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Dr Laura Smith

Dr Laura Smith

Lecturer in Human Geography


 Amory C249A


Amory Building, University of Exeter, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4RJ , UK


Laura first joined the department as Lecturer in Human Geography between 2013 and 2016, and returned in January 2018. Before joining Exeter Geography in 2013, she was Lecturer in Human Geography at Oxford Brookes University. Laura received her Ph.D., Masters, and undergraduate degrees from the School of Geography and Planning at Cardiff University.

Laura is a cultural and historical geographer specializing in ecological restoration, environmental history, and 19th and 20th century American literature. She is interested in the intersections between the American nature writing tradition and ecological restoration policy and practice—especially the history and evolution of an ecological restoration sensibility in American nature writing, and how nature writing from across the 19th and 20th centuries has come to take hold as a practice and ideology in mid-20th century and early-21st century ecological restoration programs.

Broad research specialisms:

Ecological restoration and restoration ecology
Environmental history
Environmental humanities
Literary geographies
Nature writing and ecocriticism
C19th and C20th American literature
Theological ethics


Ph.D. City and Regional Planning (Cardiff University, 2010)
M.Sc. Social Science Research Methods (Cardiff University, 2005)
B.Sc. (Hons.) Geography (Human) and Planning (Cardiff University, 2004)

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Research interests

Laura is a member of the department’s Cultural and Historical Geographies and Life Geographies Research Groups, and the ECLIPSE Environmental Humanities Reading Group. Her research focuses on themes of:

Ecological Restoration

Laura’s research considers the moral, ethical, theological, and emotive languages that are used to articulate ecological restoration issues and value, specifically the idea of ecological redemption. She is especially interested in the use of redemption motifs in ecological restoration policy.

C19th and C20th American Literature

Laura is interested in the landscapes that have come to be associated with U.S. writers, and how these writers and their works might contribute to wider debates on ecological restoration practice and policy. Her research explores this interplay within the context of environmental organizations with a literary connection to the land.

Research projects

Book Project

2017-2021 – Ecological Restoration and the U.S. Nature and Environmental Writing Tradition: A Rewilding of American Letters. Palgrave Macmillan.

Conference, Symposium, and Workshop Presentations

I. Organising Committee

2019 – Co-emergence, Co-creation, Co-existence, ASLE-UKI Biennial Conference, co-organised with Dr. Mandy Bloomfield, Dr. Evelyn O'Malley, Dr. Camilla Bostock, Dr. Jude Allen, Eva McGrath, Dr. Ben Smith, Sam Kemp, Rosie Corlett, and Dr. David Sargeant, University of Plymouth, September 2019

Chair, Survival in Paradise and Global Heating and Rising Waters sessions 

II. Session Convenor

2015 – Ecological Restoration in the Anthropocene session co-organised with Dr. Jonathan Prior, RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, University of Exeter, September 2015 Abstract

III. Presentations

2018 – ‘“How little there is on an ordinary map!” Beyond Henry David Thoreau's 1846 Survey of Walden Pond.’ Geohumanities, Literary Cultures, and New Landscapes of Cartography II session, RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, Cardiff University, August 2018 Abstract

2016 – ‘The Once and Future Glen: Southwestern Writers on the Promise of a “Glen Canyon Restored.”’ Moralities of Drought session, American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA, March 2016  Abstract

2015 – ‘Anticipate Redemption: Theo-Ethical Entanglements in Glen Canyon Restoration.’ Ecological Restoration in the Anthropocene session, RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, University of Exeter, September 2015 Abstract

2012 – ‘Seeking Absolution in Restored Nature: Towards an Ethic of Ecological Redemption.’ Ecological Restoration session, Environmental Ethics Initiative conference: Conservation, Restoration and Sustainability: A Call to Stewardship, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, November 2012

2008 – ‘The Geography of Environmental Restoration: Creating a Local Dialect of Nature.’ Environment Research Group event, School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University, April 2008

2008 – ‘The Geography of Environmental Restoration: Creating a Local Dialect of Nature.’ Restoration Geographies I session, American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, Boston, MA, April 2008 Abstract

IV. Invited Talks and Sessions

2016 – ‘The Quiet Politics of Literature and Art in “Glen Canyon Restoration.”’ A Gentle Alertness to Geographies of the (Non)Human & (Ir)Responsibilities seminar, Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, June 2016

2016 – ‘Restor(y)ing the Desert: Ellen Meloy, Terry Tempest Williams, and Bearing Witness in Glen Canyon.’ Vibrant Localism symposium, Exeter Centre for the Literature of Identity, Place, and Sustainability, University of Exeter, June 2016

2016 – ‘Restor(y)ing the C19th Landscapes of Walden: What Would Thoreau Do?’ Garden–Landscape–Landscape-Garden: From 17th-18th Century Theories to Environmental Aesthetics. A Symposium, Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies, University of Aberdeen, May 2016

2014 – Chair, Roundtable Discussion, Green Connections: Environmental Response and the Arts. An Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Symposium. English, College of Humanities, University of Exeter, September 2014

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Smith L (2022). Ecological Restoration and the U.S. Nature and Environmental Writing Tradition a Rewilding of American Letters. Cham, Switzerland, Palgrave Macmillan. Abstract.
CHGRG ->, Sugg B, DeSilvey C, Cartwright C, Asker C, Freeman C, Curtis D, Harvey D, Ryfield F, Lucas G, et al (2020). Academic Life in Lockdown Activity Book. San Francisco, Blurb. Abstract.

Journal articles

Smith L (In Press). The Quiet Politics and Gentle Literary Activism Behind the Battle for Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument. Area Abstract.
Smith L, Cartwright C, Brennan-Lister G, Brooks E, Collins F, Colson S, Cook E, Munnery C (In Press). Zine Ecologies: Creative Environmentalisms and Literary Activisms. GeoHumanities
Prior J, Smith L (2019). The Normativity of Ecological Restoration Reference Models: an Analysis of Carrifran Wildwood, Scotland, and Walden Woods, United States. Ethics, Policy and Environment, 22(2), 214-233. Abstract.
Smith L (2018). The poetics of restoring glen canyon: the ‘desert imagination’ of ellen meloy and terry tempest williams. Cultural Geographies, 25(4), 603-618. Abstract.
Smith L (2018). What if Edward Abbey's “Monkey Wrench Gang” had Succeeded? the Ghosts of Glen Canyon Past, Present, and Future. Antipode Abstract.
Smith L (2017). Henry David Thoreau, Walden Woods, and an Aesthetics of Garden. Journal of Scottish Thought, 9, 124-138.
Smith L (2016). Resurrection after the "Blue Death": Literature, politics, and ecological redemption at Glen Canyon. Western American Literature, 51(1), 39-69.
Smith L (2014). American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation. Ecological Restoration, 32(3), 338-339.
Smith L (2014). On the 'Emotionality' of Environmental Restoration: Narratives of Guilt, Restitution, Redemption and Hope. Ethics, Policy and Environment, 17(3), 286-307. Abstract.
Smith L (2014). Restoring Walden Woods and the Idyll of Thoreau I: from Literary Landscape to Politicized Landscape. Ecological Restoration, 32(1), 78-85. Abstract.
Smith L (2014). Restoring Walden Woods and the Idyll of Thoreau II: a Recent Historical Tracing of Changing and Renegotiated Restoration Goals. Ecological Restoration, 32(1), 86-95. Abstract.
Smith L (2013). Geographies of Environmental Restoration: a Human Geography Critique of Restored Nature. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 38(2), 354-358.
(2005). Book review. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 7(1), 85-87.


Smith L (2023). Marjory Stoneman Douglas and an Everglades Environmentalism. In  (Ed) The Palgrave Handbook of Global Sustainability, Springer Nature, 2291-2304.
Smith L (2022). Marjory Stoneman Douglas and an Everglades Environmentalism. In  (Ed) The Palgrave Handbook of Global Sustainability, Springer Nature, 1-15.
Smith L (2022). Marjory Stoneman Douglas and an Everglades Environmentalism. In Brinkmann R (Ed) , Palgrave Macmillan. Abstract.  Full text.
Smith L (2016). Writing (and Righting) the Desert Southwest: Literary Legacies and the Restoration of Glen Canyon. In Brannon W (Ed) Critical Insights: Southwestern Literature, Amenia, NY: Salem Press, 46-59.

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External Engagement and Impact

External positions

Twitter #bookhour Discussion Leader

U.S. Studies Online, British Association for American Studies

Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera (with discussion leaders Lisa M. Dillman, Dr. Francisca Sanchez Ortiz, organizer Dr. Donna Maria Alexander), February 2016 Storify

The Water Museum by Luis Alberto Urrea (with discussion leaders Dr. Gwen Boyle, Dr. Mila Lopez-Palaez Casellas, organizer Dr. Donna Maria Alexander), September 2015 Storify

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Modules 2019-2020


  • GEO1309 Study Skills in Human Geography (module convenor)
  • GEO1313 Learning through Place: Doing Human Geography
  • GEO2308C Human Geography Seville Field Trip
  • GEO2308E Human Geography Virtual Field Trip (module convenor)
  • GEO2327 Geographies of Justice: Research Methodologies in Action (tutor)
  • GEO2328 Geographies of Consumption: Doing Human Geography Research (tutor)
  • GEO2311 Ideas in Geography (tutor)
  • GEO3311/GEO3312 B.A. Geography Dissertation (module convenor)


  • GEOM105A Research Methods and Design in Human Geography (module convenor)

Previous teaching

  • GEO1106 Geographies of Global Change (module convenor, 2014/16)
  • GEO1110 Investigating Human Geography
  • GEO1315A Research Methods for Geographers
  • GEO1316 Concepts in Geography
  • GEO2308A Human Geography Berlin Field Trip
  • GEO2310 Human Geography Practice
  • GEO2315 Learning from Experience
  • GEO2325 Research Methods in Human Geography
  • GEO2326 Research Design in Human Geography



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Office Hours:

Term 2

Monday 15.00-16.00, in Amory C249A

Thursday 12.00-13.00, on Zoom

Please sign up for a slot here.

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