Stephen Denison, MSc Climate Change and Environmental Policy alumni

Stephen Denison

What have you been doing since finishing your studies?

On completion of the Masters I decided to learn more about climate change. I had no interest in another career but wanted to do something meaningful and stimulating. A few months were spent writing a paper based on my dissertation with the help of my supervisors, Prof Piers Forster and Dr Chris Smith. At the same time I began developing some ideas for further research.

I started a part-time PhD at Leeds in June 2019. The first task was to understand how the earth system might respond to the removal of carbon dioxide, which will be necessary to keep warming below 1.5oC. This led to a realisation that there was a lot we don’t understand about how forests will be affected by climate change. I am currently exploring how well global climate models represent the changing behaviour of trees in the Amazon rainforest, as observed by researchers at Leeds.

Obviously the PhD is my main priority. In addition I help the United Bank of Carbon, a UK registered charity which seeks to protect and restore forests and other green space by translating science into action. The work involves providing scientific advice to people involved in woodland creation and maintenance.

What experiences at Leeds do you think have particularly helped with your career?

Everyone at Leeds, staff and students alike, made it really easy for me to re-engage with academic study, 40 years after completing my first degree. I found myself enjoying group work and learning from people with different backgrounds. The constructive and critical feedback from assignments helped me to develop new skills.

Why did you choose to study your particular course and why did you choose the University of Leeds?

The course was chosen to satisfy a long-standing interest in understanding and addressing climate change. The multi-disciplinary approach, combining physical and social science, was particularly attractive. Of all the universities within striking distance of our home in York, Leeds offered the most suitable course for me.

What was the best aspect of your course?

Two things stand out. I was impressed by the quality of the teaching team and it was a privilege to be taught by several IPCC lead authors. It was clear that they knew how to teach as well as being experts in their own subjects. The other thing, which I hadn’t anticipated, was benefit of having people from so many different backgrounds and ethnicities on the course. This enriched the learning experience and brought a global perspective to my thinking.

What would you say to students thinking about studying your course?

If you are interested in understanding climate change and doing something about it, I recommend this course.