Photo of Professor Neil Macdonald

Professor Neil Macdonald BSc, MSc, PhD

Professor of Geography Geography and Planning

Research

CLANDAGE: BUILDING CLIMATE RESILIENCE THROUGH COMMUNITY, LANDSCAPES AND CULTURAL HERITAGE (AH/V003569/1)

Postbox on Barra
Postbox on Barra

The CLANDAGE project will use learning from the past to better understand how communities might adapt to future changes in places and landscapes.Project Website

BACKGROUND
Historically, landscapes, communities and people have coped with, and adapted to, environmental change, and continue to do so. This happens both through barely perceptible incremental changes, and also through rapid adjustments to abrupt environmental changes, for instance through landscape loss and gain. Understanding how communities have adapted to changing circumstances in the past sheds light on how future changes might be managed and communicated, as well as how the resilience of people and their places can be enhanced, at a range of spatial and temporal scales. However, as past community adaptation is often not well recorded or inaccessible, it is not part of decision making on how to respond to current and future environmental change. This project intends to addresses this gap.

PROJECT SCOPE
This project will focus on how communities have improved individual and community resilience through cultural, social, technological, behavioural adaptation and modification. Using a long-term perspective, based on archaeological data, historical records and archives, will help to contextualise and contest claims of uniqueness, unparalleled magnitude or severity, which are often used to describe contemporary extreme weather, despite this often being based on experience gathered over a relatively short timescale. As well as providing valuable information about how communities have responded and adapted to past extreme weather, historical and archival data will also be used to explore the origin of our current environmental challenges, acknowledge the role of human activity at a local and landscape scale and how this knowledge can be used in the future management of these places. The project will focus on three case study areas, the River Eden catchment (Cumbria), Staffordshire and the Outer Hebrides, which are each facing differing climate hazards. All of the case study areas have a strong association between the climate hazards and water, including flood, drought, and storms, which will form a central connecting theme for the project as a whole and will be the primary focus for the toolkit.

LEGACY
The project will work with the case study communities to co-produce a toolkit to support adaptation decision making in these particular landscapes. The toolkit will be developed using a multifaceted approach of cataloguing past features (archaeological, historic, material and archival) supplemented with contemporary oral histories located within a GIS data layer. Project partners include Fjordr, a consultancy company and project contractor, and Historic England, who will work with local communities throughout the process. The toolkit produced as part of this project will be freely available as one of the project outputs.

UKRI (NERC) Building UK climate resilience through bridging the qualitative-quantitative data divide (NE/S016961/1)

Early precipitation recording using non-standard measurements, wine pints reported in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (Arderon and Baker, 1763).
Early precipitation recording using non-standard measurements, wine pints reported in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (Arderon and Baker, 1763).

Project Webpage

Current climate resilience is based on experiences garnered over short timescales, with conventional approaches to extreme event understanding often based on relatively short series. As such, the accurate estimation and understanding of high-magnitude low-probability events is challenging. However, historical records can often contextualise claims of uniqueness, unparalleled magnitude or severity often associated with contemporary extreme storms, floods, droughts or coastal flooding; addressing the data gap presented by short records. Several databases of collated documentary materials exist, detailing both past mundane and extreme climatic and hydrological events, but also detailing how communities and societies have responded, proving valuable information not routinely used in risk assessment, adaption or resilience planning. This project addresses these challenges, by building an interdisciplinary network of researchers and end-users from across a range of disciplines (including humanities, sciences, engineering and social sciences) to identify key research gaps and build a scoping network that will identify an approach to bridge the qualitative-quantitative data gap in the climate and hydrological sciences. A key outcome will be the development of a new protocol for bridging the ‘data gap’ across quantitative-qualitative datasets.

PAST RESEARCH PROJECTS

 Diary of George Kikiwyche, 1576
Diary of George Kikiwyche, 1576

Previous Research Projects:
AHRC: Learning from the past – exploring historical archives to inform future activities (2016-2020) AH/N005147/1
Historically the Midlands have been severely affected by drought (e.g. 1976) and flooding, affecting industry, settlements and agricultural activity. Detailed historical records have been retained within historical archives detailing the impacts that these events have had on communities and how they have dealt with and responded to severe events.

The Staffordshire Record Office (SRO) has identified collections that would support research in this area, but which were catalogued at a time when archive services were more narrowly focused and cataloging did not consider research outside traditional historical disciplines. As such identification of material sources, which may be rich in information for environmental research are challenging to identify, with individual site analysis time-consuming.

This project will explore this further using two themes: the first explores the lessons learned from past droughts, focusing on societal responses to past events and explores how societies have challenged their risk to and from drought by modification of the activities undertaken. The second theme explores the changing nature of drainage and flood risk management, exploring how drainage has changed within the region, its impact on local communities. These themes will be explored through two PhD studentships which will examine the materials held at Staffordshire Record Office in relation to the abundance and absence of 'water', exploring how responses and management have changed through time.

Summary of previous Projects
BRITISH COUNCIL GRANT, UK-JORDAN JOINT WORKSHOP ON SUSTAINABLE CATCHMENT MANAGEMENT AND WATER SECURITY (2018-2019)

NERC: DRIER-CHINA: DROUGHT RESILIENCE IN ECOSYSTEM SERVICES AND RURAL COMMUNITIES IN CHINA (2016-17) (NE/P015484/1)

AHRC: SPACES OF EXPERIENCE AND HORIZONS OF EXPECTATION; THE IMPLICATIONS OF EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS, PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE (2013-16) AH/K005782/1

ÇALTILAR ARCHAEOLOGICAL PROJECT (2012-) SUPPORTED BY BRITISH ACADEMY AND THE BRITISH INSTITUTE OF ARCHAEOLOGY AT ANKARA

NERC URGENCY (2016), GEOMORPHIC AND SEDIMENTARY EVOLUTION OF AN EXTREME EVEN: TESTING A SEDIMENT BASED PALAEOFLOOD RECORD (NE/P000118/1)

RACHEL CARSON CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY (2014) WHEN GOOD CLIMATE GOES BAD: EXTREME EVENTS AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY

NERC-RADIOCARBON DATING GRANT (2013) LAKE SEDIMENT RECORDS OF PALAEOFLOODS DURING THE LATE-HOLOCENE: BROTHERSWATER, CUMBRIA

Research Group Membership

Research Grants

SPF UK Climate Resilience

UK RESEARCH AND INNOVATION (UKRI) (UK)

June 2021 - May 2022

Building Climate Resilience through Community, Culture and Understanding

ARTS AND HUMANITIES RESEARCH COUNCIL (AHRC)

August 2020 - July 2022

Informed mining: risk reduction through enhanced public and institutional risk awareness (IM AWARE)

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL (ESRC)

November 2019 - October 2022

UK Climate resilience

UK RESEARCH AND INNOVATION (UKRI) (UK)

February 2019 - June 2020

DRIER-China: Drought Resilience In Ecosystem services and Rural communities in China

NATURAL ENVIRONMENT RESEARCH COUNCIL (NERC)

November 2016 - November 2017