Dr Saffron O'Neill
Associate Professor in Geography
Amory Building, University of Exeter, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4RJ , UK
*** Go to Saffron's Research and Teaching Webpage to view her most up-to-date information (inc. publications, teaching resources, etc.). ***
Saffron O’Neill is Associate Professor in Geography. Her research explores the social science dimensions of climate variability and climate change. She particularly focuses on risk perception, risk communication and public engagement with climate change; and the implications of these areas for public policy. She has previously held positions at the University of Melbourne and the University of East Anglia.
Saffron held an ESRC Future Research Leader fellowship from 2012-2017. This fellowship, ‘Visualising Climate Change’, aimed to increase understanding of the representations and power of visual imagery for engaging people with climate change. Saffron is interested in the diverse places in which people experience weather and climate change in their everyday lives: from personal attachments to valued places, to interactions on social media platforms like Twitter.
Saffron won the 2011 UK Scopus Young Researcher Award for Social Science, awarded by Elsevier and the UK/US Fulbright Commission. The prize is awarded to early-career researchers, based on citation data and jury assessment. Saffron’s website gives details of her research, the people she collaborates with, and her publications.You can also follow her on Twitter @SaffronJONeill. Saffron had two year-long periods of maternity leave in 2015-16 and 2017-18. She continues to balance her family and work lives by working part-time (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday).
Broad research specialisms:
- Public engagement with climate change
- Legacy and social media representations of climate change
- Visual representations of, and engagment with, climate change
- Climate change adaptation and maladaptation
- Science / policy interface
BSc Geography (University of Southampton: First Class Honours)
PhD in Environmental Science (University of East Anglia)
Due to the ongoing COVID19 situation, these will take place remotely, via Zoom. Click here to be taken to the One Drive document containing the meeting link and password. See below for my student office hours in Semester 1: (these may need to change at short notice, so please check this page first before coming along)
Wednesdays 09.00-10.00 (except week 7, Weds 04 Nov, when it will run 10.00-11.00; and week 10, Weds 25 Nov, when it will run 14.30-15.30. Please use the usual Wednesday link to log in).
Thursdays 09.00-10.00 (same all term)
Please note - there will be no Thursday Office hour in week 6 (Reading Week). If you want to speak to me urgently and can not make the Wednesday office hour, then please email me to arrange a different time.
Note that I work a part-time contract (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday); this will delay replies if you get in touch outside these working hours.
Research group links
Saffron's research is interdisciplinary, focusing on the social science dimensions of climate variability and climate change. Her work explores risk perception, risk communication and public engagement with climate change; and the implications of these areas for public policy. She has experience in using diverse social science methods. She has published research using survey, interview, focus group, expert elicitation, photo-elicitation and Q methods; and content and frame analysis.
Saffron currently holds an ESRC Future Research Leader fellowship, 'Visualising Climate Change'. The fellowship aims to increase understanding of the representations and power of visual imagery for engaging people with climate change. Specifically, it is exploring both top down visual representations of climate change (in newspapers, on TV, on social media) and bottom up climate imagery (through a photo-elicitation project exploring adaptation to sea level rise).
Saffron also led a HASS seed funded project 'Media and the cultural politics of climate change: tracking the coverage of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. This was an interdisciplinary project, involving colleagues in Bioscience, Psychology and Politics; exploring climate change coverage arising from the reporting of the three IPCC Working Groups. The project tracked coverage on TV, in newspapers and on the social media platform Twitter and carried out a frame analysis of this data.
Saffron's research has contributed to the development of public policy. She has contributed to research about community safety concerning bushfire risk (including a report for the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission); and in defining and assessing maladaptation in the water sector. She has also contributed to public engagement with climate change activities beyond academia, with past projects including a silver medal-winning garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, 'The 2050 Garden'.
2017 – 2020 ESRC +3 SWDTC PhD Award: ‘Children’s conceptualisations of climate change: prevalent discourses and potential for action’ (co-I)
2016 – 2020 ESRC 1+3 SWDTC PhD Award: ‘Following the forecast: risk, uncertainty and the life of seasonal weather forecasts’ (co-PI)
2012 – 2017 £214,811 ESRC Future Research Leader award: ‘Visualising climate change’ (PI)
2014 - 2015 £198,044 ESRC Urgency Grant: 'The 2013/14 winter floods and policy change: the dynamics of change in the aftermath of major crises’ (co-I)
2011 – 2012 AU$19,103 (£11,880) Early Career Researcher Grants Scheme, Melbourne University, Australia: ‘Visualising climate change: international perspectives on mitigation and adaptation’ (PI)
Publications by category
Publications by year
External Engagement and Impact
Commissioned by the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission in 2010 to analyse emergency response following the 2009 Australian bushfires, and this influenced subsequent policy change in Victoria.
- GEO2317 Climate change: science and society
- GEO3134 Making carbon public: risk, climate and the politics of energy
- GEO2310 Human geography practice
- GEO1110 Investigating Human Geographies
Supervision / Group
- Phil Johnstone (now at University of Sussex)