ESR 01:
Understanding conservation telecouplings

Home Institution: Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany
Principal Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Tobias Kuemmerle
Co-Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Patrick Meyfroidt
Application date: 16/10/2017-24/11/2017
Starting date: 01/07/2018 or earlier
Duration: 3 years


Land use is the number one driver of the global extinction crisis. Understanding how land use affects biodiversity, what the trade-offs between land use and conservation are, and which conservation measures effectively mitigate biodiversity loss is therefore important. Conservation initiatives and funding often come to regions in need of conservation from external places, both within countries and beyond, e.g., via large-scale international conservation organizations or payment for ecosystem services schemes. This forges conservation telecouplings.

This ESR position will:

  • Map conservation lands (including public and private reserves, indigenous areas, ecosystem services areas) and associated conservation actors for the South American cattle/soybean deforestation frontiers (Amazonia, Gran Chaco, Cerrado).
  • Quantify how changes in the networks of capital and information that link actors in Europe and elsewhere to these conservation landscapes relate to changes in the extent and status of conservation lands.
  • Compile indicators on deforestation, protected area effectiveness, and land prices to evaluate how this affects competition between conservation and other land uses in Europe and South America’s arc of deforestation.

In doing so, the ESR position will create a basic understanding of telecouplings activated through conservation, develop tools to link place-based and network-based analyses, and gain insights on how conservation organizations and policy makers can avoid unwanted outcomes and spill-over effects. The ESR will be jointly supervised by Prof. Tobias Kuemmerle (Geography Department & IRI THESys, HU Berlin) and Prof. Patrick Meyfroidt (Earth and Life Institute, Université Catholique de Louvain). Two secondments will take place at the World Conservation Monitoring Centre ( and the Université Catholique de Louvain.


Humboldt University is one of Germany’s leading research universities with around 5,000 employees and 35,000 students. The Geography Department is consistently among Germany’s top Geography Departments and is a key research hub for sustainability science, with research foci on land use change, climate change, and urban studies. The Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment Systems (IRI THESys) is a flagship activity in the institutional strategy of Humboldt University. As an inter-faculty institute, it develops long-term collaborative research concepts and projects with a focus on sustainability and ongoing transformations of human-environment systems.

We seek

A candidate with an above-average MSc (or equivalent degree) in Environmental Science, Ecology, Conservation Science, Geography or related fields. We expect a strong interest in conservation issues, land system science, and sustainability problems. Required skills include a sound background in conservation biology, advanced knowledge in geographic information systems and spatial statistics, and experience in R. Spanish language skills and experience with network analyses are highly welcome.


Prof Dr Tobias Kuemmerle


Please include the reference number DR/129/17 in the content line of your motivation letter.

Do you consider applying?

In any case please check the eligibility criteria in the first place.

To submit your application, please fill in the requested data in the online application form, upload your application file and submit your application.

Download and carefully read the Guide for Applicants and the ITN Programme’s information note for all specific information on the application and selection procedure.