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Dr Kirstie O'Neill

Dr Kirstie O'Neill

Lecturer in Environmental Geography

+44 (0)29 2087 6271
1.78, Adeilad Morgannwg, Rhodfa’r Brenin Edward VII, Caerdydd, CF10 3WA
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I am a critical human geographer with research interests in environmental governance and sustainability transitions, especially as they relate to the green economy, sustainable building and alternative food systems, as well as urban sustainability strategies. I have explored these areas through my PhD (Hull, 2012) and a number of post-doctoral research projects with colleagues at Lancaster University and the University of Hull.

I am particularly concerned with the rapidly changing climate and accelerating environmental problems and to understand how humans are living with environmental change, and reacting to these issues.  Future research plans relate to how environmental politics are being (re)negotiated at different geographical scales, in a changing political climate in the context of climatic change. 

Current research relates to the climate emergency declarations and how universities' existing sustainability strategies equip them to deal with the future challenges of putting the climate emergency declarations into practice.  A second project relates to the multiple dimensions of veganism, given the growing interest in this as an area of consumption that could contribute to lower impact futures.


Following my undergraduate degree (Newcastle, 1999), I worked as a rural community development officer and rural economic development officer for local authorities and rural community councils in the North of England.


  • Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education (HEA Full Fellow status), LSE (2017)
  • PhD in Human Geography, University of Hull (2012)
  • PGCert, Open University (2003)
  • BA (Hons) Geography, Newcastle University (1999)


  • Fellow in Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science (2016-2018)
  • Research Associate, Lancaster University (2016)
  • Senior Research Associate, University of Hull (2015-2016)
  • Research Associate, Lancaster University (2014-2015)
  • Research Associate, University of Hull (2011-2014)
  • 2000-2007: rural development and economic development roles for local authorities (North Yorkshire County Council and Durham County Council) and third sector (rural community councils in Cumbria and North Yorkshire)

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  • Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy












I teach on CP0372 Climate Change and other courses relating to environmental governance, climate change and sustainability.

My doctoral thesis explored how policy makers could help establish and support sustainable local food economies. Local food is often seen as a means of boosting local economies and giving people access to autochthonous and quality foods that are not available via supermarket supply chains. Local food businesses in East Yorkshire and the Abruzzo region in Italy were involved in the research; these two case study areas were connected through their participation in the European Union’s LEADER rural development programme, and their connections to the University of Hull. Over the course of my research, I interviewed businesses and policy makers in the UK, as well as consumers in the UK, and local food businesses and policy makers in Italy. The main findings of this research included notions of complexity and messiness in policy landscapes and the impact of this on policy makers and their activities as ‘policy’ is in a regular state of flux and shifts frequently. Furthermore, the research identified that the different research groups made sense of what ‘local’ food is was spatially and temporally contingent concept, determined by imagined ruralities, historical experiences of agriculture, urban-rural relationships and place. Despite differences in the case study regions, I found that food networks in both countries experienced similar issues in accessing consumers, and employed different tools to access these customers, from Internet-mediated supply chains, to collective buying groups and urban farmers’ markets.

Of particular importance, this research challenged the idea that alternative food networks could only be found in non-industrial agricultural areas. The research was collaborative between the Department of Geography and the East Riding of Yorkshire Council, and involved the transfer of research knowledge from my PhD to practitioners at the local authority. The Economic and Social Research Council, and the East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ESRC-CASE) funded my PhD.

Following my doctoral research, I have widened my research interests through research exploring the role of green entrepreneurs in enacting the green economy. Part of this involved exploring the green building sector, through in depth interviews with architects, builders, materials suppliers, to build a more heterogeneous picture of green building as a concept and niche. This research on green building looked at approaches in the UK and Germany, and subsequently in Vancouver, Canada as part of an international project (Green Regio) led by colleagues at the Universities of Hull, Luxembourg and Cologne. I was also involved in an EPSRC funded ‘Research in the Wild’ project (led by Professor Adrian Friday, Lancaster University) exploring consumers’ perceptions of sustainable food and the relationship to digital technologies. I have published from these projects and have further publications in progress.


I would be interested in supervising PhD projects in areas such as:

  • Sustainable food systems
  • Green building (including low carbon building)
  • Environmental governance
  • Clean energy
  • Green economies and degrowth

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Lydia Beaman

Research student