Our Research

Our Current and Future Research

Today, Geography at Wollongong has entered a new phase. Since late 2013 we have appointed new early career staff (Andrew Warren, Chris Brennan-Horley, Christine Eriksen, Thomas Birtchnell, Scott McKinnon, Nicole Cook and Anja Kanngeiser), as well as two professors (Noel Castree and Pauline McGuirk). Augmenting our well-established expertise in cultural environmental research, cultural economy and Indigenous geographies are new clusters of researchers and activities, including significant strands in urban and economic geography, and disaster studies. Geography at Wollongong is now much larger, and more diverse, than a decade ago. Yet there are some significant commonalities of research interest among our staff and research students, notably human engagements with the animate and inanimate world in both everyday and extraordinary situations, and in both urban and rural settings (including coastal areas). Currently, our staff’s research interests are as follows:

Areas of shared expertise and research interest

We possess clusters of specialist knowledge and experience in the following areas:

  1. Urban and regional restructuring in Australia
  2. Sustainable transitions to ‘post-carbon’ societies
  3. Political economies of environmental change
  4. Immigration and community cohesion
  5. Housing, quality of life and place
  6. Corporeal engagements with the non-human
  7. Managing ‘troublesome’ non-human species
  8. Natural hazard preparedness and response

Individual Research Interests

Associate Professor Michael Adams

Michael’s research is underpinned by Indigenous and post-colonial approaches, with an ongoing focus on Indigenous peoples, environments and conservation management. This includes Indigenous and local knowledge systems, the cultural dimensions of hunting, and issues of respect and sacredness. Geographically, he has worked in Australia, Arctic Scandinavia and India, and methodologically likes to use ‘full-immersion’ approaches, getting deeply and actively involved in the human and non-human lives and landscapes of his work. He is also influenced by early studies in the humanities, and writes in environmental humanities and creative arts arenas as well as geography. His most recent work examines human relationships with oceans through the medium of freediving. He was awarded the Calibre Prize for his essay ‘Salt blood’’.

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Dr Jennifer Atchison

Jennifer is a biogeographer inspired by relational thinking and ‘more-than-human’ approaches that attempt to bridge or undo the nature-culture binary. She researches relationships between people and environment, particularly in northern Australian savanna and coastal ecosystems where invasive species, fire and sea-level rise are key transformative processes. Her current research examines the everyday practices and experiences of managing the environment, how people are responding to rapid change, and how practice and experience might inform policy and governance.

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Dr. Thomas Birtchnell

Thomas’s research lies on the cusp between transport and urban geography with an anchoring in the Global South. His scholarly expertise spans ‘smart’ technologies including 3D printing, drones, artificial intelligence, robotics and augmented reality; the mobilities of knowledge, wealth and talent; futures methods; and urban gentrification, innovation hubs, and overlaps between spirituality and managerialism. In his research on industrial futures and 3D printing he has recently consulted for the UK Government’s Department for Transport, Foresight programme and the Intellectual Property Office. An enduring thread of inquiry through most of his research is to understand how knowledge moves globally and manifests in different socio-technical systems. Current research examines sustainable development and poverty interventions in India through smart technologies, the role of intellectual property in the emergence of 3D printing in India, and the influence of spirituality in India’s urban architecture. Alongside these inquiries in the Global South Birtchnell is undertaking research on the impact of automation technologies on expertise in the creative sectors.

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Dr. Chris Brennan-Horley

Chris Brennan-Horley is a human geographer with an interest in spatial technologies. He is currently involved in three research projects where qualitative GIS is rendering new perspectives on the spatial aspects of social issues. The first is an ARC DECRA fellowship focusing on quality of life and bushfire risk while the second project involves crowdsourcing factors important to creating dementia friendly communities. The third and most current project is mapping the societal benefits of social enterprises in economically depressed regions. The common thread traversing these cross-disciplinary projects is an abiding interest in how individual and community wellbeing is manifest spatially, and how qualitative spatial methodologies can enable transformative outcomes.

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Professor Noel Castree

Noel is currently researching how human-environment relations at the global scale are represented in expert discourse, both cognitively and normatively. He’s especially interested in how epistemic and political representation are elided in such discourse, and in how expertise can be rethought in the context of global advisory bodies like IPCC and the IPBES. This rethinking aims to bring political representation more fulsomely into the domain of ‘expert advice’, foregrounding its democratic function as much as its cognitive role. This rethink is designed to challenge the conventional place assigned to environmental expertise in political decision making.

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Dr. Nicole Cook

Nicole Cook is an urban geographer researching the capacities of social and political movements to foster innovation in urban development and planning in cities. Working with theories of assemblage and the concept of ‘the truly new’ this work examines the capacities of social movements to experiment in and through urban space to produce socially just futures. Nicole also specialises in qualitative housing research, focusing on the economic, cultural and political dimensions of densification in cities. In 2016, Nicole co-edited the new Routledge collection: Housing and Home Unbound: intersections in economics, environment and politics in Australia

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Dr. Christine Eriksen

Christine specialises in social dimensions of disasters. Her current research in Australia and North America, as well as previous work in Africa, examines the trade-offs people make between risks and benefits. She contextualise these trade-offs at scales ranging from individual households and community networks to official management agencies. A major part of this work focuses on cultural norms that underpin bushfire resilience. Her book Gender and Wildfire: Landscapes of Uncertainty (2014) follows people's stories of surviving, fighting, living and working with bushfire. She was selected as a World Social Science Risk Interpretation and Action Fellow in 2013, awarded an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award in 2015, and named as a UOW Woman of Impact in 2016.

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Dr. Leah Gibbs

Leah Gibbs is fascinated by people’s interactions with nature. Her research focuses on cultural practices and values, and on the politics and processes of governing environments. She is particularly interested in how peoples and societies negotiate ‘troublesome encounters’ with nature; be that how people use and value water in places and times of scarcity, negotiate protection of species that pose a potential threat to human life or livelihood, or make decisions about invasive species in the context of growing environmental change and uncertainty. Her current primary research project examines the cultures and politics of human-shark encounter and shark hazard mitigation. Leah is a human geographer, whose research emerges from training across the disciplines of Geography and Indigenous Studies. This training has shaped her interest in learning and communication across the disciplines and with broader audiences. She is a field-based researcher with experience working in arid and temperate Australia, northern Britain, and Tanzania.

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Professor Chris Gibson

Chris is a human geographer principally concerned with the sub-field of cultural economy. Theoretical and conceptual influences span both economic geography and literary/cultural studies; this translates into research that seeks to interweave analytical frameworks from Marxian and poststructuralist economic geography with the texture of ethnographic methods. Past projects have explored rural festivals, forms of work in music and creative industries, and craft-based maker cultures. Most recently, his research addresses questions of regional transformation in light of historical inheritances, and amidst growing environmental crises and associated socio-economic uncertainty. Collaborations with Andrew Warren, Chantel Carr, Carl Grodach and others address questions of the links between urban cultural policy and manufacturing; conceptions of redundancy within capitalist enterprises and beyond; and the nature of material work and skill – all in an era of technological and ecological upheaval, growing environmental regulation and material resource scarcity.

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Associate Professor Nick Gill

Nick is an environmental geographer currently researching rural natural resource management in regions where farming is retreating and where a wide range of new landowners are moving in. The substantive focus has been invasive plants and bushfire management, but the broader questions are: What ideas about ‘rural nature’ are shaping environments in these ‘new’ rural landscapes? How do different forms of environmental stewardship develop and what social and environmental processes influence this? What are the social institutions developing and influencing natural resource management in these areas? Scaling-up, these changes in land tenure, ownership, and management suggest a process of ‘resettling’ land and new relationships between people and nature in rural Australia.

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Dr. Anja Kanngeiser

Anja Kanngieser is a political geographer and sound artist. As an interdisciplinary scholar, she brings creative methods to the investigation of space and politics. Her current research broadly considers how sound reveals political, social and economic relations between humans, environments and systems of governance. In her work she begins with the premise of sound as a constant, a phenomenon that is always present and impossible to escape – whether heard, felt, or sensed by human or non-human species and technologies.

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Dr. Natascha Klocker

The common thread throughout Natascha’s research is a focus on equity, discrimination and inclusion/exclusion – most often explored through the lens of migration and ethnic diversity. Her current research has three strands. First, she is developing new understandings of the environmental and agricultural knowledges and capacities of migrants and refugees. This work has an overarching community engagement focus. It seeks to both foster and evaluate opportunities for migrants and refugees to demonstrate the value of their skills, especially in regards to environmental sustainability and climate change adaptation. It also actively engages migrants and refugees in the doing of research. Second, focusing on diversity at the household scale, Natascha’s research is exploring the place-based experiences of mixed-ethnicity couples in Australia. Through this research she is developing insights into the ways in which individual identities coalesce in couples and families, affecting where, how and when different family members feel comfortable in urban space. Finally, shifting away from a focus on migration and ethnic diversity, Natascha’s research also explores issues of gender equity in the workplace. She is particularly interested in the ways in which employees make decisions to reveal or conceal their parenting responsibilities at work – and the implications of these decisions for their career opportunities.

More about Dr. Natascha Klocker

Professor Pauline McGuirk

Pauline is an urban political geographer. Her current research has three key strands. First, she is developing new understandings of urban regeneration that capture the multiple and diverse scales, materialities and actors involved. Second she is exploring the central importance of cities and urban space – politically and materially – to energy transition. Third, she is interested in how ‘smart city’ visions and technologies might reassemble how cities are known and, thus, how they are governed, with diverse implications for different places, people and communities.

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Dr. Scott McKinnon

Scott’s research focusses on historical geographies and geographies of memory. His current project investigates collective memory of disasters associated with natural hazards in Australia. Disasters both produce and destroy significant sites of memory and prompt complex processes of remembering and forgetting. Scott’s research traces the practices and sites through which disaster memory is constructed and investigates the impacts of disaster memory on community identity and belonging. The project aims to improve understandings of how the memory of past disasters influences vulnerability and resilience today. Scott also researches historical geographies of sexuality with a particular interest in the spatial and cultural enactment of LGBTQ identities in Australia.

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Professor Gordon Waitt

Sustainability is the overarching theme of my research interests. His current work is committed to empirical research that is informed by theoretical debates about household sustainability. My work draws attention to how social difference – for example gender, ethnicity and age – shape people's domestic consumption of food, water and energy. His future research will remain focussed on the challenges and spatial complexities of sustainability, and the embodied geographies of gender, sexuality and ethnicity.

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Dr. Andrew Warren

Andrew is an economic geographer passionate about bringing together the conceptual tools of geographical political economy to study livelihoods in places undergoing economic transition. He is currently involved in three research projects. The first is a longitudinal, ethnographic study with workers and families impacted by workplace restructuring and redundancy. The second project involves collaboration with Prof. Chris Gibson and is exploring conceptions of ‘value’ and ‘time’ in contexts where material resource scarcity is reshaping commodity production and consumption. Andrew’s most recent project analyses the changing labour process in ‘downstream’ auto-repair and maintenance workshops in light of spatial and technical changes in ‘upstream’ vehicle production.

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Last reviewed: 17 July, 2017

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