Critical Sustainable Development Challenges

Sao Paulo cityscape

We are an interdisciplinary group of scholars who work on sustainable development and Sustainable Development Goals. We take a critical stance towards sustainable development challenges and the idea of sustainable development; and we coalesce around the particular SDGs where our research interests overlap, and which need critical attention at the current moment.

Research themes 

Global Transformations 

Our projects mobilize geographical thought to understand contemporary challenges and the impacts of geopolitical and economic processes on natural, built, digital, urban and social environments.

Environmental Change

Our group seeks to understand the impacts of environmental change, including climate change and natural hazards, on global populations to inform understanding of how they can adapt to these changes.

Evidence-based Innovation

Our group applies geographical research to understand how diverse stakeholders may address contemporary global environmental challenges through co-designed social, technical, and digital innovations.

Research making an impact

Breathing Infrastructures: Green Fences and Urban Air Quality in Buenos Aires, Argentina 

The project - 'Breathing Infrastructures: Green Barriers for Air Quality, Well-Being and Community Mobilisation in Buenos Aires' - seeks to demonstrate the efficacy of green barriers in filtering air pollution out of schoolyards to reduce environmental risks on children’s health and development, as well as the multiple social and ecological co-benefits that this form of urban greenery can produce when designed effectively and with multipurpose intentionality. It has been selected as one of 23 projects that the British Academy is supporting through the Urban Infrastructures of Well-being scheme. Dr Miguel Kanai of the Department of Geography is the project’s Principal Investigator. He’s working with an interdisciplinary team including Prof Beverley Inkson from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Prof Anna Jorgensen from the Department of Landscape Architecture.

Using ultraviolet camera smartphone technology to build resilience to volcanic hazards in developing countries

 Dr Tom Pering has been awarded a contract to monitor volcanoes including Lascar and Lastarria with gas sensing technology developed within the Sheffield Volcanology Group. 10 times cheaper than previously applied camera technology, this will help predict volcanic eruptions and protect ‘at risk’ communities. The units enable imaging of the gas released from volcanoes at safe distances from the source, providing valuable information for volcano monitoring agencies. The technology has already been used for individual field campaign deployments in Hawaii, Chile, Perú, Ecuador, Vanuatu, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Papua New Guinea and Italy, in partnership with local volcano monitoring agencies – leading to important advances in our understanding of how underground gas flow processes drive activity observed at the surface. This latest project will enable automation of these devices, so they can gather valuable longer-term monitoring data to track activity trends through time.

Agri-Environmental Governance Post-Brexit

The UK’s decision to leave the EU is seen by the government as an opportunity to reform UK agricultural land policy. The project sees researchers from the Universities of Sheffield and Reading, led by Dr Ruth Little and including Dr Judith Tsouvalis, will work with farmers, land managers, stakeholders and Defra to develop and test a model for co-designing the new post-Brexit ELM system by:

  • Holding workshops with stakeholders and conducting interviews
  • Conducting research on farms involved in the test-, trials- and pilots programme
  • Organising workshops with experts to explore what principles and methods of co-design work best for policymaking
  • Assisting Defra in their efforts to achieving an ELM system based on the knowledge, experience and inputs of farmers, land managers, and other relevant parties

Staff and students

Academics, research associates/fellows and PhD candidates involved in the group

Recent and Upcoming Events

  • Grant Bigg, "Pursuing interdisciplinarity" talk, Wednesday 24th February 2021 [video]
  • Laura Sauls, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Department of Geography “Remote Sensing Socio-Political Landscapes: Reflections from Central America” Tuesday 24th November 2020, 3:00-4:30pm

A global reputation

Sheffield is a research university with a global reputation for excellence. We're a member of the Russell Group: one of the 24 leading UK universities for research and teaching.