Centre for Adapting to Changing Environments

Adapting to collaborative research: a reflection by the ACE Earth fellows on the Adapt.ed project

Developing a narrative around what adapting to changing environments could mean to different disciplines.

Sarah Manning and Alys Daniels-Creasey
Edinburgh Earth Initiative (EEI) and the Centre for Adapting to Changing Environments (ACE) Earth Fellows


Adapt.ed in brief


Authors: Alys Daniels-Creasey and Sarah Manning

Editor: Dr Guillaume Latombe

An existing partnership between the Edinburgh Earth Initiative (EEI) and the Centre for Adapting to Changing Environments (ACE) provided the opportunity for postgraduate students to participate in a joint research project called Adapt.ed. Led by EEI’s postgraduate Earth Fellows, Alys Daniels-Creasey and Sarah Manning, Adapt.ed set out to bring ACE’s work to the wider University of Edinburgh community and help establish a narrative around what adapting to changing environments could mean.

More specifically, Adapt.ed sought to map the landscape of interdisciplinary research at the University connected directly or indirectly to environmental change. Through a series of interviews with key academic actors, this research identified examples of language, shared values, themes, and tensions within and among disciplines to produce recommendations for future adaptation efforts at the institution. With recognition of the challenges faced by those participating in interdisciplinary research, this project surfaced surprising links between seemingly unrelated pieces of work: the nuance of definitions and breadth of efforts encompassed under the umbrella of adaptation, the motivational drive among academics to study this topic, and the perception that the University has a responsibility to create an ecosystem of support for related research and acknowledge its position of privilege in today’s changing global environment. This project is a small piece in a wider push towards raising the research capacity of the next generation of environmental adaptation champions.

In collaboration with ACE

One of the most impactful components of the Adapt.ed partnership came through the agency given to us by ACE to shape our research and interview questions in a way that was most meaningful to us. Because of this, we felt a deep connection to this work and developed trust in our capabilities. We also learnt how to balance the priorities of the collaborating partners in order to represent all participants. The project culminated in a report we feel proud of, which summarises the findings of our interdisciplinary interviews, recommendations, and reflections on the process. The report will be available from the ACE website at a later stage.

Looking forward

We were amazed by the willingness of academics to engage and share their limited time with us. Their passion for adaptation work (as well as their own discipline’s research) inspired us both at this critical decision-making point about our upcoming careers.

“Being able to connect with academics from across the University through this project was a rare opportunity to engage with diverse perspectives in the environmental change discussion. This has supported my interdisciplinary and critical thinking, informing the design of my master’s dissertation project, and encouraging me to pursue a PhD in this topic area. Because of Adapt.ed, I more fully understand the value and challenges of academic collaboration and look forward to carrying on working in this space.” (Alys)


“Discovering how so many different disciplines still had common interests and passions connected to adaptation, and better understanding shared frustrations about how it is so often left out of decision-making conversations, has inspired me to look for roles in community participation and climate adaptation as the next step in my professional career. The Adapt.ed project has reinforced how critical interdisciplinary collaboration is to climate action. I intend to apply this perspective to any team I work on in the future.” (Sarah)


Across the course of this project, we felt empowered to step into a leadership position and take ownership of the research. The combination of EEI and ACE’s guidance throughout and our application of their feedback, further developed our confidence in interdisciplinary evaluation, network facilitation, and project management. We are hoping that this experience will be the foundation for an ongoing postgraduate mentorship through similar collaborations between EEI and ACE.