Understanding our responses to environmental change

Welcome to my website!
I am Professor of Social Science at the University of Exeter in southwest UK. I am fascinated by how people and communities respond to change – how they perceive and understand change, embrace and resist change, and have different capacities to deal with change. Much of my work focuses on social responses to environmental change, but I try to understand this within the context of other changes – in culture, economy, technology and knowledge.

Find out more about me, my book, the projects I’m currently working on and the people I work with.


  • keppel-stags
    Researching impacts of El Nino at the Kenyan Coast
    22 September 2016

    Our SPACES project has received a supplementary grant to work alongside another ESPA-funded project – CESEA  – in identifying how people and ecosystems in southern Kenya have been affected by this year’s El Nino event. In April communities in Vanga, one of our study sites, are recovering from a catastrophic flood. The Floodlines website reports that… Read More

  • Links in a chain
    Getting to grips with Ecosystem Services: wellbeing links in Social Ecological Systems
    02 August 2016

    We’ve published a new paper in Ecology and Society from our SPACES project. A new paper, led by Tim Daw and co-authored with our international research team, outlines the conceptual framework developed in our SPACES research. In this we use the heuristic of an ecosystem wellbeing chain to empirically test how ecosystems might affect –… Read More

  • Book cover - Copy
    Resilience, Development and Global Change – NEW book published!
    22 January 2016

    My new book: Resilience, Development and Global Change, has been published by Routledge. You can see further details here. I became interested in resilience because as a concept it brought a perspective on understanding change that accounts for uncertainty and non-linearity, which better reflects the realities of rapidly changing world. It provided a way of… Read More

  • Axa project group
    Kenya to Cornwall – exploring community resilience to climate change.
    16 November 2015

    As part of our AXA Outlook project: You, Me and our Resilience, we were excited and fortunate to host an immensely rewarding visit of 8 actors from S.A.F.E Kenya, along with Founder and Director Nick Reding, to Cornwall in late September. We had planned a busy itinerary for our S.A.F.E Kenya visitors who arrived in… Read More

  • Evening in Portleven
    Weather the Storm
    04 October 2015

    Two really significant events recently in our AXA-funded project “You, me and our Resilience’. Our collaborators from SAFE Pwani visited Cornwall, and the production by GoldenTree coincided on Sunday 27 September in Porthleven. Both the companies have been exploring how people can respond to severe weather in the context of other coastal changes. In Kenya… Read More

  • Tsimane' section
    Does conservation may make local communities more vulnerable to climate and other environmental changes?
    08 June 2015

    A new paper in Global Environmental Change, co-authored with Isabel Ruiz-Mallén and other team members from the Institute of Science and Technology at the Universitat Autònomia de Barcelona in Spain, examines how conservation regulations influence the vulnerability of local communities and their opportunities and capacities for adaptation. The paper reports findings from the EU-funded international… Read More

  • scenario
    How can we tackle Taboo Trade-offs in development and sustainable resource management? New paper in PNAS
    02 June 2015

    Decisions about sustainable natural resource management often entail weighing up seemingly incommensurate factors. These have profound implications for poverty alleviation and for poor people. Decisions about who has access and can benefit from natural resources, and what this means for conservation require careful balancing. These are the kinds of dilemmas that confront conservation planners developing… Read More

  • 9781107082656
    Politics and the Selection of Ecosystem Services
    27 April 2015

    New Book Chapter Oonsie (Reinette) Biggs and colleagues have recently published an edited book ‘Principles for Building Resilience’ which critically examines and tests some of the assumptions about resilience in social ecological systems. I co-authored a chapter, (Chapter 2) on ‘Politics and the Selection of Ecosystem Services’ and was lucky to work with really gifted… Read More

    Exploring Well-being, Community Resilience, Governance, Place, Identity and Culture in the Great Barrier Reef
    27 April 2015

    Early Career Researcher Workshop Townville and Magnetic Island 23 March – 3 April 2015 We convened a truly inspiring two weeks with co-researchers from ESI, University of Exeter, CSIRO and Centre for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. We used the example of the Great Barrier Reef, and CSIRO’s Socio-Economic Long-term Monitoring Project (SELTMP)… Read More

  • 1-s2.0-S0921800914X0011X-cov150h
    Do ecosystem services approaches change conservation?
    16 December 2014

    My latest paper with Janet Fisher published in Ecological Economics seeks to empirically address this question. The paper uses Q method and qualitative interviews with representatives of international and Ugandan conservation organisations. Our analysis finds that ecosystem services concepts are often adopted for instrumental imperatives, in order to broaden constituencies and with an expectation of… Read More

  • Porthleven Harbour, Western Morning News copy
    How can we build resilience to extreme weather?
    28 November 2014

    The Royal Society Report ‘Resilience to Extreme Weather’ was launched today – you can access the report and summaries and some interactive maps from the Royal Society website  here I’ve been working on the report for past year alongside distinguished international scientists chaired by the highly esteemed Professor Georgina Mace FRS. Key findings of the report… Read More

  • How resilient is New Orleans?
    02 May 2014

    I recently spent four days in New Orleans with a film crew from National Geographic exploring facets of social resilience. We were fortunate to talk to and learn from some amazing people who were kind and generous to us in sharing their experiences of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and especially how they had re-built since,… Read More