Research

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We’re looking for a Research Fellow in Soil Biodiversity to join our team – check out the link for more information on the role and details on how to apply!

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The Climate and Development Knowledge Network has a new report on research co-authored by Dr Emily Boyd on an experimental project in Maputo, Mozambique on participation and planning for climate change.

“Giving each citizen a voice is essential to developing the potential of local communities to both engage with climate change information and to catalyse action for climate change.”

maputo-market-jamesstapley-freeimagesMozambique is highly vulnerable to natural disasters, in particular those of hydro-meteorological origin such as floods, drought and cyclones. Since 1970, Mozambique has been hit by 34 cyclones or tropical depressions and five major flood events, which have had dramatic social and economic consequences.

The project ‘Public, Private, People Partnerships for Climate Compatible Development (4PCCD) in Maputo, Mozambique, developed participatory planning methods to foster partnerships between actors within different sectors in order to tackle climate change through actions in specific locations in Maputo. The objective of the project was the creation of partnerships that could integrate climate change concerns fully, while at the same time addressing directly the concerns of local residents.

You can read the report here.

The Authors

The authors of the paper are Vanesa Castán Broto, Bartlett Development Planning Unit, University College London, London, UK; Emily Boyd, University of Reading, Reading, UK; Jonathan Ensor, University of York, York, UK; Carlos Seventine, Fundo Nacional do Ambiente (FUNAB), Maputo, Mozambique; Domingos Augusto Macucule, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Maputo, Mozambique; and Charlotte Allen, Independent Consultant, UK. The team prepared the learning paper as part of a learning programme on subnational climate compatible development facilitated by CDKN and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability.

About Emily

You can read more about Dr Emily Boyd at her staff profile page.

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On 14th July, Human Geography PhD students convened a workshop themed “Governing the Anthropocene: actors, institutions and processes.”  As a first of its kind, the workshop brought together students from across the University of Reading whose research focuses on the environment, sustainability and development. The workshop was an excellent opportunity for discussions, sharing ideas and networking amongst PhD students who attended.  It also served as a friendly platform for constructive feedback on research works.

IMG_5646The term “anthropocene” has made its way into the diction of scientists, researchers and academics, to refer to the current geological era. An era of profoundly different futures created for the global society, and far from anything previously experienced. The workshop focused talks on changing global environmental governance considerations, needed to meet the critical challenges of climate change, poverty, land use change, water and sanitation and deforestation.

The full-day workshop, which took place at Reading International Solidarity Centre, brought together both conceptual and case study perspectives focusing on international to local scales.  Country case studies of research presented were across the board from UK, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Malaysia and Indonesia. The full workshop programme and presentation abstracts can be viewed here: GA workshop 2015.

From the workshop, it was evident that the University of Reading is engaged in very cross-disciplinary, intriguing and insightful research in the area of natural resources and environmental governance. Cross-cutting themes presented include:

  • The increasing significance given markets in pursuing development and sustainability, which seems to reinforce existing power structures though in some cases is faced with local resistance in practice;
  • How the state manifests itself and its changing role, or its absence in addressing current resource-use problems;
  • The importance of NGOs in the implementation of development projects, and in scrutinizing non-state actors in private regulation and;
  • The nature and forms of participation, and it’s varied conceptualization as a means to an end or as an end in itself.

The workshop culminated with a highly valuable and interesting discussion on ways forward.  It was obvious that progressive and transparent policies are required at multiple levels to bring about meaningful change, and that the public has a role in requesting change from policy makers.  This can only be achieved when the public is motivated and politically engaged on issues such as climate change that otherwise would be viewed by individuals of the public as huge and external to do anything about. In addition, it was noted that PhD students should strive to capitalize on avenues that bridge the gap between their academic research and policy/practice.

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Image from: Cheli Cresswell ‏@chelicresswell   “Kicking off Day 2 of #BESCitSci. Today's focus: #citizenscience participants.  #citscipeople @DrHG @AlisonDyke_SEI”

Image from: Cheli Cresswell ‏@chelicresswell
“Kicking off Day 2 of #BESCitSci. Today’s focus: #citizenscience participants. #citscipeople @DrHG @AlisonDyke_SEI”

On 12th May, one of our lecturer’s Dr Hilary Geoghegan hosted a citizen science conference at the British Ecological Society in London. Working with colleagues from the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York, Hilary welcomed participants for a one-day event to discuss the ‘human’ element of citizen science – specifically the volunteers, professional scientists, practitioners and policymakers that make up this ever-growing field.

The event attracted over 40 researchers and practitioners interested in the social dimensions of citizen science. A widely accepted definition of citizen science is the participation of non-professionals in professional science projects. However, more work needs to be done to reflect on participation in citizen science – a research approach that is developing at a breakneck pace. Dr Geoghegan said: “My research area of enthusiasm, namely the emotional affiliation we have towards things and activities we care about, is of significant interest to professional scientists, research councils and policymakers as they establish the ways in which they will engage with citizen science in the future. Without an understanding of why people do and do not participate, citizen science projects may fail.” You can find tweets on the subject via the hashtags #BESCitSci and #CitSciPeople

Dr Geoghegan holds an ESRC Future Research Leader award and has used the time and resources offered by the grant to examine the social aspects of tree health citizen science. She has been interested in the place of ‘citizen science’ within emerging tree health policy and the enthusiasm of scientists, policymakers, press officers, web editors and database managers for citizen science. Her next step is to interview volunteers in tree health citizen science projects to understand why they survey and monitor trees.

In 2013 Dr Geoghegan joined the Department of Geography and Environmental Science and since then she has travelled to Australia to discuss enthusiasm for trees in Melbourne and Sydney. She has also spent time building networks with colleagues in Biological Sciences on tree health. She is a founder of the UK’s Tree Health Citizen Science Network.

 

If you’re interested in this area and would like further information please contact Hilary: h.geoghegan@reading.ac.uk or follow her on Twitter: @DrHG. She also hosts a blog www.hilarygeoghegan.wordpress.com focussing on life as an academic and her research interests.

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Dr Agatha Herman

Dr Agatha Herman

Dr Agatha Herman is Lecturer in Human Geography with interests in ethics, geographies of justice and international development.  In September 2014 Agatha began her Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship in which she is exploring ‘the power of Fairtrade’ to bring about sustainable and empowering development both to and beyond its producer communities.

In recent years there have been growing criticisms of the certified Fairtrade movement both in academia and the media. However there has been a significant lack of research actually exploring the impact which Fairtrade has on the producer communities.   Thanks to a British Council Researcher Links Travel Grant, since January Agatha has been in South Africa working with the Fairhills Association at Du Toitskloof Cooperative Cellar and Bosman-Adama (both Fairtrade wine producers) to really understand their experiences; focus groups and photo elicitation exercises with the farmworkers have illuminated the progress which has been made but also the continuing challenges they face.

Fairtrade Grape Processing.  Taken by a photograph elicitation participant (Feb 2015)

Fairtrade Grape Processing. Taken by a photograph elicitation participant (Feb 2015)

She says, ‘I think that what makes my research so useful is that it helps producers identify their strengths and areas for improvement, and will give consumers a clearer idea of what their Fairtrade purchases are actually supporting.  The need for Fairtrade and the context in which it finds itself varies from country to country so my research will take me to all of the current Fairtrade wine producing countries – South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Lebanon and Tunisia – in order to fully understand the system and its developmental impacts.  In turn, this will help to strengthen the Fairtrade system itself by making it more effective, transparent and responsive.’

Agatha’s research interests in resilience and development in production systems as exemplified here connect into broader interests in food politics, ethics and power relations.

Valentines Day Event at the Crèche.  Taken by a photograph elicitation participant (Feb 2015)

Valentines Day Event at the Crèche. Taken by a photograph elicitation participant (Feb 2015)

In recognition of her dedication Agatha  has been invited to return as a visiting scholar to the Ruralia Institute at the University of Helsinki (Finland), where she will further her research on social resilience and cultural connections within agriculture through new writing collaborations as well as speaking about her findings so far in both the Mikkeli and Seinäjoki units. On route she will be stopping off in Bonn (Germany) to develop new connections with Fairtrade International in order to better understand the global systems and relations of Fairtrade in terms of its standards, how they are put into practise and how they connect into the international development aims of the organisation.  To learn more about the contemporary fair trade movement, take a look at her forthcoming co-authored chapter with Mike Goodman in The Handbook of Research on Fair Trade, which will be published in June 2015.

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image2At the latest HERG meeting a research seminar took place in which we had the following PhD speakers talking about their projects prior to a group discussion:

Abu-Bakar Siddiq Massaquoi

“Topic: Addressing tenure and livelihood matters for REDD+ in Sierra Leone: Exploring the problems and prospects of an Adaptive Collaborative Management (ACM) approach.
My research examines the issues, options and outcomes of collaborative and adaptive management strategies for forest and natural resources management in three protected areas (national parks) in Sierra Leone. The purpose is to explore the possibility and value in blending the two approaches for addressing local tenure and livelihood concerns and for producing incentives for enhancing adaptive capacity, social learning and meaningful participation. Essentially, the study will guide the application and operationalisation of adaptive collaborative management for addressing various local concerns for REDD+ and other forest management regimes.”

Mighty Ihesiulor

Topic: Geographies of health and well-being in West Africa: a case study of Nigeria’s Niger Delta region.

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Brian Chirambo
My topic is: Addressing Drivers of Deforestation in Zambia: A methodology Critique of REDD+

The aim of the presentation was to share what my research was all about. Specifically I addressed my research questions, hypothesis, objectives and proposed methods.

Dennis Mailu

“My topic is ‘a critical assessment of governance of urban ecosystem services: A case study of Kibera slums, Nairobi Kenya.’

My study focuses on water governance in an urban poor context, demonstrating links between resilience principles and practice.”

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An international team of scientists is calling for urgent and rigorous monitoring of temperature patterns in mountain regions after finding evidence that high elevations could be warming faster than previously thought.

The research team says that without substantially better information, we risk underestimating the severity of a number of already looming problems, including water shortages and the possible extinction of some alpine flora and fauna.

The research is published today in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Caucasus Mountains, Russia

Caucasus Mountains, Russia

Co-author Dr Maria Shahgedanova, University of Reading, said: “The evidence that mountains are warming faster than low elevations is growing but we still lack detailed information from both observations and models and, as a result, cannot reliably assess impact of the high-elevation warming. These can potentially affect not only high-altitude ecosystems but also water supply from snow and glacier ice and hazards associated with shrinking cryosphere which will impact population at lower elevations.

“To address the issue of elevation-dependent warming and its impacts, we need to employ a combination of automated ground-based measurement networks in different mountainous systems, high-resolution models and satellite imagery. Scientists from the University of Reading work on the development of all three components in the mountainous regions of Europe and Asia.”

The most striking evidence that mountain regions are warming more rapidly than surrounding regions comes from the Tibetan plateau. Here temperatures have risen steadily over the past 50 years and the rate of change is speeding up. But masked by this general climate warming are pronounced differences at different elevations. For example, over the past 20 years temperatures above 4,000 m have warmed nearly 75 per cent faster than temperatures in areas below 2,000 m.

The team of scientists came together as part of the Mountain Research Initiative, a mountain global change research effort funded by the Swiss National Foundation. The team includes scientists from the UK, US, Switzerland, Canada, Ecuador, Pakistan, China, Italy, Austria and Kazakhstan. Between them, they have studied data on mountain temperatures worldwide collected over the past 60-70 years.

Lead author, Dr Nick Pepin, of the University of Portsmouth said: “Most current predictions are based on incomplete and imperfect data, but if we are right and mountains are warming more rapidly than other environments, the social and economic consequences could be serious, and we could see much more dramatic changes much sooner than previously thought.”

Improved observations, satellite-based remote sensing and climate model simulations are all needed to gain a true picture of warming in mountain regions, the researchers say. Much of that requires international agreement and collaboration – and funding.

Among the reasons the researchers examined for faster rates of temperature increase in mountain regions are:

–          Loss of snow and ice, leading to more exposed land surface at high elevation warming up faster in the sun;

–          Increasing release of heat in the high atmosphere. A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, which, when condensing as clouds at high elevation, releases more heat to the mountain environment;

–          Aerosol pollutants at low elevations, including haze, dust and smoke, reduces  warming at those elevations, thus increasing the difference in rates of warming between low and high elevations;

–          Dust and soot deposited on the surface at high elevations causes more incoming sunlight to be converted to heat;

–          The complex combination of any or all of the above factors in different regions and at different times of the year.

Records of weather patterns at high altitudes are ‘extremely sparse’, the researchers found. The density of weather stations above 4,500 m is roughly one-tenth that in areas below that elevation. Long-term data, crucial for detecting patterns, doesn’t yet exist above 5,000 m anywhere in the world. The longest observations above this elevation are 10 years on the summit of Kilimanjaro.

 

Read more about Dr Shahgedanova at her staff profile.

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Giuseppe-FEOLA_1594_wDr Giuseppe Feola engages  in interdisciplinary research with a focus on  understanding how and why social-ecological systems transform along particular pathways, and under what conditions societal change towards sustainability may occur. Giuseppe’s research has three main foci, namely sustainability, resilience and transformation of agriculture and rural systems, alternative economies and grassroots innovations for sustainability, social change theory and sustainability.

Recent publications

Giuseppe has recently published two papers in leading international journals. In “Societal transformation in response to global environmental change: A review of emerging concepts”, published in AMBIO, Giuseppe contributes to the emerging scientific debate on societal transformation by discussing the potential and limitations of different transformation concepts, and by critically reflecting on the challenges of social research to support transformative change. Giuseppe explains: “There is a growing interest in societal transformation both as an academic concept as a goal for  public policy-making. However, there is no agreement on what societal transformation means, , what it should entail, and how best it can achieved. With this paper I seek to provide structure to the scientific dialogue and to reflect on the challenges of social research on the subject of social transformation.”

In, “Researching farmer behaviour in climate change adaptation and sustainable agriculture: lessons learned from five case studies”, published in the Journal of Rural Studies, Giuseppe and his co-authors have  developed an analytic framework that other scholars can use when designing future interdisciplinary studies on farmer behaviour. The framework facilitates interdisciplinary research on farmer behaviour by opening up spaces of structured dialogue on assumptions, research questions and methods employed in empirical research.

Giuseppe’s publications are available at: www.giuseppefeola.net/publications

International visit

Between January and March 2015 Giuseppe was visiting scholar at the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS) at Michigan State University, a visit that was funded by a British Council Researcher Links grant. Through this visit, Giuseppe has strengthened his collaborations with leading researchers in the interdisciplinary research field of human-environment interactions. Giuseppe was also invited to give a research seminar at CSIS. In his talk, titled “Do informal institutions adapt to the influences of environmental and economic changes? Insights from a Colombian peasant community”, Giuseppe presented the findings of the recently concluded research project ‘Adaptation between resilience and transformation: a Colombian case study’ funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust.

To find out more, visit Giuseppe’s staff profile.

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Private Sector Resilience

Photo Peter McMannersPeter Mcmanners, who is a member of the HERG Resilience Research Cluster, presented a seminar to geography students on private sector resilience. He outlined the significance of sustainability in the context of a business response. The underlying rationale for the private sector to engage with sustainability was explained. He also pointed out the limitations on business to apply their capabilities to fashion significant change to the way they operate. Business is constrained by investors with short time horizons and an overall expectation placed on business to focus on bottom-line performance. Many of the changes required in society and the economy, to deliver sustainability and resilience, have the characteristics of long-term systemic change. This is something we are not very good at. The culture of short-term results is not conducive to the long-term strategic planning required to deliver a resilient economy alongside a sustainable society.

Current research into sustainability in aviation was used to discuss private sector resilience within a particular case study. This exposed a policy stalemate where the aviation industry is held back and unable to advance towards a low emissions future. There is the potential for a bright future for aviation but it requires radical change. In a global highly regulated industry with substantial sunk costs there is little appetite for transformational change. Current research into a new model for aviation was outlined and discussed with different passenger segments based on the premise that flying slower could be the catalyst to develop a new generation of low-carbon air vehicle.

Finally, the seminar returned to the big picture of the global economy and an examination of the macroeconomic policy which sets the context within which business operates. Discussion was around whether economic globalisation will continue of whether the imperative of resilience will be the driver towards a more proximized economy. The seminar did not arrive at a definitive conclusion but raised the possibility of a transformation in macroeconomics to provide business with a different macroeconomic framework within which to operate.  As sustainability and resilience rise up the policy agenda, we are likely to see much more consideration of transformational change as policy makers accept that the current state of affairs cannot continue indefinitely. If the private sector is to play an active role in such a transformation, it will have to be part of a wider initiative orchestrated by politicians and policy makers.

The seminar was a thought provoking session which produced lively discussion and debate.

For further information: McManners, P. (2014) ‘Reframing economic policy towards sustainability’, Int. J. Green Economics, Vol. 8, Nos. 3/4, pp.288–305.

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The Human Environments Research Group is contributing to work on adaptation and urban resilience in the global South. Two items hot off the press include a paper based on CDKN funded work on climate compatible development in Mozambique by Castán Broto V, Macucule D A, Boyd E, Ensor J, Allen C, 2015, “Building collaborative partnerships for climate change action in Maputo, Mozambique” Environment and Planning A 47(3) 571 – 587

Emily Boyd with international collaborators Aditya Ghosh (Heidelberg) and Max T. Boykoff (Boulder Colorado) also contributed a chapter on Climate Change Adaptation in Mumbai, India in newly published book The Urban Climate Challenge: Rethinking the Role of Cities in the Global Climate Regime (Cities and Global Governance) by

Craig A. Johnson (Editor), Noah J. Toly (Editor), Heike Schroeder (Editor). Drawing upon a variety of empirical and theoretical perspectives, The Urban Climate Challenge provides a hands-on perspective about the political and technical challenges now facing cities and transnational urban networks in the global climate regime. You can purchase the book on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/1CpFrRC .

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