Dr Claire Belcher
Associate Professor in Earth System Science

Research

Research interests

The PalaeoFire Lab group is led by Dr Claire M. Belcher and brings together understanding of the geological and evolutionary history of our planet with modern fire science.
 
Fire is a natural process integral to the order and function of our planet. It is both friend and foe to the human race, having strongly influenced our social development and success as a species, yet remains a serious threat to human life. Our planet is inherently flammable. Earth‘s forests and vegetation provide a vast source of fuel, and wildfires consume huge quantities of biomass in all ecosystems ranging across all biomes, from tundra to savanna and from boreal to tropical forests. Wildfires influence atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and may even regulate the oxygen content of our atmosphere enabling us to breathe. The unique products that wildfires create, such as chars and soots are traceable in soils, sediments and ancient rocks and provide us with a record of Earth‘s past wildfire history.
 

The group focuses on studying the influence of wildfire in Earth‘s ancient past by linking the fossil record of wildfire activity, as evidenced from fossil charcoals, to past variations in atmospheric compositions, climate and evolutionary events in Earth‘s vegetation. The aim being to understand the role that wildfires play in balancing the processes that make our planet habitable today. 

Research projects

ECOFLAM - The Impact of Plant Evolution on Fire Behaviour in Ancient Ecosystems

Project PyroMap - Palaeofire Danger Rating Maps and Earth‘s Last Major Global Warming Event

Project FILE – Fire Interactions with Life on Earth

Smouldering Earth – smouldering fires in peatland ecosystems.

Grants:

ECOFLAM (2013-2018) - The Impact of Plant Evolution on Fire Behaviour in Ancient Ecosystems. European Research Council (ERC) Starter Grant (1,519,640 euro)(PI)

Project PyroMap (2012-2016) - Palaeofire Danger Rating Maps and Earth‘s Last Major Global Warming Event. EU Marie Curie CIG FP7 (~ 143,000 euros)(PI)

Smouldering Earth (2011-2015) - UCD Earth Systems Institute PRTLI – (~130,000 Euro)(Co-I)

Project FILE (2010-2012) - Fire Interactions with Life on Earth. EU Marie Curie FP7 (~ 173,000 euros)(PI)

Research grants

  • 2013 ERC Starter Grant
    ERC Starter Grant - ECOFLAM. The Impact of Plant Evolution on Fire Behaviour in Ancient Ecosystems

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