ESR 09:
Characterisation and visualisation of telecouplings in Large Scale Land Acquisitions in Southeast Asia

Home Institution: University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
Principal Supervisor: PD Dr. Andreas Heinimann
Co-Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Peter Verburg
Application date: 08/03/2018-01/04/2018
Starting date: 01/07/2018 (preferred)
Duration: 3 years


In a globalized world, flows, feedbacks and spill-overs of material, goods and services, and respective drivers and impacts between local and distant land systems are the norm and not the exception. In some domains, such as trade-flows and supply chains, some aspects of interconnectivity of places can already be captured and visualized (e.g. The enormous increase of Large Scale Land Acquisitions (LSLA) in the last decade, mainly targeted at export oriented commodities (e.g. Oil Palm, rubber) lead to large changes in land system especially in the global South. While there is an increasing understanding of local impacts of such LSLA, there is a lack of approaches to capture, characterize and especially visualizing spill-overs and feedbacks with neighbouring or distant places and systems (e.g. land use displacement effects of LSLAs to neighbouring or distant places).

On this backdrop this PhD aims at developing a system to capture, characterize and visualize feedbacks and spill-overs using LSLA cases in mainland Southeast Asia, likely Myanmar and/or Laos. The research will largely be based on various already available large data sets from different sources, but some fieldwork is envisaged. This research will lead to:

  • Creation of knowledge of spill-overs and feedbacks in large scale land acquisitions (LSLA)
  • Development of a framework and indicator set to capture and characterize spill-over and feedbacks related to LSLAs
  • A (online) tool to visualize the interconnected flows and impacts of local and distant system in relation to LSLA.

The PhD will be jointly supervised by Andreas Heinimann (University of Bern, Switzerland) and Peter Verburg (Institute for Environmental Studies, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands). A secondment is foreseen at the Forest Trust ( in Nyon Switzerland.


The University of Bern (UNIBE) is one of the leading universities in Switzerland, with 8 faculties, some 160 institutes and 8 Graduate Schools, almost 17,000 students, and close to 4,000 full time employees. The Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) is an interdisciplinary centre of excellence in research for Sustainable Development of the University of Bern. Its overarching goal is to produce and share knowledge for sustainable development in collaboration with partners in the global North and South.

We seek

A candidate with MSc in Geography, Sustainability Science, Environmental Science or related disciplines. We expect a strong interest in land use changes, human environment interactions and analysis of large data arrays and data visualization. Experiences and interest in data modelling and programming skills are an asset. Excellent written and spoken English skills area prerequisite.


PD Dr. Andreas Heinimann

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

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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.