Matt Kent

Matt Kent

Matt Kent is a PhD researcher at The Open University, where he works on the peatlands of Indonesia. Hear all about his adventures in Episode 1 of Fieldwork Diaries, and read more about Matt and his work below. You can also follow him on Twitter @SwampyMatt.

A little long in the tooth, I started my academic life studying Ecology at Bangor University, back in 2010. Why? I’d lived in a forest for two winters working as a freelance forester. As I lived and worked in the forest pretty much 24/7, I started to recognise and connect its peculiarities and patterns; how its organic and inorganic components connected to one other. Or in other words, its ecology. You’d see certain things in certain places and it became more than something just to see; it was a mystery to unravel with a hidden story to be appreciated and told. Nothing truly exists in isolation; there are always interactions, on some sort of scale, between different things within a greater system. And so, I woke up one morning in my yurt and decided I could study it.

Drone photo of Idrus and Matt walking in the devastated area known as Kalampangan. 20 years ago it was lush peat swamp forest. Credit Markurius “Yuyus” Sera. Property of OU/AXA Research Fund

I had to study Ecology! It wasn’t easy convincing anyone that I was academically capable being a while out of school, but eventually a professor at Bangor gave me a chance. (And Bangor was the first place in the UK to offer a degree in Ecology). My professor’s speciality was peatlands. I worked hard and was lucky enough to do my final project on some tropical peat samples, looking at the important enzymes and plant-derived chemicals that control whether a peat is retaining or losing its carbon. Peatlands are a globally important carbon store helping us mitigate the effects of climate change, however they could also be significantly damaged by climate change. Knowing this, I couldn’t help but follow my prof’s lead. My work there set me up for my PhD at The Open University looking at tropical peatland biogeochemistry, where I now specialise in water-air greenhouse gas emissions and what dominates these processes. I’ve also contributed to marine ecology projects and worked on projects creating new analytical technologies and techniques.

Idrus and Matt planning work in Kalampangan. Credit Suzanne Turnock.

I love science mostly because I am in awe of the natural world; the more I learn, the more it fascinates me, and the more I hope to answer just some of the questions that pop up along the way. Along that way is a whole load of fieldwork adventures too!

When Matt isn’t out and about on fieldwork or working, he is still being adventurous and can be found climbing, mountain biking, slacklining, wild swimming, wild camping. He also plays guitar and is the composer and artist behind our wonderful theme music! (Thanks Matt!)

Matt’s pure concentration face whilst slacklining!
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