I am interested in how major challenges of sustainability – poverty, inequality and equity, uncertainty and environmental change play out and are inter-linked. My research enables me to engage with broad fields, and to work across a range of disciplines, including human geography, political ecology and development studies. I use concepts such as resilience, adaptation, vulnerability and transformation to understand these changes, and I also work on ecosystem services, poverty and wellbeing.
I started my research career with a PhD on women’s collective action in eastern Kenya. Although I was at the University of Nottingham, I spent most of my degree in Kenya. My work looked at how participating in women’s farming groups might help poorest households to escape poverty traps and overcome vulnerability to drought and other shocks.
This early work showed me how issues of poverty and environmental change are inextricably linked, and how social, economic and political factors – including gender, knowledge, property rights and culture – influence and mediate change. It taught me that structure and agency are intertwined. This early-career research has influenced my thinking much more than I realised at the time. It also drew me to focus my work on development studies for more than twenty years; holding a faculty position in the School of International Development at UEA. The school uniquely combines a commitment to research excellence, teaching and scholarship with on-going engagement to working with development agencies and civil-society groups and communities in developing countries. I created this website to communicate the findings from my Professorial Fellowship on ‘Resilient Development’.
I was fortunate to work at two pioneering interdisciplinary research centres at UEA – CSERGE and the Tyndall Centre – and to work alongside top, interdisciplinary and visionary thinkers in developing research programmes in these centres.
Between 2004 and 2014 I co-edited – with Neil Adger and Declan Conway – the journal Global Environmental Change, and am part of the Resilience Alliance: an international scientific network, working across disciplines and applying ideas from resilience to address issues of sustainability.
I’m involved with these external organisations:
Co-Chair, International Advisory Committee, Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation Programme, ESRC/NERC/DFID, 2011: Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation ESPA
Chair, Scientific Advisory Committee, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies, 2015.
International Board member, Resilience Alliance.
Associate Editor, Ecology and Society.
Editorial Board, Global Environmental Change (co-editor, 2003-2014)
Recently I have also been involved in the following:
Deputy Chair, Research Excellence Framework, Anthropology and Development Studies sub-Panel, HEFCE, 2011-2014
Royal Society Working Group on Resilience and Extreme Weather, 2013-2015
Advisory Committee New Directions in Sustainability and Society (Cambridge University Press book series, co-ordindated at Arizona State University USA
Science Committee, Resilience2014 international Conference, Montpellier, 2014 (930 participants)
International Advisory Committee EU project COMBIOSERVE: Assessing the effectiveness of community-based strategies for the management of biocultural diversity in Latin America
Contributing Author IPCC Special Report on Extremes, 2012.
Zurich Programme on Flood Resilience Peer reviewer, 2015.
Deputy Director and Programme Leader, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research 2004-2010.
Scientific Committee International Human Dimensions Programme, 2004-2010.
Scientific Advisory Committee Global Environmental Change and Food Systems programme 2005-2011.
Member Development Studies sub-panel of HEFCE Research Assessment Exercise 2008.
Member Anthropology and Development Studies sub-Panel, HEFCE Research Excellence Framework 2013.
Convening Lead Author Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (Response Options Working Group)2002-2004.
Member ESRC International Advisory Committee (2008-2010) and International Network (2010-12)
Editorial Board, Oryx (Cambridge).
Associate Editor (Social Sciences) Environmental Conservation (Cambridge University Press) 2003-2010
Senior Research Fellow and Programme Manager, CSERGE, UEA 1994 -2006
External Examiner MA Ecological Economics and MA Sustainable Development, School of the Environment, University of Leeds (2003-2006).
Scientific Committee European Society for Ecological Society Biennial Conference ‘Science and Governance’, Lisbon June 2005.
Scientific Committee, International Society for Ecological Society Biennial Conference ‘Crossing Boundaries’, Montreal July 2004.
Expert Parliamentary Witness Oral and written evidence to House of Commons International Development Select Committee. House of Commons, London (2002).
Fellow Royal Society of Arts (2001-2006).
Board Member International Society for Ecological Economics (2001-2003).
Member (trustee) Intermediate Technology Development Group (1998-2003).
Member of Food Security Advisory Group Intermediate Technology Development Group (1996-2001).
Council Member Development Studies Association (1994-1997).
Scientific Advisory Board World Forests, Environment and Society (European Forestry Institute and United Nations University) (from 1999).
Member GEF Roster of Experts (from 1993).