Our geography research reflects the University’s research mission, that seeks to provide solutions to the challenges faced by our environment, society and economy. Our team teaches on the University’s Geography degrees.
Human geography research is underpinned by key areas of social, cultural and political geography. Our research is broadly focused at the intersection of these sub-disciplines and is realised through two main strands, participatory geographies and social and cultural geographies.
Cultural engagement and visitor perception research, Thailand
Physical geography research focusses on a number of key areas including sustainable environment and environmental management, climate change, hazards and disaster risk management. Cross-cutting research across the geographies draws together aspects of Geographical Information Systems, sustainable development and resilience.
Our multidisciplinary research involves collaboration with industry, academia, local, regional and devolved government.
Jangwani area flooded due to lack of environmental management and climate variability
Participatory geography project in Rhondda, looking at community land use opportunities
Participation is readily discussed in political and social arenas and has developed around an ethos of citizen self-mobilisation. Since the 1960s, participation has gradually pervaded the planning and practices of both public, private and third sector organisations. Those who participate however, have been increasingly dominated by social groups or individuals, accentuated through actors and stakeholders that seek to ‘represent’ a broader place-based narrative. On this basis, our participatory research explores those formalised and legislative spaces, as arenas for political and social change. Our research is focused through participatory space and how it can be practically reproduced to diversify those who participate and create greater representation within a political and social context.
Evaluation of heritage management strategies
Our research in social and cultural geography reflects the synthesis between these cognate sub-disciplinary areas, through exploring broadly, the relationship between people, place and identity at varying scales. This has included research into place attachment, national identity and cultural representation.
Dr Thomas Lambourne's research deconstructs previous spatial binaries associated with participatory spaces, as those that are facilitated by or alongside, political or social agencies. These spaces have been traditionally rooted in place and in turn, seek to capture targeted responses to local challenges. Pop-up geography explores place-based research through thinking beyond the fixed position prevalent in practices of citizen participation, by locating participation outside of those atypical, formalised and official spaces. It looks to create more agile and liminal spaces of participation that generate interest and intrigue and addresses issues of apathy and fatigue.
In this research, pop-up geography was practiced with social housing tenants, self-identified as disengaged from housing association participatory practices. The research found that, by rooting pop-up initiatives in everyday localities, the demographic and spatial barriers bound to previous participatory efforts were deconstructed. This resulted in an increase in participation of male and middle-aged tenants, alongside those within a lower socio-economic group.)
Data collection for flood risk and resilience analysis in Bangkok
Holistic sustainable environmental management is needed to combat climate change, whether through adaptation or for climate change mitigation. Climatic and environmental change can be assessed using a range of techniques and proxy measurements, including, for example, microfossil analysis, sedimentology, scanning electron microscopy and geomorphological mapping. Projects with Dr Angela Morris include relating ice-ocean-climate interactions during deglaciation on the north-west European margin and reconstructing coastal eutrophication and pollution patterns using palynology.
Climate change is increasing surface water flood risk across the South Wales region with its steep catchments and rapid surface runoff. A programme of projects working with Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council are ongoing, to analyse surface-water flood risk, and to consider woodland and natural environmental management solutions for climate change mitigation and flood risk reduction in the region.
Projects include using Geographical Information Systems for auditing of surface water drainage for assessment of surface-water flood risk, and to evaluate management solutions. Remote sensing is being used for assessing levels of natural woodland regeneration over the last 80 years to consider natural rewilding solutions. Pollen analysis is being used to understand regional vegetation history, and can be used to reconsider our mosaic of natural vegetation and to help to evaluate a range of options as solutions for local flood risk management.
Community capacity analysis for sustainable slum development, Mbale, Uganda
Sustainable environmental management can be very challenging in areas of the developing world, challenged by poverty. We work with the charity PONT and the Mbale Coalition Against Poverty on a range of projects. These include assessing vulnerability to climate change for example with agricultural production and nutrition, the development of agroforestry through school environmental education, and the development of community projects to improve water supply and quality for public consumption.
Landslide hazards are already a significant problem on the slopes of Mt Elgon in eastern Uganda, and these problems will be worsened by future climate change. We have been working with communities to develop resilience and reduce landslide risk, including through the development of community preparedness and the use of agroforestry for slope stabilisation.
Namatala is the largest slum in Mbale, Uganda, and is typical of many African slums. It is wrought with poverty, inadequate social amenities, poor housing, lack of solid waste management, lack of essential infrastructure, and inadequate access to clean water, safe sanitation facilities and security of tenure. Place-specific understanding of the linkages between the social, economic, environmental and cultural dimensions of Namatala is required to understand the challenges, along with an analysis of the effectiveness of policies and practices for sustainable development and the degree to which community capacity building is functioning.
There are significant collective capacities between the third sector groups and within the community, but progress is hampered by a lack of coordination and collective action. A place-centred approach for considering sustainable development solutions needs a tri-sector partnership to develop collaboration for a more hopeful community, willing to solve their problems through their people's resilience and cultural richness.
Developing community-based landslide risk reduction, Bududa, Uganda
Environmental hazards affect societies as a result of vulnerabilities and exposure. Hazard analysis, for example using Geographical Information systems, can be used to develop disaster risk management solutions. Work at the university has analysed hazard, vulnerability and risk management strategies, including for the development of resilience and for emergency planning in a range of locations including Wales and the UK, Jamaica, Turkey, Oman, United States, Uganda, Thailand, New Zealand, Mexico and Greece.
Dr Tony Harris has been involved in projects to develop resilience to hazard events, which is needed across sectors from government down to community level. Projects include the design, build and delivery of the Exercise Wales Gold II for civil contingency co-ordination, for the Wales Learning and Development Group for the Wales Resilience Forum. Wider resilience can be developed with the use of the Third Sector for response and recovery and projects have worked with the British Red Cross and Gwent Local Resilience Forum to consider how this can be developed in Gwent. The use of Geographical Information Systems have also been used for the identification of strategic and tactical holding area sites across Wales with the Wales Logistical Preparedness Group and Local Resilience Forums, should the need arise for large-scale emergency response in South Wales.
A range of projects have been developed with the Resilience Unit of Cardiff City Council, for example considering flood risk perception and community resilience in Ely, examining the potential for the use of Virtual Online Support Teams in emergency management, and assessing the use of mobile apps for community preparedness and resilience. Current projects include looking at mass evacuation scenarios, including from large-scale flood hazard, for risk assessments and mass evacuation solutions.
The development of community resilience is important for reducing disaster impact and improving recovery. Work with the Llanelli Community Partnership, alongside Llanelli Town Council and Carmarthenshire County Council, has developed projects on public information for the development of community resilience. Currently assessment of community resilience development during the coronavirus pandemic is underway.
Niamh Breslin is a lecturer in Spatial Analysis. Her research interests include the use of GIS and remote sensing for large mammal reintroductions and invasive species management, and in the growing application of drone technology for environmental monitoring. Her most recent research was a Heritage Lottery funded project focusing on the conservation of traditional orchards and heritage fruit varieties.
Dr Jonathan Duckett has research interests at the intersection of social, cultural and political geography. His doctoral research examined contemporary issues of youth citizenship and national identity in the context of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and the Scottish independence referendum.
Dr Tony Harris has a range of research interests linked with climate change, environmental change, and resilience, and he has worked with local and national Government partners, and NGOs. These include a range of projects related to disaster risk management and resilience.
Recently he has been working on projects including disaster management solutions, flood risk, resilience, and natural environmental management solutions for climate change mitigation and flood risk reduction in the region, working with Rhondda Cynon Taff and Cardiff Councils. He also works with the Community Emergency Planning Group, Llanelli Community Partnership and has worked with the Wales Learning and Development Group for the Wales Resilience Forum, Welsh Government.
Work in Uganda with PONT/Mbale Coalition Against Poverty has included projects for reducing vulnerability to climate change with development of agroforestry; the development of community projects to improve water supply and quality; community education projects for resilience to climate change and landslide hazards; and on developing sustainable development solutions for Namatala slum, Mbale.
Dr Thomas Lambourneis a lecturer in Human Geography with research interests that intersect social and political geography. These include: citizen engagement and participation; community involvement; the geographies of social groups; home; participatory action research and methods.
He has research experience in the UK's social housing sector (registered social landlords, housing associations) and specifically, the spaces and practices of tenant participation and involvement.
Dr Angela Morris has research interests in marine micropalynology for environmental reconstruction; the potential of dinoflagellate cysts as indicators of environmental change; and the Eutrophication of British coastal waters
We have excellent dedicated geography, earth science and Geographical Information Systems laboratories along with a wide range of analytical equipment and field equipment, including drones and digital cameras. Specialist software include the ArcGIS suite, ERDAS IMAGINE, eCognition, MATLAB, and NVivo.
Our purpose built laboratory facilities, include microfossil preparation laboratories and digital microscopy facilities. We also have a state-of-the-art TESCAN TIMAx automated field emission gun scanning electron microscope (FEG-SEM). This is a high-resolution electron microscope with multiple energy dispersive spectrometers and CL detector. Other equipment includes portable XRF, along with laboratory based ICP and AA facilities.