I was an undergraduate in Geography at the University of Southampton, UK. Whilst studying there, I developed a particular interest in climate change research. This led me to undertake a PhD in ENV at UEA (the School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia), supervised by Mike Hulme, Irene Lorenzoni and Tim Osborn. As a postgrad, I was based in the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which was a great introduction to interdisciplinary climate change research, and academic life more generally. My PhD, ‘An Iconic Approach for Representing Climate Change’, was awarded in 2008. After submitting my PhD, I was a Lecturer for a year or so, convening the MSc Climate Change at UEA, based in the Climatic Research Unit.
After my PhD, I wanted to develop my knowledge of climate change adaptation. I was also keen to work overseas and explore how climate change was seen in a different national context. I moved to the University of Melbourne in 2009, to work with Jon Barnett and the adaptation group based in the Department of Resource Management and Geography. My postdoc was funded through the Australian National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF). I still collaborate with several of the fantastic colleagues I met during my postdoc, and continue to take an active interest in the cultural politics of climate change in the Australian context.
I moved back to the UK in 2012 to work in the Geography department at the University of Exeter, to join a growing community of environmental change researchers (E&S Research Group tab). This community includes colleagues at the UK’s Met Office, also based in Exeter. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2014, and Associate Professor in 2016. I led the Geography department’s Environment and Sustainability Research Group during 2016-2017. From 2012-2017 I held an ESRC Future Research Leader fellowship. I currently hold a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2021-2023). More detail about specific research projects can be found under the research tab.
I have had two year-long periods of maternity leave: in 2015-16 and 2017-18. Like many parents (though especially mothers) I balanced a fulfilling but demanding career, with the demands of caring for young children, by working part-time. I worked a 60% (3 day week) contract for more than 5 years, between 2016-2021. I feel strongly about the need for different kinds of working patterns to be represented in the academic workplace, especially at more senior levels.
I strive to model and support a more diverse academic culture. For example, I have been involved in the Athena Swan initiative, am a University Autism Champion, and have initiated events such as a Writing Retreat for academics particularly impacted by the pandemic. Most recently, I have been working with colleagues to map the decolonisation of the Geography department curriculum. In my own research practice, I have sought to amplify under-represented voices, such as through supporting Global South colleagues in the Climatic Change Special Issue in my role as Guest Editor. My experience is also shaped by being a parent-carer/academic myself. More details about my activities here can be found under the research culture tab.
I tweet about all things climate change, risk perception, communication, media, imagery and visuals, as well as on research culture, @SaffronJONeill.