Peter Coates (Principal Investigator)

Peter Coates (Principal Investigator) : Professor of American and Environmental History

Professor of American and Environmental History

Department of Historical Studies, University of Bristol

Peter Coates is an environmental historian of the 19th and 20th century USA and UK, though his interest in the study of human relations with the rest of the natural world over time is not confined to these nations, nor to recent centuries.

Peter has written on a variety of subjects – including an assessment of attitudes to nature in the western world since ancient time (Nature, 1998). Animal history is a particular interest and he has published on American attitudes to introduced species of flora and fauna (American Perceptions of Immigrant and Invasive Species, 2007) and a “bio-biography” of the king of fish (Salmon, 2006), as well as essays on sparrows and squirrels (red and grey). His most recent book is A Story of Six Rivers: History, Culture and Ecology (Reaktion, 2013). He has served as the UK and Ireland representative for the European Society for Environmental History as well as a 4-year term on the executive committee of the American Society for Environmental History. He belonged to the editorial collective for the journal Environment and History for many years and continues to serve on its editorial board. In addition, he is a member of the editorial boards for Routledge's Environmental Humanities series and Berghahn Books' series ‘The Environment in History: International Perspectives’.

Peter has been involved in various externally funded, place-based projects. These include:

  • 'Militarized Landscapes in the Twentieth Century: Britain, France and the United States’, funded by the AHRC’s Landscape and Environment Programme (and partnered by the MoD's Environmental Support Team)
  • He was also PI for the AHRC Research Network 'Local Places, Global Processes: Histories of Environmental Change’ (2010-11) and 'The Places That Speak to Us and the Publics We Talk With' (2012-13).
  • 'At the Core of the Quantocks', a project on the orchard heritage of the Quantock Hills, Funded by: Quantock Hills Sustainable Development Fund and Lady Edith Smythe Agricultural Research Station (LESARS bequest) and the AHRC.

Peter’s interests include outdoor swimming (he is self-appointed president of the European Society for Environmental History’s swimming club), loose leaf teas, reading The New Yorker, mushrooming and wandering around the Quantock Hills (he has contributed a walk in the Quantocks to the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers ‘Discovering Britain’ website, which can be downloaded at He has still not even begun to write that long-awaited complete history of the avocado.

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Georgina Endfield (Co-Investigator)

Georgina Endfield (Co-Investigator) : Professor of Environmental History

Professor of Environmental History

School of Geography, University of Nottingham

Georgina  specializes in historical conceptualizations of and social responses to climate change and extreme weather events. She is particularly interested in Human adaptation and response to unusual weather events in historical context and vulnerability to extreme weather and environmental history in southern Africa and Mexico. She is author of Climate and Society in Colonial Mexico: a Study in Vulnerability,  a former editor of the journal Environment and History and Philip Leverhulme Prize winner.She has led a number of projects on the themes of climate history and placed based weather memories, resulting among other outputs in a Royal Geographical Society (with the IBG) Discovering Britain Walk up Great Dun Fell, Cumbria. With colleagues in the Universities of Glasgow, Liverpool and Aberystwyth she is also currently leading an investigation of the history of extreme weather events in the UK. Georgina’s interests including  playing- but mostly listening to- music and walking in the Derbyshire Peak District.

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Paul Warde (Co-Investigator)

Paul Warde (Co-Investigator) : Lecturer in Environmental History (Co-investigator)

Lecturer in Environmental History (Co-investigator)

University of Cambridge

Paul Warde is a Lecturer in Environmental History at the University of Cambridge. His research focuses on the environmental, economic and social history of early modern and modern Europe. He began his studies working on the essential role of wood in the early modern German economy, which led to studying the long-term history of energy use and its relationship with economic development. As the result of a ten-year project he has recently published Power to the people: energy in Europe over the last five centuries, written with Astrid Kander and Paolo Malanima. His work on quantitative energy history continues with a major project along with Astrid Kander, on the history of energy flows embodied in world trade, funded by the Swedish Research Council.

Paul has also worked extensively on the history of economic and environmental th0ought, and is preparing a monograph on the history of thinking about ‘sustainability’ c.1500-1840. Along with Libby Robin and Sverker Sörlin, he has run ‘Expertise for the future’ since 2009, a research project examining the emergence of thinking about global change and the linked history of prediction and modelling. They are working on a volume provisionally entitled The Environment: a history, on the emergence of the modern idea of the environment. 2013 saw the publication of their anthology with commentaries, The Future of Nature, providing excerpts of 38 documents charting the development of global change thinking from the Enlightenment to the present. Commentators include other historians, geographers, economists, political scientists and climate scientists.

Paul has also works on the history of the Arctic, with special regard to fossil fuel extraction. As part of the MISTRA-funded Arctic Futures project he has been writing about Canadian frontier oil and gas exploration, and in 2014 will be part of the Arctic Governance team bringing together scholars from The Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Umea University, and Lund University.

Other interests include the development of early modern institutions for regulating resources and welfare support; and the essential but little studied potash trade of northern Europe.

Paul has been involved in a number of AHRC-projects linking environmental history and current management and policy in Britain. He is also a senior editor at History and Policy ( and sits on the editorial board of Environment and History. He works with the Energy History project at the Joint Center for History and Economics at Harvard and Cambridge. When not researching and teaching history, he is devoted to Hereford United Football Club, Tove Jansson, and doing cartoon voices on demand for his children.

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Marianna Dudley

Marianna Dudley : Lecturer in Environmental Humanities

Lecturer in Environmental Humanities

Department of Historical Studies, University of Bristol

Marianna Dudley is an environmental historian at Bristol University. Her research interests include twentieth-century military environments, British landscape protection, and how access and recreation shape our relationship with nature.

As a person who finds it hard to sit still at a desk for too long, her research tends to take her to the places and landscapes she is investigating. Walking and a moving, experiential perspective have become important methodological concerns, and she has written two walks for the Royal Geographical Society’s ‘Discovering Britain’ series to encourage others to explore environmental history feet-first. Happily, recent projects have placed her on a military training area on a Welsh mountain, in national parks around southwest England and Wales, and roaming the Quantock Hills (Somerset) in search of orchards.

For the Power and Water project, she is exploring waterways and their interconnected bio-physical, energetic, commercial and cultural flows. Working across the three chosen project foci, the Rivers Severn and Tyne and the Derbyshire soughs, she will examine how notions of the 'environmental' and 'natural' categorize spaces and demarcate what is worthy of protection, privileging certain ideas of what is valued in nature and how ecological and socio-cultural connections work. Her particular interest is how people have found fun in these watery places, to make them landscapes of recreation alongside, and sometimes in spite of, their other uses.

Recently Marianna was involved as a  researcher on a tri-part collaboration between Bristol University’s Department of Historical Studies  and the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Service (funded by AHRC Connected Communities) mapping ancient orchard in the area. More info on the project entitled Fallen Fruits: Mapping Orchard Decline in the Quantock Hills, can be found here.

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Leona Skelton

Leona Skelton : Research Fellow, Northumbria University

Research Fellow, Northumbria University

Department of History, University of Bristol

Leona is an environmental historian whose PhD (Durham University) focused on early modern Britain, analyzing attitudes towards cleanliness and dirt, public hygiene facilities and processes, and the regulation of insanitary nuisances in Edinburgh and York between 1560 and 1700. This built on her interdisciplinary MA, also at Durham, which researched public hygiene and environmental regulation in seventeenth-century Carlisle. Previously, Leona has participated in the AHRC research network, ‘Local Places, Global Processes: Histories of Environmental Change’, which involved conducting an oral history project at Kielder, Northumberland, and writing a report summarizing its results. At present she is Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow in the Humanities at Northumbria University.

As a postdoctoral researcher on the Power and the Water project, Leona is worked on degeneration and regeneration on the River Tyne, past, present and future. By reintegrating the various separate aspects of the river – the unimproved river; the navigable river; the polluted river; the industrial river; the post-industrial river; the salmon river; the mercantile river; the recreational river; and the literary and artistic river – Leona's aim is to create the first total  history of a British river.

Leona grew up in Gateshead, close to the Tyne, and although she currently lives in Wakefield, she still has enormous affection for her native North East. In her spare time, Leona can be found enjoying her passion for hill-walking, mountain-climbing and long-distance walking, which enables her to enjoy and appreciate northern England’s varied and beautiful scenery. In September 2013, she completed Wainwright’s 192-mile Coast to Coast walk on her own in thirteen days; she plans to walk the Pennine Way in 2014.

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Jill Payne

Jill Payne : Research Associate

Research Associate

Faculty of History, University of Cambridge

Jill works on development and environmental protection issues, mainly in Britain and southern Africa. She is particularly interested in conflict and compromise involving various forms of energy development (wind, hydroelectric, nuclear and fracking) and varying approaches to these in the global North and South.

In Britain, energy debates are currently centred on fracking and the new nuclear reactors to be constructed at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Jill is interested, however, in the fact that not all of the environmental and landscape protection concerns being raised are specific – or new – to these contentious forms of energy production. Industrialisation-era issues regarding the location and nature of energy developments in general remain unresolved, in great part due to an historic and ongoing failure to reconcile energy requirements with energy impacts.

Her research for the Power and Water project focuses directly on Somerset, an energy landscape that does double duty as England’s quintessential ‘green and pleasant land’, with links to Arthurian legend and leading Romantic poets. Jill is analysing the tensions behind coal-, nuclear-, wind- and, potentially, fracking-generated energy development that have accumulated over more than a century of debate involving the energy future of a landscape of high cultural and aesthetic value.

Jill holds a PhD from St. Andrews and MA and BA degrees from Rhodes, South Africa. She has previously taught at Bristol, Dundee and Amherst College, Massachusetts.

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Carry van Lieshout

Carry van Lieshout : Research Associate

Research Associate

School of Geography, University of Nottingham

Carry studied Geography at University College Utrecht before moving to London to pursue an MA in Urban Geography at King’s College London. During her dissertation she realized that it was possible to combine history and geography and she has been doing this ever since, first as a research assistant on the ESRC project, ‘Women Investors in England and Wales’, and later during her AHRC-funded PhD (Collaborative Doctoral Awards scheme) on the management of water in eighteenth-century London. Carry now continues her work on water history within the context of the Derbyshire soughs at the University of Nottingham. Her academic interests include historical geographies of investment as well as the environmental history of man-made water features. When she is not researching in archives and libraries, Carry likes to explore these features out in the open, either on foot or by bike. She also enjoys running, reading, and carrot cake.

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Kayt Button

Kayt Button : Project student

Project student

University of Cambridge

Kayt has had a varied career including teaching, some molecular biology research, geodemographic consultancy and most recently fundraising in a third sector organisation. Returning to academia she is keen to research and write a thesis exploring the UK National Grid, its developments and impacts. In between she likes to spend time with her family, her horses and go riding when both the time and weather allow.

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Alexander Portch

Alexander Portch : Project student

Project student

Department of Historical Studies, University of Bristol

Alexander studied geography at the University of Exeter, followed by an MSc in Archaeology at the University of Oxford, which included research on the reconstruction of past human-environment interactions through the analysis of archaeological and palaeoecological data. He then spent two years working in commercial archaeology. As a geophysical survey assistant, a finds processor and, more recently, a field archaeologist, Alexander worked on sites throughout England and Wales, ranging from Mesolithic flint scatters to 18th century landscape garden architecture. These activities fostered a strong interest in the nature and implications of the relationship between human activity and the physical environment, particularly regarding fluvial and coastal landscapes characterized by their dynamism and their support for human activities for hundreds of thousands of years.

Alexander is intimately acquainted with the Severn and its hinterland, having been raised on the Cotswold escarpment overlooking the river’s lower reaches. When he’s not contemplating human relations with the Severn – including, not least, the potential implications, for the river and its people, of the construction of a tidal barrage across its mouth – he can be found exploring the West Country, on foot or by mountain bike. When indoors, he can be found improvising on the guitar, listening nostalgically to an array of ‘90s grunge, folk rock and Brit Pop, sketching and painting, and waxing lyrical about the best place to a find a decent cappuccino.

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Erin Gill

Erin Gill : Impact and Engagement Officer

Impact and Engagement Officer

After almost two decades as a journalist, specialising in environmental and energy issues for expert readers, Erin now spends her time coordinating business development efforts at the global engineering firm, Arup. As a journalist, Erin wrote extensively on UK and EU energy policy, commercial expansion of the global wind energy industry, climate change, the private sector's response to environmental challenges, biodiversity protection, pollution, environmental regulation, chemical contamination, water and wastewater management as well as land contamination and remediation. These days, Erin's work requires her to research and write about the sustainable design of buildings and other structures.

In 2011, Erin was awarded a doctorate from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth for a thesis focusing on the early history of the organic food and farming movement in Britain, specifically the career of Soil Association founder, Lady Eve Balfour.

Erin firmly believes that the bicycle represents the pinnacle – at least thus far – of human invention. She is also a big fan of almonds, avocados and good black coffee.

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Jan Oosthoek

Jan Oosthoek : Website manager

Website manager

Jan Oosthoek is an environmental historian based in Brisbane. Before moving to Australia he  lectured and researched at the Universities of Newcastle (UK) and Edinburgh. He has published on a wide range of topics including forest history, the history of industrial water pollution and history of the ozone problem. His latest book entitled Conquering the Highlands. A History of the afforestation of the Scottish Uplands was published by ANU E-Press (2013). He has also served as vice-president of the European Society for Environmental History (2005-2007) and is author of the leading environmental history website Environmental History Resources. Jan Oosthoek also produces a popular podcast entitled Exploring Environmental History.

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