Dr Tom Smith
Lecturer in Human Geography
I am a Human Geographer with research interests in environment, development, education and the geographies of young people. My research falls into two broad themes. Firstly, I am interested in how people come to know and understand the environment and how they (re)produce ‘abstract’ ideas about human-nature interactions, including contemporary notions of environmental value (e.g. carbon values), and how conservation may have, or still is, linked to spiritual beliefs and witchcraft. Secondly, I am interested in how people (including young people) exercise agency in, and learn about, the environment, including how they learn through environmental education and how they explore and roam in outdoor spaces and places.
- Lecturer, School of Planning and Geography, Cardiff University, 2015-present
- Research Associate, Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth, Sheffield University, 2014.
- Teaching Associate, Department of Geography, Sheffield University, 2012-2014.
- Lecturer (temporary), School of Social Justice and Inclusion, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, 2012.
Education and Qualifications
- BA Geography, University of Southampton, 2004.
- PCGE Secondary Education, Geography, University of Southampton, 2005.
- MRes Human Geography, University of Glasgow, 2008.
- PhD Geography, University of Glasgow, 2012.
Fellow: The Royal Geographical Society, Affiliated with the Developing Areas Research Group, the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group and the Rural Geographies Research Group
Associate Member: Association of Heritage Interpretation
Conference Presentations and Organised Sessions
- Smith, T. A. and Pehkonen, S. (2018) How people talk about natural features when planning/setting orienteering courses for others' navigational pruposes, MOBSIN 8, Cardiff.
- Smith, T. A., Jones, S. and Dunkely, R. A. (2018) Using mobile evaluation methods to monitor visitor use of a heritage App 'in the wild': Walking with Romans in the Brecon Beacons National Park, Outdoor Recreation Network Conference: 'New Approaches to Monitoring Participation in Outdoor Research, Cardiff.
- Dunkley, R. A. and Smith, T. A. (2018) Representations of identities within mobile applications that seek to interpret dissonant heritage, European Social Science History Conference, Queens University, Belfast.
- Smith, T. A., Dunkley, R., Reeves, S. and Laurier, E. (2017) Skilled navigation and the techniques of getting lost, HANS2 Workshop, Kuusamo, Finland.
- Smith, T. A. (2017) The Chief and the Snake: Spiritual-Ecological-Political Assemblages of Sacred Site Protection, RGS-IBG 2017, London.
- Dunkley, R. A. and Smith, T. A. (2017) Scales of childhood roaming within the ‘educational landscape’ of the National Park, RGS-IBG 2017, London.
- Jones, S., Smith, T. A. and Dunkley, R. A. (2017) Measuring our interaction with digital heritage apps 'in the wild', Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales, Digital Past Conference, Newport
- Smith, T. A. (2017) Invited Seminar Presentation: Apps Outdoors: Technology, interpretation, navigation and interaction when roaming in the wild, Digital Technology for Nature Interpretation, Centre for Nature Interpretation, Swedish University for Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden
- Smith, T. A., Dunkely, R. A. and Welch, S. (2016) Invited Workshop Presentation: Cardiff University & Brecon Beacons National Park Authority – Collaborative Research and Evaluation, UK National Park Authorities Outreach and Educators Joint Workshop, Pembrokeshire.
- Smith, T. A., Dunkley, R., Reeves, S. and Laurier, E. (2016) Invited Workshop Presentation: Walking with Romans’: Technology, nature, navigation and interaction in outdoor settings, HANS Workshop, Oulu, Finland
- Smith, T. A., Dunkley, R. and Jones, S. (2016) Measuring our interactions with mobile device applications ‘in the wild’: Can they change visitor behaviour? Association of Heritage Interpretation Annual Conference, Belfast.
- Dunkley, R. and Smith, T. A. (2016) Event Organiser - Evaluating the Outdoor Learning Experience Workshop, ESRC Funded Impact Workshop, Bute Park Education Centre, Cardiff (50 people).
- Smith, T. A. and Dunkley, R. (2016) New frontiers or frustrating distractions? Using innovative technological methods to understand the role of Apps and mobile technologies in children and families interactions within the outdoors, RGS-IBG 2016, London.
- Smith, T. A., Dunkley, R., and Jones, S. (2016) Invited Workshop Presentation: Interactions with mobile device applications ‘in the wild’: Can they change behaviour? Association of Heritage Interpretation and Brecon Beacons National Park Authority Workshop: Interpretation in Remote Landscapes, Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, Brecon and Trecastle.
- Smith, T. A. (2016) Invited Discussion Panel: Project Wild Thing, Speaking on: Young People and Environmental Education, Cardiff SciSCREEN, Cardiff University.
- Smith, T. A. and Dunkley, R. (2016) Roaming and nature, creativity and technology: experimenting with contrasting qualitative methodologies and impact in the Brecon Beacons National Park, Innovative Research Methods with Children and Young People Conference, School of Social Sciences, University of Cardiff.
- Smith, T. A. and Dunkley, R. (2016) Roaming and nature, creativity and technology: experimenting with contrasting qualitative methodologies and impact in the Brecon Beacons National Park, South West Qualitative Research Symposium, University of Bath.
- Sutherland, M., Stack, N., Smith, T. A., Tungaraza, F. (2016) Invited Seminar: Navigating the shifting terrain between policy and practice for gifted learners in Tanzania, Glasgow Centre for International Development, Glasgow University.
- Dunkley, R. and Smith, T. A. (2015) At home in the Park: exploring resident young people’s interactions with nature within Brecon Beacons National Park, The Great Outdoors? Children, Young People and Families in Natural and Rural Spaces Conference, The University of Northampton.
- Smith, T. A. (2015) Invited Presentation: Witchcraft, Spiritual Beliefs and Environmental Management in Tanzania, Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACE) Seminar Series, Cardiff University.
- Sutherland, M., Stack, N., Smith, T. A., Tungaraza, F. (2014) Contextualised Pedagogy for High Ability, 14th International European Council for High Ability Conference, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
- Smith, T. A. (2014) The student is not the fisherman: Temporal displacement of young people’s identities in Tanzania, Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth (CSCY) International Conference 2014. Sheffield.
- Smith, T. A. (2014) – Session Convenor: Witchcraft, spiritual beliefs, and the co-production of development knowledges and practices in the Majority World, RGS-IBG 2014: Developing Areas Research Group (DARG) sponsored session, London
- Twyman, C., Smith T. A. and Arnall, A. (2014) What is Carbon? Conceptualising carbon and carbon capabilities in the context of community-based sequestration projects in the global South Green Economy in the South: Negotiating Environmental Governance, Prosperity and Development 2014, University of Dodma, Tanzania.
- Smith, T. A. (2013) Invited Presentation: Local knowledges and witchcraft in urban and rural Tanzania, Sheffield Geography Department Human Geography Seminar Series 2013, Sheffield University
- Smith, T. A. (2013) Invited Presentation: The dominant/marginal lives of young Tanzanians: Spaces of knowing at the intersection of Children's Geographies and Development Geography, Sheffield Institute for International Development Lecture Series 2013, Sheffield University
- Smith, T. A. (2012) ‘Other’ childhoods: negotiating ethical terrain across borders, RGS-IBG 2012, London.
- Smith, T. A. (2011) The origin of my research: thoughts on originality, RGS-IBG Postgraduate Conference 2011, Durham University
- Smith, T. A. (2011) The student is not the fisherman, RGS Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group (GCYFRG) ‘Young People’s Identities’ Conference’ 2011, Plymouth University
- Smith, T. A. (2010) Spaces of knowledge, participation and empowerment: young people as environmental actors in Tanzania, RGS-IBG 2010, London.
I currently teach on the undergraduate BSc Human Geography and postgraduate MSc International Planning and Developmnt. This list includes modules I have taught on previously and those that I currently teach.
- Deputy-Director: MSc International Planning and Development
- Researching Contemporary Issues In Tanzania - Module Leader (3rd year)
- Geographies of the Developing World (3rd year)
- The Global Countryside (1st year)
- Researching Spatial Planning and International Development
- Regan Doyle (Cardiff University) 2015-, Title: Slum economies: Spatial drivers of economic activity hubs in informal settlements - A case of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Principle supervisor – Professor Alison Brown.
- Lucy Baker (Cardiff University) 2015-, Title: What are the social and individual economic impacts of importing used bicycles in sub-Saharan Africa? Principle Supervisor – Dr Justin Spinney.
- Rowenna Chartes (Cardiff University) 2016-, Title: Environmentalism in children: spatialised empathy, locality and activity. Principle Supervisor – Dr Kersty Hobson.
My research is concerned with environmental knowledge, learning and the geographies of young people in both the global South and the West. My current research falls into two broad themes.
1. Abstract environmental knowledges and environmental management
Much of my ongoing research is concerned with local environmental change and how different forms of knowledge are (re)produced around these changes at different scales and in different geographical, social and historical contexts. I am particularly interested in how knowledges of the environment take on an ‘abstract’ quality, how understandings beyond functional use value are used to manage the environment, and how communities engage with the natural environment through various forms of abstraction and rationality. I am currently working on two projects relating to this theme:
A. Spiritual beliefs, witchcraft and the co-production of environmental knowledges and practices in the global South.
This project is currently exploring the role that spiritual beliefs, witchcraft and occult practices play in managing environmental resources, both historically and in the present, with field research being conducted in Tanzania. The complexity of these beliefs, and how they operate locally and nationally, is at present poorly understood in relation to environmental management, yet understanding them is vital in comprehending why people behave in certain (sometimes unexpected) ways. Whilst current thinking on local knowledges for development and local participation in development have done away with privileging knowledges and technologies from the global South, a focus on witchcraft and the occult, and its role in development practice, asks more fundamental questions about the kinds of rationalities, moralities and ethics being applied to development agendas and goals. In Africa, witchcraft and magical practices have not receded under the variegated forms of development which have and continue to operate across a range of national contexts. This study asks questions about how such practices and beliefs traverse the current participatory/local knowledges agenda, and if witchcraft and spiritual beliefs contribute to the co-production of development knowledges and imaginaries, both locally and nationally.
B. Conceptualising carbon in the global South
This research is concerned with how carbon is conceptualised by local communities in the global South. It explores how communities involved in participatory carbon sequestration projects come to understand and value ‘carbon’, as an element and as a commodity for which they are the new producers in a global market. Little is currently known about how these new producers establish situated meanings of carbon, particularly as this new resource has highly ‘abstract’ qualities when compared to typically more tangible natural resources, such as water and wood. This research, as with the previous project, seeks to understand how people come to develop and understand abstracted ideas about the environment and nature, and what effect these notions have on their daily lives.
2. Young people, place making and environmental knowledge
Building on previous research, I am continuing to explore the role of young people in place making and the production or reproduction of environmental knowledge, as well as their active participation as environmental actors. This research theme draws on my other work on abstracted environmental knowledges by considering, more broadly, how people come to learn about and ‘know’ the environment, and how this might impact on present and future generations in their management of the environment. I am currently working on two projects which contribute to this theme:
A. Freedom & roaming: imaginaries and practices of place-making in contemporary UK childhoods.
Two parallel trends are apparent in young people’s lives in the UK. Firstly, there are ongoing societal questions about the opportunities for young people to roam widely and independently, with many suggesting that these are considerably more restricted from what they once were. Secondly, however, some young people now have access to spaces and places beyond their most routine encounters which go beyond what was available to their historical counterparts, both through formalised, curricuralised outdoor experiences (both national and international), and through access to increasingly diverse virtual worlds. This project asks how these trends in experiences of freedom and roaming have changed since the 1900s, and explores how current opportunities for both earthly and virtual roaming contribute to young people’s own practices of spatial freedom, roaming and place-making.
B. Environmental education and differentiated pedagogies in Tanzania: local and scientific knowledges and young people’s identities as environmental actors
Building on my earlier PhD research on local environmental knowledges, environmental education and young people’s environmental participation in Tanzania, this work has sought to examine how Tanzanian teachers engage with concepts of giftedness, talent, and differentiated learning in the context of science learning. The research explores how differentiated pedagogies are utilised in environmental and science learning in Tanzania, and the implications that ‘local’ and ‘Tanzanian’ understandings of different learning needs have for educational and environmental agendas.
- 2017: Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) via Somali Community Parent’s Association (SOCOPA) (£8,500): Leicester Young Ecology Adventurers Evaluation. Collaborators: SOCOPA; Canal and River Trust, Dr Hannah Pitt (PI) and Dr T. A. Smith (Co-I).
- 2016: Real Equality for All (Reall) (£4,735) Developing a new employment impact measurement for direct and indirect livelihood opportunities created from the Real Equality for All (Reall) Community-Led Infrastructure Funding Facility (CLIFF) Programme of affordable house building in Nairobi, Kenya. Collaborator: Real Equality for All (Reall – formerly Homeless International), Dr T. A. Smith (PI) and Professor Alison Brown (Co-I).
- 2016: ESRC Impact Accelerator Account Award (£3000) Building evaluative capacity amongst outdoor learning practitioners: Enhancing understanding of user experience through sharing place-based research methods. Collaborators: Brecon Beacons National Park Authority; Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Dr R. Dunkley (PI) and Dr T. A. Smith (Co-I)
- 2013: ESRC Festival of Social Sciences Grant for workshop: Volunteers and Young People in the Global South (£1,334)
- 2013-2014: Sheffield University Foreign Research and Travel Grant (£1,500)
- 2011: Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Conference Travel Grant (£100)
- 2010: School of Geographical and Earth Sciences Conference Travel Grant (£100)
- 2009-2010: Journal of Urban Studies Overseas Research Grant (£1500)
- 2009 and 2010: The University of Glasgow Roberts Fund Postgraduate Training (£800)
- 2008-2009: Royal Scottish Geographical Society Small Research Grant (£500)
- 2007-2011: Journal of Urban Studies Research Scholarship for MRes and PhD (£50,000)