I am a human geographer specialising in enthusiasm. Through my research, I seek to understand more fully what motivates and sustains individual and collective participation in activities, hobbies, interests, projects and research. I am interested in relations between people and the material world, particularly as they change over time and space. To date my research has examined passions for technology, architecture, wetland birds, weather and trees.
- Geographies of Enthusiasm
I conceptualise enthusiasm as a strong emotional affiliation that influences people’s actions, performances and passions in space. In turn, I am interested in how knowledge is made and communicated between individuals, groups and institutions, attending to: i) technology, material culture, emotions and practice in settings as diverse as the home, work and public sphere; and ii) how social relations are sustained in communities giving rise to identity and senses of belonging. I have investigated enthusiasm in the contexts of environmental volunteering (counting wetland birds), technical hobbies (collecting, hoarding and tinkering with obsolete technologies), museums (the practices of museum staff and volunteers) and architectural tours (passions for 20th century architecture).
- Environmental Knowledges
Following my PhD and ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship, I identified the contribution my research could make to understanding how people experience, know and value the natural world. Pushing my research in the direction of environmental change, I have addressed two themes: first, investigating the roles of place and enthusiasm in environmental volunteering and citizenship, specifically focusing on the volunteer counters of the Wetland Bird Survey, UK; and second, through a 3 year collaboration with Prof. Catherine Leyshon (Exeter), examining how people experience climate change and weather through familiar landscapes and everyday life.
- Citizen Science and Tree Health **my new research area**
My new research examines how people, nature, technology and enthusiasm mingle, interact and emerge, collectively and individually, at different times and in different spaces, in the context of monitoring and managing tree health. Amateurs, enthusiasts and volunteers have long contributed to scientific research. Today, demand for data on biodiversity outstrips the capacity of professional scientists (in terms of manpower and finance), citizen scientists are therefore increasingly valuable to the design, collection and analysis of scientific data. Through collaboration with Forest Research, the Sylva Foundation and the Science Museum, I am researching the development of a UK framework for monitoring tree health through citizen science, specifically how relations between and about nature, technology, science and society are made and sustained.
- Geography in the Public Realm
Collaboration with non-academic institutions and the incorporation of geographic thinking in the public realm is at the heart of my research. To date, I have collaborated with the British Trust for Ornithology, Forest Research, National Trust, Natural England, Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), Science Museum, Sylva Foundation and The Twentieth Century Society. I advocate the place and contribution of Geography in public by using my blog and Twitter feed (I now have over 800 followers). This commitment to a more open and public academic stance is the subject of my ‘(re)enchanting geographies’ paper which is co-authored with Dr Tara Woodyer (Portsmouth Geography). My previous appointment as AHRC Research Fellow at the Science Museum is testament to the value of human geography to non-academic organisations.
2012 ‘Harnessing Enthusiasm: Ecosocialities and Citizens as Early-Warning Systems’ ESRC Future Research Leader (2012-2015). Value: £169,000
2011 ‘Cultures of Architectural Enthusiasm and The Twentieth Century Society’ British Academy Small Grant (2011-2013, Co-I Dr H. Neate, UCLan). Value: £7500
2011 ‘Environmental Volunteering and the Wetland Bird Survey’ Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Small Research Grant (2011-2012). Value: £2500
2008 ‘The Culture of Enthusiasm: Technology, Material Culture and Museums’. ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship. Ref: PTA-026-27-1611. Value: £78, 282.42
2005 RGS-IBG Historical Geography Research Group Postgraduate Support Grant
2003 ESRC CASE PhD studentship with the Science Museum (2003-2006) Ref: PTA-033-2003-00036
2002 College Master’s Studentship Royal Holloway, University of London.