Terence Sunderland


Research Interests

Communities and Livelihoods
Conservation Biology
Ecosystem services
Environmental communication
Forest policy
Land-use Change
Landscape ecology
Natural Resource Management
social science
Tropical Landscapes and Livelihoods
Developing countries
Forest management

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.
I am interested in working with undergraduate students on research projects.

Open Research Positions

This list of possible research projects is non-exhaustive. It only shows positions that are specifically advertised in the G+PS website.


Master's students
Doctoral students
Postdoctoral Fellows

Forests and food security; sustainable landscape management; biodiversity; rural livelihoods and markets; ecosystem services; non-timber forest products


I support public scholarship, e.g. through the Public Scholars Initiative, and am available to supervise students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with external partners as part of their research.
I support experiential learning experiences, such as internships and work placements, for my graduate students and Postdocs.
I am open to hosting Visiting International Research Students (non-degree, up to 12 months).
I am interested in supervising students to conduct interdisciplinary research.

Complete these steps before you reach out to a faculty member!

Check requirements
  • Familiarize yourself with program requirements. You want to learn as much as possible from the information available to you before you reach out to a faculty member. Be sure to visit the graduate degree program listing and program-specific websites.
  • Check whether the program requires you to seek commitment from a supervisor prior to submitting an application. For some programs this is an essential step while others match successful applicants with faculty members within the first year of study. This is either indicated in the program profile under "Admission Information & Requirements" - "Prepare Application" - "Supervision" or on the program website.
Focus your search
  • Identify specific faculty members who are conducting research in your specific area of interest.
  • Establish that your research interests align with the faculty member’s research interests.
    • Read up on the faculty members in the program and the research being conducted in the department.
    • Familiarize yourself with their work, read their recent publications and past theses/dissertations that they supervised. Be certain that their research is indeed what you are hoping to study.
Make a good impression
  • Compose an error-free and grammatically correct email addressed to your specifically targeted faculty member, and remember to use their correct titles.
    • Do not send non-specific, mass emails to everyone in the department hoping for a match.
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  • Include a brief outline of your academic background, why you are interested in working with the faculty member, and what experience you could bring to the department. The supervision enquiry form guides you with targeted questions. Ensure to craft compelling answers to these questions.
  • Highlight your achievements and why you are a top student. Faculty members receive dozens of requests from prospective students and you may have less than 30 seconds to pique someone’s interest.
  • Demonstrate that you are familiar with their research:
    • Convey the specific ways you are a good fit for the program.
    • Convey the specific ways the program/lab/faculty member is a good fit for the research you are interested in/already conducting.
  • Be enthusiastic, but don’t overdo it.
Attend an information session

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These videos contain some general advice from faculty across UBC on finding and reaching out to a potential thesis supervisor.

Graduate Student Supervision

Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Assessing the evolution and implementation of forest landscape restoration : a review (2023)

The Bonn Challenge is an initiative to restore 350 million hectares of land globally by 2030guided by a restoration approach called Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR). FLR was jointlydefined by the WWF and IUCN as a “planned process that aims to regain ecological integrityand enhance human well-being in deforested or degraded forest landscapes”. Given thecomplexity of the social-ecological systems and the multi-year time frame of FLR projects,designing and managing restoration interventions is a challenge. Furthermore, FLR’s definitionincludes some terms with no agreed-upon definitions. As such, what FLR means in practicalterms, and how FLR projects are being implemented in the field, remains unclear. Lessonlearningis thus critical so managers of FLR projects can adapt in response to feedback, and tosuit changing needs, priorities, and conditions as they inevitably evolve through time. This isknown as adaptive management and is a central tenet of FLR. However, adaptive managementrelies on an understanding of what FLR means and what it looks like on the ground. Thus, twodecades after the introduction of FLR, in this thesis I seek to review the meaning, challenges, andprogress of the FLR approach to help guide future projects. I conduct a systematic review of theliterature to, first, undertake a comprehensive global assessment of how FLR is evolving inconcept, and second, assess the state of its documented implementation in the field. Usingqualitative content analysis, I show that although social themes dominated the FLR discourse inthe beginning, ecological themes have become dominant in the last 5 years, showingconvergence around a common concern over the quality of restored areas. Furthermore, I findlimited detailed reporting on FLR implementation in the field and offer recommendations forimproving monitoring and reporting. This research contributes to other efforts aimed atimproving shared understanding of the evolving meaning of FLR and knowledge of it implementation in the field. This research may help to inform adaptive management to guidecurrent and future projects through the UN Decade on Restoration (2021-2030) the last decade toachieve the Bonn Challenge target.

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The impacts of land-use change on the provision of ecosystem services in Zambia (2023)

Ecosystems are important in ensuring human well-being, and ecosystem services significantly impact human survival and quality of life. Human activities are changing ecosystems and then affecting ecosystem services. The research related to ecosystem services assessment has been relatively well conducted in Europe, North America, and Asia. However, there is less research work in Africa, especially central and west Africa, although the forest system provides a wide range of goods and services to human populations locally. This thesis investigated and compared how ecosystem services changed between a protected area (Kafue National Park) (KNP) and an agricultural landscape (Kalomo district) in Zambia from 2000 to 2020. A mixed methodological approach was applied in this thesis. I collected information on carbon stocks and the Trumpeter hornbill in both landscapes through a literature review and interviews. I applied the InVEST models and ArcGIS to assess, map and visually display a regulating service (carbon storage) and a supporting service (habitat quality). The results indicated: 1. KNP was protected well during the research period, but the Kalomo district experienced dramatic land conversion. 2. The volumes of carbon storage increased in KNP but decreased in the Kalomo, and the Trumpeter hornbill’s habitat quality has been improved in KNP but degraded in the Kalomo. 3. There is a relatively strong consistency between carbon stock and forest habitat quality in both landscapes. I concluded that land-use change is the primary driver of the change in ecosystem services. I discussed the importance and implications of ecosystem services maps as valuable tools for sustainable decision-making, guiding decision-makers in the design of future land management strategies and policies.

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An overview of intercropping tree/tea plantations in China (2022)

The construction of composite tea plantations allows for symbiosis and reciprocity of organisms within the tea plantation, increasing the overall benefits and enriching biodiversity. Cultivation methods that intercrop tea with other species are widespread within China. They are found throughout the provinces, and the intercropping methods vary greatly. However, no article has provided a general overview of them. This thesis is a literature review designed to summarize and analyze all the composite ecological tea gardens. Through a keyword search of all the materials in the current literature database, 223 eligible documents were selected from 10,069 relevant documents in Web of Science Core Collection, UBC Library, and Elsevier Science Direct abstracts. The possible effects of 151 different tea/other species intercropping plantations were summarized and analyzed from six aspects: contained chemical substances in tea leavessubstances, microbial environment, ecological environment, multiple ecological niches, prevention of pests and diseases, and soil conditions. Moreover, it was concluded that the advantages of intercropping tea gardens outweighed the disadvantages of monoculture tea gardens. Intercropping tea gardens are more sustainable than regular tea gardens because of the changes and benefits in the above six aspects to varying degrees.

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A research framework to assess the impacts of oil pollution on Niger Delta ecosystems (2021)

Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta region is the country's lifeblood, contributing 85% of the national economy. Paradoxically, the region remains heavily dependent on fishing and farming as essential means of survival. However, its entire ecosystem, which supports these services, is under severe threat due to relentless crude oil exploration. This study uses the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) systematic literature review protocol to design a framework. This framework depicts the various impacts of oil spills on the Niger Delta ecosystems, particularly forest ecosystems, rural livelihoods and food security. The review process was completed in four stages: data acquisition, document screening, qualitative data extraction, and results presentation. First, data acquisition involved searching relevant articles from various sources, including Google Scholar, Web of Science, Elsevier Scopus, PubMed Central and relevant grey literature. Exclusion criteria were used to remove documents that were not relevant for this research. The included article used a reproducible method, reported relevant outcomes, and focused on oil pollution in the Niger Delta of Nigeria. One hundred and fifteen (115) full-text publications were eventually obtained for data analysis using NVIVO software.The result analysis stage involved the coding, identification, and interpretation of themes obtained by querying the compendium of information obtained. Three layers that bear different components and subcomponents that are affected by crude oil were identified. The first layer (Layer 1) consists of humans, Aquatic Environment, and Terrestrial Environment. The authors discussed the impacts of oil pollution on the Humans component, with a percentage probability of 78% greater than both Aquatic Environment and Terrestrial Environment components. Layer 2 consists of six factors that are affected by oil spills. Of these factors, Human Health and Mortality Rate and Forest Habitat and Ecosystem Services share equal significance. However, the impact on Water was scarcely discussed by authors, as it accounts for just 39.1% probability. Layer 3 consists of sixteen factors (16). Some of the most discussed factors by authors are Aquatic Vertebrates, Vegetation, and Consumption patterns. In contrast, some of the least discussed factors are Human Displacement, Conflicts, Aquatic Invertebrates, Human Exposure, and Food Quality.

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Selecting local leaders to support forestry extension dissemination in Ghana: implications for management of rattan cane extraction in high forest zone (HFZ) communities (2021)

Social forestry practices such as extension dissemination have over the years evolved from top-down approaches to participatory and collaborative processes. For non-timber forest productsthat are facing scarcity concerns (such as rattan cane), there are calls for extension strategies tofocus on partnering with local communities for improved management outcomes. A keychallenge faced by extension programs in many developing settings, however, is that fewextension agents are available to service entire local populations. One solution has been forextension agents to seek out and enlist support from local indviduals in positions of authoritysuch as traditional rulers and similar local leaders who exercise influence within implementingcommunities. This thesis examined the criteria used by extension agents to identify and recruitlocal leaders in communities where they carry out extension programs. Using a survey-basedresearch strategy that featured electronic questionnaire instrument administered via email toforestry extension agents (n = 23), stationed in 10 districts located across 6 administrativeregions in Ghana, this study sought to determine which local leader extension agents often enlistfor support, what key factors influence agents’ recruitment decisions, which specific qualitiesagents look for in local leaders they recruit, and whether women leaders are as likely to berecruited for extension support as men. The study found that, in general, formal traditionalleaders (e.g. local chiefs) were the most enlisted local actors by extension agents, followed byinformal leaders such as trade association or similar group leaders. The study also found thatwhere an extension agent work was highly associated with the type of local leaders they select tosupport extension. Again, it found that extension agents look for similar leadership qualitieswhen recruiting local leaders, and finally, that women may be as likely as men to be recruited aslocal leaders for extension support. The study proposed that traditional rulers in localcommunities – including rattan dependent communities – be empowered through appropriatelegislation to provide enhanced support for extension programmes. The study againrecommended that design of rural extension dissemination be cognizant of gender situations inimplementing communities.

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