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The central theme revolves around marine geography as an academic subject and its practical application in coastal and sea use management, and related contributions to professional activities including the International Geographical Union; Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors; and external contributions to book series and academic journals, including journal special issues. Marine geography is a comparatively recent major innovation within the academic subject of geography, and its practical application is central to the growing preoccupation of states with governing the increasingly intensive use of their coasts, adjacent seas and the world ocean.


The study of development has progressed along the twin inter-related themes of maritime communities and marine resources upon which their development depends. The initial foundation was PhD research on the historical geography of Shetland life and trade from 1550 to 1914, which has a strong maritime focus. With some additional work this was published as a monograph in 1984 and, unusually for PhD research reprinted in paperback in 2003, subsequently going out of print a second time. Shetland and its surrounding seas may be regarded as a ‘type location’ for maritime development in the UK-centred development of the global economy throughout this period. Particular contributions have been made to maritime trade, fisheries, and identification of stage-based progression in development sequences which are of wide application.  This research was also popularised in a series of historical publications.

A secondary research theme, begun in conjunction with the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, has been the study of the emergence of the offshore oil and gas industry in the North Sea during the 1960s and early 1970s. More recently this work was extended to the maritime heritage of naval port development. The development research was incorporated into long term teaching commitments.

Marine Geography

The development of marine geography as an academic discipline had its roots in the development theme outlined above. It subsequently took off in both research and teaching with the UWIST appointment in 1977 to teach on and manage the new and then unique BSc in Maritime Geography established by the late Professor Alastair Couper in 1976; and development of a related research programme with a primary focus on sea use management. There are three basic themes: marine mapping and charting; marine geography itself; and maritime education and training.

The marine mapping and charting work was limited, but innovative, with particular themes concerned with the management of charting in the UK; and the preliminary development of a European Seabed Information System in association with the Sea Fish Industry Authority.  A second key contribution was extensive work on maritime atlases, including The Times Atlas of the Oceans.

The main thrust proved to be the development of an academic framework for marine geography as a discipline, with a steady series of position papers setting out a detailed conceptual basis for the field, latterly within the context of the International Geographical Union (IGU); together with a series of management papers dealing with local, national European and global scales.

The third, limited extension of this work was focused on maritime education and training, particularly in the IGU context, with the UK system and tertiary level education being the main foci of interest, together with basic textbook writing.

The marine geography work contributed extensively to teaching, both of individual courses/modules; and administratively through acting as Course Tutor from 1979 until 2000, which involved student admissions, and development of a placement scheme (1985-2003) which contributed to formation of a network of contacts in industry, government and NGOs.

At international level there was a major contribution to the development of the subject as a founder member of the IGU Study Group in Marine Geography (in 1986) and subsequently Commission (from 1988), acting first as Secretary (1986-92) and Chair (1992-2000). This involved organisation and participation in numerous international conferences, with related editorial work for journal special issues; and the establishment of the long-running Routledge Ocean Management and Policy (subsequently Routledge Advances in Maritime Research) book series.

Coastal, sea and ocean management

The applied strand in marine geography has proved to be the most extensively developed in the long run, not only in terms of publications, but also funded research projects, PhDs, and professional engagement, including the Royal Institution of Charted Surveyors, and extensive editorial work. The three main themes have been respectively environmental management of shipping and ports; coastal management; and sea use management. When the transfer to Earth Sciences took place in 2000, the research programme of the Marine Geography team was focused by the establishment of the Marine and Coastal Environment Group (MACE).

The environmental management of shipping and ports was an early focus of my personal work, with strong contributions associated with work for WWF on shipping risk in UK waters; and in PhD research. The main research effort in MACE was led by Dr Chris Wooldridge, who developed an extensive programme on environmental policy and management of ports, both in Europe and globally.

The coastal management theme led by Dr Rhoda Ballinger was notable for its strong performance in large European research projects with participation in CoCoNET, COREPOINT, and IMCORE for ERDF, all with a strong focus on science-policy integration in the context of local authority involvement and climate change in the case of the INTERREG projects; I led on the Framework 6 project SPICOSA, which focused both on modelling and education in the field of coastal management. Sectorally-based PhD projects were also a notable feature.

This work stream was also valuable in that the RICS approached UWIST in the mid-1980s to use the BSC Maritime Geography scheme as the basis for their professional examinations in Marine Resource Management. This ushered in a long period of co-operation with the RICS, including a Fellowship (1988-2008); serving on the Surveyors Courses Board in the early 1990s; and chairing the Marine Resource Management Committee from 1992-95.

Also of considerable significance in the marine policy field was service as Associate Editor of Marine Policy from 1993 when Professor E D Brown of the Centre for Marine Law and Policy successively at UWIST and UWCC became Editor-in-Chief. I took over as sole Editor-in-Chief from 2013 until the end of 2018. Marine Policy is the leading journal in this field. Service on the Editorial Board of Ocean & Coastal Management involved organisation of several special issues; since 2012 I have been on the Editorial Board of Maritime Studies, and since 2019 on the Editorial Board of Marine Policy.


There has been a major contribution to the academic development of marine geography as a discipline; its teaching on the innovative BSc Marine Geography course at Cardiff University; and international development of the subject and its practical application both through the IGU and RICS respectively; and extensive initiatives in editorial work, especially through the Routledge book series and Marine Policy.

Current research revolves around marine policy and  governance; and maritime development and management including maritime trade and shipping; offshore energy including the offshore oil industry; and fisheries development and management.


1964-68:  University of Aberdeen: BSc Honours Geography.

1968-72:  University of Aberdeen: PhD – The historical geography of trade in the Shetland Islands,

1550-1914.  Postgraduate Student Demonstrator 1971-72.

1972-14:  Aberdeen College of Education, Geography Department. Lecturer.

1974-76:  Newcastle upon Tyne Polytechnic, Department of Humanities. Lecturer II.

1977-88: UWIST, Department of Maritime Studies: Lecturer.

1988-96:  UWCC, Department of Maritime Studies: Senior Lecturer.

1996-11: Cardiff University, Department of Maritime Studies and International Transport: Reader.

Transferred to Department of Earth Sciences in 2000, which became School of Earth,

Ocean and Planetary Sciences in 2003; School of Earth and Ocean Sciences in 2008;

School of Earth and Environmental Sciences in 2020.

2011-2019: Cardiff University, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences: Honorary Senior Lecturer.

2019-2022: Cardiff University, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences/School of Earth

and Environmental Sciences: Honorary Associate.

2022-2025: Cardiff University, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences: Honorary Senior








































  • Smith, H. D. 1978. Introduction. In: Anon, . ed. Second Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the Truck System (Shetland). Edinburgh: Thuleprint, pp. n/a.
  • Smith, H. D. 1978. The Scandinavian influence in the making of modern Shetland. In: Baldwin, J. R. ed. Scandinavian Shetland: An Ongoing Tradition?. Scottish Society for Northern Studies, pp. 22-33.







Within the field of marine geography, the main thrusts of research are:

  • Development of maritime communities
  • Development of marine resources with emphases on offshore hydrocarbons and fisheries
  • Coastal management
  • Ocean management with particular reference to sea use management and marine spatial planning
  • Marine geography as an academic discipline, and its application in teaching and other professional areas

In the context of the above framework key contributions include:

  • Provision of a framework for classification of sea uses and sea use management;
  • Development of a conceptual basis for coastal and sea use management based on distinction between technical and general management functions;
  • Development of a stage-based approach to long-term development of the global marine economy and its associated maritime communities, particularly applicable from the eighteenth-century industrial revolution stage onwards;
  • Development of a conceptual framework for marine geography and its application in teaching and other areas of professional development, including surveying;
  • Development of a regional geographical approach to marine geography focusing on the seas around the British Isles;
  • Contributions to the academic study of sea use management and its associated evolution into marine spatial planning.


Research links