Beyond protected areas

Since leaving the Grantham Centre, Jocelyne Sze took up the role of post-doctoral researcher at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, working on the Conservation Data Justice project. As a Grantham Scholar Jocelyne researched how Indigenous lands could contribute to reducing forest and biodiversity loss and the mechanisms by which this can be facilitated.

Background to the project

Tropical forests and biodiversity are still being lost – despite decades/centuries of protected area gazettement. Historically, protected areas set aside for conservation were based on the exclusion of local and Indigenous Peoples. This often further entrenched structural inequalities.

However, recent studies have shown how some Indigenous communities – with their traditional knowledges and ways of relating to nature which are different to Western epistemologies – are better able to conserve forests and biodiversity.

Focus of the project

Acknowledging the colonial and continuing injustices that Indigenous peoples face, and respecting their full right to self-autonomy and governance, I am interested in how Indigenous lands could contribute to conservation objectives of reducing forest and biodiversity loss and the mechanisms by which this can be facilitated.

There has been greater acknowledgement of Indigenous contribution and inclusion of their diverse knowledges and values in international biodiversity policy forums. One example of this is the Convention of Biological Diversity Aichi Biodiversity Target 18. And another is the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services objective 3b.

Indigenous lands have the potential to contribute to achieving Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 of ‘at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water… conserved’ by inclusion under ‘Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures’, should Indigenous governments wish to include their lands in reporting.

Methodology of the project

At the local level, as a consequence of globalisation, many local land use and land cover changes are a result of distant forces. Telecoupling, which describes socioeconomic and environmental interactions of coupled human and natural systems over distances (Liu et al., 2013, Ecology & Society), could be a useful tool in understanding the changes happening in Protected Areas and Indigenous Areas.

Collecting field data using mixed methods, this analysis would provide in-depth understanding of the major influences affecting these systems and contribute to protecting biological and cultural diversity.

Jocelyne Sze: outreach

Decolonising research guide for PhD researchers. Jocelyne and a team of Grantham Scholars have made a guide to decolonising research. This guide is aimed at Grantham Scholars, but would be useful for all researchers. Jocelyne and her group were shortlisted for ‘Outstanding
Contribution to Postgraduate Student Diversity’ for their decolonisation work.

Indigenous lands and conservation: Jocelyne Sze interview. In this interview Jocelyne explains the relationship between Indigenous lands and conservation. Plus we talk about the need for decolonisation and social justice within conservation and the sciences. And she explains her most recent research findings, which show that human activity isn’t always bad for biodiversity. You can also listen to a short ‘audiogram’ here where you can hear the highlights from this interview.

Postgrad awards 2022: Grantham Scholars shortlisted. Grantham Scholars Jocelyne and Vibhuti Patel both shortlisted in the Postgrad Awards 2022!

Indigenous lands have less deforestation than state-managed protected areas in most of tropics by Jocelyne Sze. Jocelyne wrote an article for The Conversation to explain the results of her 2021 paper.

Paper: Indigenous lands protect forests. A summary of Jocelyne’s paper on Indigenous lands, protected areas and deforestation in the tropics. The paper appears in Nature Sustainability and is the 1st paper from Jocelyne’s PhD.

In August 2021, Jocelyne co-presented at the Post-growth Perspectives on Biodiversity Conservation organised by the University of Amsterdam. Together with Emiel de Lange, Jocelyne presented the work of a multi-institutional team that estimates the costs of a global Conservation Basic Income.

The paper resulting from this work has now been published and you can read it here: A global conservation basic income to safeguard biodiversity. A simpler explainer is also available in this article at The Conversation.

If you want to watch Jocelyne’s presentation, then you can find it here ↓


Sze, J.S.; Childs, D.Z.; Carrasco, L.R. & Edwards, D.P. 2022. Indigenous lands in protected areas have high forest integrity across the tropics. Current Biology, 32(22):4949-4956

Sze, J. and Hubbard, E. (2022) Rethinking Research Methodologies: Colonial Histories and More Equitable Futures. Doctoral Times. 22. 24-26

Sze, J.S., Carrasco, L.R., Childs, D. et al. Reduced deforestation and degradation in Indigenous Lands pan-tropically. Nat Sustain (2021).

Sze, J.S., Cosmopolis, C., Hubbard, E.R.C., Mani, S., and Wang, M.M.H. 2022. Challenging Colonial Practices in Research: A Guide for PhD Researchers

de Lange, E., Sze, J.S., Allan, J. et al. A global conservation basic income to safeguard biodiversity. Nat Sustain (2023).


You can follow Jocelyn Sze on Twitter.

Or visit her website here.



Asst. Prof. Roman Carrasco

National University of Singapore