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Professor Katrina Brown

Professor Katrina Brown

Professor Emerita of Social Science



I am an environmental social scientist, specialising in environmental change, development, vulnerability and resilience. My research focuses on how individuals and societies understand and respond to change, and their different capacities for adaptation and transformation. I am committed to interdisciplinary research on sustainability and have led international research teams to examine environmental change and poverty alleviation in developing countries.

2012-2020 Chair in Social Science, University of Exeter
1991-2012 University of East Anglia (Professor of Development Studies since 2004)
2009-12 ESRC Professorial Fellowship on ‘Resilient Development in Social Ecological Systems’
2004-2010 Deputy Director for Social Sciences and Leader, International Development Programme, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research


PhD Women’s farming groups in semi-arid Kenya (University of Nottingham)
MSc Tropical Agricultural Development (University of Reading)
BSc Agricultural and Environmental Science (University of Newcastle upon Tyne)


Katrina Brown is a world-leading social scientist working at the interface of international development, environmental change and sustainability. She has a longstanding commitment to interdiscsiplinary research, working with collaborators across social, ecological, and human sciences and with arts and humanities scholars and creative practitioners.  Her book, Resilience, Development and Global Change resulted from an ESRC Professorial Fellowship, Resilient Development in Social Ecological Systems, and presents a re-visioning of resilience for development.  She has advised international research programmes, such as IHDP, the ARC Centre for Excellence on Coral Reefs and Stockholm Resilience Centre. Her record of support for early career research is exemplary, she has initiated and directed Masters level courses (East Anglia and Exeter), led and participated in Summer Schools, and supervised 34 PhDs to completion. In 2013 she won the first ‘AXA Outlook’ award for pioneering work in Kenya on resilience and poverty using Forum Theatre, which was the subject of a National Geographic film in 2014. In 2018 she was awarded a honorary doctorate Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Wageningen, Netherlands, in recognition of ‘outstanding contributions to environmental social science, in the fields of political ecology, conservation and resilience’. She was elected Fellow, of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2018, and was a member of the GCRF Strategic Advisory Group from 2016-2020. She has chaired the Scientific Management Committee, of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies since 2015.She is identified as one of the most influential cross-disciplianry scientists on the recent 2020 Highly Cited Researchers list.

As Professor Emerita she continues to research and write on environmental change, inequality and resilience, and is active as an advisor to international scientific organisations and programmes. 


Research group links


Research interests

I am interested in how major challenges of sustainability – poverty, inequality and equity, uncertainty and environmental change play out and are interlinked. My research enables me to engage with broad fields, and to work across a range of disciplines, including human geography, political ecology and development studies. I use concepts such as resilience, adaptation, vulnerability and transformation to understand these changes, and I also work on ecosystem services, poverty and wellbeing.

Research projects

ESPA Inisghts into Resilience and Wellbeing, ESPA Programme of NERC/ESRC/DFID, 2017-8 (PI).

Food for Change, EU ESIF 2017-20

SPACES: Sustainable Poverty Alleviation from Coastal Ecosystem Services, ESPA programme of NERC/ESRC/DFID 2013-2017(Co-PI).

MAGIC: Multi-scale Adaptations to Climate Change at the Coast, Belmont Forum 2013-17(CoI)

You, me and our resilience AXA Outlook project 2014-2017 (PI)

GLORIA Global Learning Opportunities for Regional Indian Ocean Adaptation ESPA programme of NERC/ESRC/DFID, 2015-2016 (Co-PI)

Recently completed (selected)

Resilient Development in Social Ecological Systems, ESRC Professorial Fellowship, 2009-2012 (PI).

Participatory Modelling frameworks to understand well-being trade-offs in coastal ecosystem services. ESPA Programme Framework Grant 2010-2012 (Co-I)

Tropical Forests and Poverty Alleviation: From household data to global-comparative analysis DFID-ESRC 2008-2010(Co-I)

Coastal Resilience to Climate Change in Eastern Africa (Co-I) Leverhulme Trust 2006-9.

Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Co-applicant with Mike Hulme and 25 others, NERC/ESRC/EPSRC 2000-05, 2006-2009. 

External Engagement and Impact

Awards and Honours

Strategic Advisory Group, Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), UKRI 2016- 

Co-Chair, International Programme Advisory Committee, Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation, ESRC/NERC/DFID, From 2011-18.

Chair, Scientific Advisory Committee, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies, From 2015.

Scientific Board, Stockholm Resilience Centre. From 2016-18.

Executive Board, Resilience Alliance, From 2011-17.

Deputy Chair, Research Excellence Framework, Anthropology and Development Studies sub-Panel, HEFCE, 2011-14.

Member, Royal Society Working Group, Human Resilience to Climate Change, 2013-14.

Contributing Author IPCC Special Report on Extremes, 2012.

Co-editor Global Environmental Change (Elsevier), 2003-14.

Deputy Director and Programme Leader, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research 2004-10.

Scientific Committee, International Human Dimensions Programme, 2004-10.

Scientific Advisory Committee, Global Environmental Change and Food Systems programme 2005-11.

Convening Lead Author Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (Response Options Working Group), 2002-04.




Information not currently available

Supervision / Group

Research Fellows

  • Lucy Faulkner
  • Michalis Revmatas

Postdoctoral researchers

  • Matt Fortnam
  • Tom James
  • Tara Quinn


  • Tomas Chaigneau

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