Course Director, Professor in Environmental Governance and Planning
Claudia is a Professor in the field of interdisciplinary research and environmental governance. Her research relates to climate change and sustainability adopting social-ecological systems thinking and approaches.
I am a Professor in Environmental Governance and Planning and Programme Director for the RTPI-accredited Masters in Planning Built Environment. I have a life-long passion for exploring how different people and societies connect with nature and live. Finding it difficult to narrow down the field of my interest, I ended up studying physical and human geography in Aberdeen and then completed my Masters in Environmental Management. I then spent many happy and busy years in interdisciplinary research, held some editor positions, and early on did desk-top publishing and translation work, too.
Through designing, managing, leading or contributing to over twenty research projects, I have learnt to approach environmental issues and associated knowledge and actions from different perspectives and critically consider political, philosophical or ethical positions.
Teaching and/or publishing on topics ranging from climate change science, mitigation and adaptation to social inclusion, institutional analysis, landscape scale approaches, and smart-sustainable-green cities, amongst others, allowed me to look at complex social-ecological challenges at and across different scales. For example looking at chemical, thermal and physical water, soil and air pollution issues from the micro to the macro scale; or involving youth, citizens and experts in social learning and participatory decision-making processes at the neighbourhood/local scale; or taking a critical realist perspective to analyse decision-making by built and natural environment professionals to inform planning at the city-region scale; or explaining ecosystem services (benefits we receive from Nature) ranging from the molecular to the global scale.
Since I moved to Birmingham, I have become the BCU representative and elected member of the RTPI West Midlands Regional Activities Committee, supporting in particular continuous professional development (CPD) in person and online on topics such as Green and Blue Infrastructure, Biodiversity Recovery and Climate Change Impacts. I also contribute to the Climate Literacy Bootcamp led by the ADM Faculty to offer Climate Literacy and a better understanding of ‘resilience’ and ‘systems thinking’.
For the academic and wider professional communities I have also acted as a reviewer of journal articles, book manuscripts, interdisciplinary research project bids, regional and national awards and organised seminar series, workshops and conferences. These have also been good ways to constantly learn, reflect, support and connect.
Being a Chartered Member of the RTPI connects me with private and public sector planners locally, nationally and internationally. Through alumni, contacts and ex-colleagues, I receive regularly job vacancy announcements for our planning students and opportunities to apply for graduate planning positions. Old and new contacts within statutory bodies such as the Environment Agency, or internationally respected consultancies such as Lichfields, WSP, Arup and Atkins Global help vary teaching in the form of guest lectures or seminars and provide a wide range of current and pertinent case studies. Increasingly, alumni and contacts also set up their own planning advice firms after having had both public and private sector experience.
Overall, this provides a nice mix of professional connections that enrich teaching sessions and also informs my research. Networking, learning, new ideas and opportunities all kind of go hand-in-hand.
There have been many, actually; but one strand of research and recent output that arose from previous applied research and knowledge-exchange projects is using a boardgame format to engage young people and professionals in complex 21st century planning and development challenges. The latest product is CLIMANIA, the climate action game on retrofit which won the Royal Town Planning Institute’s (RTPI) Sir Peter Hall Award for Excellence in Research and Engagement in 2023 and was also commended in the 2022 TET Inspire Future Generations Awards as the best online resource.