Dr Jo Birch

Department of Landscape Architecture

Research Associate

Dr Jo Birch

Full contact details

Dr Jo Birch
Department of Landscape Architecture
Arts Tower
Western Bank
S10 2TN

Beginning as a geographer, I have worked within and across many disciplines exploring how people’s lives are spatial, material and place-based.

I studied for a BA(Hons) degree at The University of Warwick, then worked as a teacher before completing a PhD at Durham University in Environmental Education.

Through the course of my research, I have come to view relationships between people and the natural non-human world as important in their mutual wellbeing. My aim is to bring these relationships to the attention of those working within academic, professional and community contexts.

Currently, I’m Researcher Co-Investigator with Ross Cameron on a project headed by Liz Sharp, Urban Studies and Planning: MAGIC Mobilising Adaptation – Governance of Infrastructure through Coproduction (NERC 2020-2022)

I have three roles in the MAGIC project:  evaluating water, wellbeing, community and coproduction benefits of community-led rainwater management in flood prone Hull and East Riding; understanding how flood measures may be embedded in new housing developments; investigating how community, water and health concerns are built into local, regional and national institutional plans and policies

Research interests
  • Urban nature
  • Wellbeing
  • Equitable and just landscapes
  • Experience and construction of place and space
  • Spatial Co-Design
  • Young people and landscape
  • Life course
  • New Materialism
  • Qualitative and creative research methods

Threaded throughout my research interests is a curiosity in developing qualitative, ethically sensitive and creative research methods. I am interested in how personal story and narrative can complement other sets of data to influence action and change.

I have worked with a wide variety of stakeholders including fishermen, paediatricians, architects, teachers, wildlife conservationists, asylum seekers and people with mental health difficulties.

Much of what I do involves young people. I seek to understand the spaces they need and value, to recognise them as agents of their own lives and of wider social change.

Funded research

As Research Associate/ Senior Research Associate:

Coproducing Climate Resilience

MAGIC. Mobilising Adaptation – Governance of Infrastructure through Coproduction. (2020-2022) Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council via the UK Climate Resilience Fund. Principal Investigator Liz Sharp. Co-Investigators: Ross Cameron, Nigel Dunnett, Sarah Payne, Steve Connelly, Virginia Stovin, Gillian Hughes, (University of Hull) Megan Clinch (Queen Mary University of London)

Urban Nature and Wellbeing

IWUN. Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature: integrating green/blue infrastructure and health service valuation and delivery. (2016-2019) Natural Environment Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, The Arts and Humanities Research Council. Principal Investigator Anna Jorgensen. Co-Investigators for Work Package 2: Clare Rishbeth, Brendan Stone, Sarah Payne. University of Sheffield

Children and spatial design

Children Transforming Spatial Design: Creative Encounters with Children (2013-2016) Leverhulme Trust. Principal Investigator: Rosie Parnell. University of Sheffield

Children and health care spaces

Space to Care: Children’s Perceptions of Hospital Spaces.
2005-2007) Economic and Social Research Council. Principal Investigator: Penny Curtis, Co-Investigator: Allison James. University of Sheffield

Livelihoods and environmental perception in wetland environments

IMEW. Integrated Management of European Wetlands. EU Fifth Framework Project. (2001-2004) Principal Investigator: Sandra Bell. Senior Research Associate on a cross cultural study carried out in four countries: Finland, Greece, Lithuania and Romania. University of Durham.

Environmental education

Commissioned Review: Education Work of The Wildlife Trusts (1998-1999) Principal Investigator: Joy Palmer-Cooper. University of Durham

Environmental Education and the NGO: a case study of The Wildlife Trusts (1998-2003) funded postdoctoral research. University of Durham.

As Research Assistant / Consultant:

  • Young immigrants’ perspectives on the health impact of migration (2016)
  • Using historical material to explore health professionals’ perceptions and experiences of issues surrounding childbirth and health University of Sheffield (2016)
  • Cultural and Arts-Based Approaches to Enhancing Inter-Generational Relations, University of Sheffield. (2011)

Funded research awards

  • ESRC Festival of Social Science Feeling Good in a Green City: public engagement fund University of Sheffield £1000 (2017)
  • Researcher Development programme, Think Ahead Programme, University of Sheffield (£3500) (2015)



  • Birch J & Palmer J (2004) Geography in the Early Years. Routledge. RIS download Bibtex download

Journal articles


  • James A, Curtis P & Birch J (2007) Care and control in the construction of children’s citizenship In Williams JM & Invernizzi A (Ed.), Children and Citizenship London: Sage Publications Ltd. View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Birch JC & Palmer JA (2005) Changing Academic Perspectives in Environmental Education: From Within and Outside the Field In Johnson EA & Mappin MJ (Ed.), Environmental Education or Advocacy: Perspectives of Ecology and Education in Environmental Education (pp. 114-137). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • May 2020, MAGIC - Mobilising Adaptation: Governance of Infrastructure through Coproduction As Researcher Co-Investigator. UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund Climate Resilience Call administered by NERC May 2020 PI Liz Sharp, Urban Studies £724, 258.
  • November 2019, Public engagement ‘It’s in My Nature’ - In Conversation with Dara McAnulty. Public conversation about an autistic 15 year old’s experience of nature for mental health.  ESRC PI £1100
  • September 2018, Public engagement; Walking Labyrinths: public walkable labyrinths in heritage/nature-based environments co-created with mental health community partners, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, city parks and cathedral University of Sheffield Co-I £5000;
  • November 2017, Public engagement – Feeling Good in a Green City, installation. ESRC PI £1,323;
  • July 2016, Researcher Development Programme. performance-based workshops culminating in a cross-faculty event and training output for academics. University of Sheffield Co-I. £3,500