less daunted by the nitty gritty of functional traits, what to measure and how, and data analysis. Measuring success is slightly tricky, but probably through familiarity with instruments, and feeling confident about our data -what they show and how we collected and analysed them.


  1. What are you most excited about, with respect to the upcoming course and trip?

Being in Peru (dreamy), and getting to learn from and work with people from different backgrounds with different skills. Learning best practice for field work.


  1. What do you anticipate people will think about climate change in Peru? Do you think most people will accept that the planet is warming, and that this is largely being caused by human activities? Or will this topic be controversial?

I worry that I exist in a bubble but I do think that anthropogenic climate change is no longer generally controversial. I imagine people will have their own contexts for interpreting and understanding climate change.


  1. What do you know about public perceptions of climate change in your home country? What, if anything, have you experienced related to public perceptions of climate change?

My feeling is that in the UK generally most people would accept that the climate is warming at an unprecedented rate and that this is caused by human activities. I think a finer understanding of that, the processes behind it, and the nuances in some of the discourse might be missing  – ie the idea that planting a trillion trees will solve the crisis (rather than ending fossil fuel use etc) is problematic and there isn’t much acknowledgement that where the trees are planted is rooted in global power dynamics, or that planting trees in for example grassy biomes is bad for carbon storage, biodiversity, and human livelihoods. I think that the main perception is one of hopelessness, based on a lack of personal power to change things, and a lack of pan-global governmental action.

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