School of GeoSciences Research

Socio-ecological systems

We investigate ethnographic research and citizen science to new remote sensing tools (and spin-out companies), model whole ecosystems, develop national land-use scenarios, and study international agricultural supply chains' footprint.  

Our research is particularly comprehensive in this area; historically, geographically and methodologically:

Historic environments and societies

We study environmental records, combined with archaeological remains to reconstruct historic environmental tipping points and associated societal changes. 

Key staff:

  • Professor Andy Dugmore
  • Dr Anthony Newton
  • Dr Eva Panagiotakopulu 

Locations: primarily the Arctic region

Land-use change scenarios 

Through modelling and stakeholder interaction we seek to understand and predict the land-use change in agricultural and rural landscapes; assessing the drivers for change and the impacts on biodiversity and the provision of various ecosystem services (including food, fibre, carbon sequestration, flood alleviation, amenity). We examine environmental, economic, and socio-political drivers within our research projects' geographical focus, often seeking to visualise their temporal interactions and the resulting spatial patterns of land-use change. We quantify and communicate (cumulative) impacts as environmental footprints and relate our findings to existing policies and targets. 

Key staff: 

  • Professor Marc Metzger
  • Professor Mark Rounsevell
  • Dr Alfy Gathorne-Hardy
  • Dr Peter Alexander
  • Professor Dave Reay

Locations: primarily UK and EU

Land use, livelihoods and conservation

We research how land-use transitions and nature conservation impact rural livelihoods, and in turn, how rural livelihoods impact the environment. Our work uses a wide range of methods to understand how socio-ecological systems are structured and are changing, including methods from the qualitative and quantitative social sciences, remote sensing and ecosystem ecology.

Key staff:

  • Dr Clare Barnes
  • Dr Aidan Keane
  • Dr Janet Fisher
  • Dr Casey Ryan
  • Dr Sam Staddon  

Locations: primarily East Africa and South Asia regions

Geospatial analysis 

Our research focuses on addressing environmental issues through geospatial data. We seek out solutions that work at global scales and integrated into local livelihoods to ensure that the data equally empower everyone. The data we use is collected by satellites, aircraft, drones, sensors, or people. Our research aims to go from sensing to sense-making.

Key staff:

  • Dr Genevieve Patenaude
  • Dr William Mackaness
  • Dr Neil Stuart
  • Dr Gary Watmough
  • Professor Iain Woodhouse 

 Current projects 

A Socio-Ecological Observatory for the Southern African Woodlands (SEOSAW)

SEOSAW comprises a network of scientists and also a network of woodland survey plots in southern Africa. The long-term goal of SEOSAW is to understand the response of southern African woodlands to global change. Members of SEOSAW conduct diverse research which is unified by a shared interest in the ecology of woodlands and savannas.

Visit the SEOSAW website

Landscapes as Carbon Sinks: Scotland's Land Contribution to Net Zero by 2045

Scotland is committed to net zero C by 2045. To deliver on this, Scotland's land-based sector, landowners, interest groups, and civil society need to work together at a scale not previously attempted.  Our project is to challenge and support them towards actions that meet this target, including addressing barriers, enablers or levers that need to change from local to national scales.

More information on this project award can be found on *ERE

UKRI GCRF South Asian Nitrogen Hub

Our researchers are members of the UKRI  GCRF South Asian Nitrogen Hub. The Hub seeks to improve nitrogen management in agriculture, saving money on fertilizers and making better use of manure, urine and natural nitrogen fixation processes.  This ambitious Hub is led by NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and brings together partners from the UK and South Asia; together 32 leading research organisations. 

More information can be found on the GCRF Hub booklet

Climate Resilience Programme - Development and provision of UK socio-economic scenarios for climate vulnerability, impact, adaptation and services research and policy

This project aims to develop a set of internally consistent socioeconomic scenarios for the UK that is coherent with the IPCC community shared socioeconomic pathways, which will provide the basis for further UK research on climate risk and resilience.

More on this project award can be found on *ERE

Large collaborative projects completed in the period 2017-2019 

Operational Potential of Ecosystem Research Applications (OPERA)

OPERA was a five-year European research project running from 2012-2017 that aimed to put cutting edge ecosystem science into practice. Researchers and practitioners from 27 different organisations helped stakeholders to apply the ecosystem services and natural capital concept into practice.

Visit the OPERA website

 * Edinburgh Research Explorer (ERE) is the University's research information system and is managed by Library and University Collections.