Maria Wang Mei Hua
With growing demand for tropical agricultural products, including palm oil, rubber and wood-pulp, there is an urgent need to find sustainability between natural ecosystems, people and economics. Each crop has an emerging crop-specific sustainability initiative in varying degrees of development aimed at reducing the wider environmental and social damage they cause (negative externalities).
However, planning methods and resulting land-use plans of government resource-use agencies and industry rarely take into account competition between crops and agricultural externalities, which increases the conflicts between environment, society and different crop types for land.
Focusing on natural rubber in Southeast Asia and West Africa, our project hopes to develop a spatial model for the expansion of rubber agriculture and simulate optimal landscape plans for multiple crops that maximise ecological, social and economic sustainability. In addition, via collaboration with a network of commodity producer and purchaser companies who are working with co-supervisor Martin Hollands, we aim to quantify the most relevant ecological and social impacts of rubber agriculture and expansion, and analyse different ways of internalising externalities.
This project is co-supervised by Dr Sanjay Lanka (Management School), Martin Hollands (BirdLife International), and Dr Roman Carrasco (National University of Singapore), and is part of the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures programme.
My primary research interest is in pursuing practical, applied, and interdisciplinary methods to achieve sustainability and conservation goals, particularly in the tropics. I am especially interested in the food and agriculture sector, how conservation intersects with economics, local and indigenous rights, and ethnobotany.
My past work includes my masters research on the genetic diversity of an underutilised tropical fruit tree crop, cempedak and its wild relative (Artocarpus integer, Moraceae), and a global database of forest carbon stocks and flows while at the Smithsonian Institution.
In my personal time, I enjoy cooking experiments, eating, hiking and music. I am also involved with drafting the University of Sheffield’s first Sustainability Strategy and the Students’ Union Sustainability Committee.