Director of the wildFIRE Lab

Prof. Claire M. Belcher Professor (Personal Chair) in wildland fire


Claire is an Earth scientist specialising in the study of natural fires and the role that they play in regulating the Earth system. She graduated from Royal Holloway University of London with a degree in Geology in 2000. She then undertook an MSc in Micropalaeontology at University College London, graduating in 2001 before returning to Royal Holloway to undertake her PhD. She completed her PhD in 2005 entitled “Assessing the evidence for extensive wildfires at the Cretaceous-Tertiary Boundary” and has continued to build on his fiery start ever since.

She then moved to University College Dublin to work at the Programme for Experimental Atmospheres and Climate (PEAC) facility where she focused on the relationship between ancient wildfires and variations in palaeoatmospheric composition. She was then successful in gaining a Marie Curie Research Fellowship to hold a unique position joint between BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering and the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh. She moved to Exeter in January 2012 to take up a permanent position in Earth System Science where she founded the wildFIRE Lab.

Claire’s research is internationally recognised for integrating state-of-the-art modern experimental methods into studies of Earth’s ancient past, and for applying novel approaches to estimate modern fire behaviour and developing post-fire quantitative metrics. Her main research seeks to understand links between flammability, fire behaviour and ecosystems impacts from wildfires today.

Andy Elliott Senior Research Fellow (NERC funded)

Andy has spent all of his life closely linked to wildfires, mostly in the UK, but in recent Precribed_Fire_Oregon1.jpgyears this interest has taken him around the world. His varied background includes working as a Countryside Ranger where he was involved in managing the Dorset landscape. He has been working in Geographical Information Systems since around 2001 and developed the 1st and, possibly still, only spatial application for recording UK wildfires. Currently he runs his own Wildfire Training and Consultancy Business, WildfireTaC ( Alongside all of this, Andy has been a Retained Firefighter with the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service. He is currently the Station Commander in charge of Maiden Newton Fire Station in West Dorset. He is also a UK Wildfire Tactical Advisor for the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC). Andy now works with the wildFIRE Lab team on building the components for a UK wildfire danger rating system

Dr Alastair Crawford – Post Doctoral Research Associate (GCRF funding)

bio coming soon

Dr Rebecca Koll Marie Sklodowska Curie Research Fellow

bio coming soon

Dr Sarah Baker Research Technician (EU and NERC funded)

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Sarah graduated from the University of Plymouth in 2013 with an MGeol in Geology.Sarah is particularly interested in the reconstruction of palaeoclimates and environments. During her PhD at the University of Exeter her research assessed variations in atmospheric oxygen concentration across past oceanic anoxic events, which are thought to have severely disrupted the Earth’s carbon cycle. Sarah then moved to a post doc in the wildFIRE Lab to build an understanding of variations in fire behaviour in Palaeozoic and Mesozoic forests. She continues to work with us as a research technician on our FORCHAR Project (EU) and our research in Building the Components of a UK Fire Danger Rating System (NERC).

Teuntje Hollaar PhD Thesis title – “Milankovitch forcings on wildfire during the Early Jurassic’
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Teuntje graduated from the University of Amsterdam with a BSc Earth Science degree in 2015. During her MSc in Earth Sciences at Utrecht University she focused on reconstructing past climates and environments. She joined the wildFIRE Lab as a PhD student to examine wildfire during the Early Jurassic, a time period with major climatic swings. Moreover, she will assess the possible role of orbital forcing on wildfires during this time interval. This with particular interest in the large scale trend of wildfires in the deep geological past of Earth and how major perturbations in the carbon and oxygen cycles affect fire activity.

Supervisors: Claire M. Belcher and Stephen Hesselbo

Rayanne Vitali PhD Thesis title – “Regulation of atmospheric oxygen by fire’ (Royal Society Funded)

Rayanne graduated from the University of Exeter in 2018 with an MMath inMathematics, specialising in applying mathematics toray for web Earth system science. During her final year, Rayanne developed a particular interest in Earth and climate system modelling, collaborating with the Met Office to help improve vegetation dynamics within the Joint UK Land Environment Simulator model (JULES).

Since then, she has joined the WildFIRE lab as a PhD student to investigate Earth system feedbacks and the history of Oxygen. In particular, using models to investigate the role in which fire has played in keeping Oxygen levels relatively constant over time.

Supervisors: Andrew J. Watson, Claire M. Belcher

Coming Soon! Research Technician

Associate Researchers

Dr Ania Losiak

I am a planetary geologist working on studying terrestrial impact craters and surficial processes on Mars. I am also involved in varDr Ania Losiak Project Leadious outreach activities and Mars analog missions with Austrian Space Forum. I have completed BSc and MSc in Physical Geography from Warsaw University, MSc in Geology at Michigan State University (funded by the Fulbright Graduate Student Award), and PHD at the University of Vienna. Afterwards I won a 3-year Post-Doctoral grant from the National Science Centre (Poland) to work at the Institute of Geological Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences, and currently I am at the wildFire lab thanks to the Marie Sklodowska Curie Individual Scholarship. During the last couple of years, I have been working on small impact craters. I have led (and co-led) three research expeditions to Kaali and Ilumetsa craters which resulted in finding charcoal pieces buried in proximal ejecta. Finding those charcoals not only allowed us to finally determine the age of this structure, but also opened new questions that lead to the MSCA proposal. In my spare time I 1) popularize scientific knowledge by any means possible (e.g., by talking science to people wearing Thor costumes during ComiCons), 2) make stained-glass windows and 3) read a lot of non-fiction and science-fiction literature.

Dr Alicja Bonk

Bio coming soon


Dr Stacey New (PhD 2020) – now at the UK Met Office

Dr Nicholas Walding (PhD 2019) – 2 years in as a Catastrophe Risk Analyst and now with the Environment Agency

Dr Sarah Baker (PhD 2018) – now research technician with the wildFIRE Lab

Dr Nuria Prat-Guitart (PhD 2016) – now at Pau Costa Foundation

Dr Alastair Crawford (PhD 2016) – various temporary lectureships and now back with the wildfire lab

Stacey New (MSc 2014)