UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources


Blog: From theory to reality - my Pantanal adventure

26 September 2023

A blog by UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources Research Fellow Alison Fairbrass about her recent field trip to the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil

Photo of Alison Fairbrass

From Theory to Reality: My Pantanal Adventure

In 2020, amidst the onset of the pandemic, I secured a Grand Challenges Research Fund grant for a six-month project with the University of São Paulo. We aimed to bring a theoretical framework of natural capital indicators to life in the Pantanal biome. However, travel restrictions confined me to my London desk, and instead of travelling to the Pantanal to connect with the Brazilian research community, I had to rely on fostering collaborations online.

Fast forward to 2023, the Pantanal Bridges Conference became a turning point in my research journey, allowing me to experience the vibrant and complex world of the Pantanal that I had only known from a distance. The conference was a melting pot of ideas, where experts from various fields convened to brainstorm sustainable solutions for cattle ranching and tourism, aiming to preserve the region's unique biodiversity.

This event was a golden opportunity to transition from virtual meetings to enriching face-to-face interactions with Brazilian collaborators, breathing life into existing partnerships and sparking new alliances. The highlight was an unexpected invitation to the Barranco Alto research site. This post-conference visit allowed me to immerse myself in the Pantanal, witnessing first-hand the balance between human activities and nature conservation.

Reflecting on this journey, I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Pantanal's dynamic environment and complex human context. This experience adds valuable insight to my upcoming scientific article, which demonstrates how natural capital theory can illuminate the dependence of humans on this unique biome.

As Julia Tomei, co-Director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources (and a collaborator on Alison’s research in the Pantanal) noted,

In 2021, Alison and I worked with a team of Brazilian researchers to develop natural capital reporting for the Pantanal. Unfortunately, the pandemic curtailed our visit. Alison's blog shows how important it is to spend time in the environments we study - not only to understand their complexity and beauty but also to build the equitable relationships at the core of our research.



Image credit: Alison Fairbrass