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Dr Ella Furness

Dr Ella Furness

Research Associate

Available for postgraduate supervision


I am a Research Associate at the Sustainable Places Research Institute at Cardiff University. I draw upon multiple disciplines (geography, sociology, anthropology, psychology and ecology) to examine relationships between people and the natural world. Specifically my research is about community led environmental management.

In my current position as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate on the TGRAINS project I’m looking at the relationships between producers and consumers in food systems, focussing on consumer involvement in Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs).

This part of the TGRAINS project involves farm level case studies, which comprise of interviews, photo elicitation, and food diaries. We are working with two CSA schemes in South Wales and two in East Anglia. As well as working with participants who are members of these CSAs, we are also collecting data from two other groups: an intervention group and a control group. The intervention group is a group of randomly selected members of the public who receive interventions which aim to emulate the experience of being a CSA member, and the control group is a group of randomly selected members of the pubic who receive no intervention. By examining these three groups, we aim to establish what food people buy, cook and eat, and whether their household food culture is affected by involvement in community supported agriculture.

My other areas of research are in other areas of community led environmental management. In particular I have carried out research into community managed forests and the factors that enable their adaption to climate change. This work was carried out in collaboration with the British Columbia Community Forest Association at the University of British Columbia and funded by the Peter Wall Solutions Initiative.

More recently, I have concentrated on people participating in ecological restoration work and how such participation affects their sense of connection with nature. In particular, I examined peoples’ involvement in forest restoration in Scotland. This work was carried out in collaboration with Trees for Life at Cardiff University, and was funded by the ESRC and the Scottish Forestry Trust.


I began in academia by doing a degree in geography and environmental studies with development studies at Sussex University in the 1990s. After that, I worked in the public sector as a community worker in deprived areas and for small community led environmental NGOs in London and Bristol. I also trained as a cabinet maker, and, after working at a community based wood recycling project, became interested in better understanding the production of timber at a macro level. I wondered: in a country like Britain with so few forests, where was all this wood coming from? What are the environmental cost of producing (and wasting) so much wood? Those questions led me to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, where I completed an MSc in forestry, and ultimately to Cardiff, to do another MSc in Social Research Methods and a PhD. My PhD was funded by the ESRC and the Scottish Forestry Trust and was a study of how ‘hands-on’ participation in forest restoration affects people’s ideas of nature and their relationship with the natural world.

Honours and awards

ESRC And Scottish Forestry Trust PhD funding
Peter Wall Solutions Initiative
Donald S McPhee Fellowship
Ralph M and Elizabeth E Cochran Scholarship

Academic positions

Research Assistant, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. BC V6T 1Z4

Research Assistant, Alex Fraser Research Forest, 72 South 7th Avenue, Williams Lake, BC V2G 4N5

Speaking engagements

Royal Geographic Society-IBG: International Conference (2017) Last night a desk jockey saved wildlife: ecological restoration in the Scottish Highlands London, England

Festival of Science, Economic and Social Research Council (2016) Ecological Restoration: who should pay to put it right? Cardiff, UK.

Sustainable Places Research Institute Seminar Series (2016) Participatory Ecological Restoration: initial findings, Cardiff, UK.

Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia (2016) Social aspects of ecological restoration in the Caledonian Forest, Vancouver, Canada.

School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria (2016) Participatory ecological restoration In Scotland: initial findings, Victoria, Canada.

Advanced Principles and Practice in Ecological Restoration, Galiano Conservancy Association Learning Centre (2016) Hands on restoration in Scotland. Galiano, Canada.

Royal Geographic Society-IBG: International Conference (2015) Ecological restoration in the Anthropocene: What is the place of human values in restoring environments? Exeter, UK.

Society for Ecological Restoration International: Conference (2015) Human values and restoration, Manchester, UK.

New Challenges in Community Forestry: Sharing Scientific Knowledge in a South- North perspective Community Forests and Adaptation to Climate Change in British Columbia, (2013) Remscheid, Germany

British Columbia Community Forest Association Community Forests and their Adaptation to Climate Change, (2012 & 2011) Conference and AGM. Kaslo, BC & 100 Mile House, BC









  • I am interested in the intersection between environment and society.
  • My work is multidisciplinary and draws upon geography, sociology, anthropology, psychology and ecology.
  • I am concerned with how relationships between humans and ‘nature’ (however it is defined) relate to the current environmental crisis and whether closer relationships between people and nature can help societies become environmentally sustainable.
  • I am also interested in whether developing and maintaining a sense of connection to nature can enable better mental health, particularly as it relates to recovery from addiction.
  • I remain interested in forests, particularly how people interact with them and manager them, and the impact this has: both on the forests and upon people.
  • I am also interested in ecological restoration (whether of forests or other ecosystems), and how hands-on participation in restoration can bring people into closer relationships with nature.    
  • I am currently a Research Associate at the Sustainable Places Research Institute, where I am working on a project which explores the relationships between producers and consumers in food systems and how these relationships affect people’s food choices. The project is particularly focussed on Community Supported Agriculture and is entitled: “T-GRAINS: Transforming and Growing Relationships within regional food systems for Improved Nutrition and Sustainability” and is funded by the UK Government’s ‘Resilience of the UK Food System Programme’ with support from support from BBSRC, ESRC, NERC and the Scottish government.