Heat, Health and Human Geographies: Exploring Caribbean Responses to Urban Heat Stress through Creative Ethnographic Methods


The University of Liverpool invites applications for a fully funded PhD studentship to conduct a piece of ethnographic research exploring the experiences, responses to and understandings of health and increasing urban heat in Port of Spain, Trinidad. 

The PhD student will define and undertake a 3-year research project to explore the embodied experiences of and responses to urban heat stress and develop and expand traditional ethnographic methods (interviews, observations etc) alongside creative and arts-based research methodologies.  

Funded by The University of Liverpool, this PhD studentship sits alongside the Wellcome Trust Discovery Award ‘Melting Metropolis: Everyday Histories of Health and Heat in London, New York, and Paris since 1945'. As such applicants should align proposals with the expertise, specific methodologies and research interests of the supervisory team who are based at the University of Liverpool and the University of West Indies (St Augustine). 

Melting Metropolis: Overview 

Melting Metropolis aims to investigate the historical and contemporary efforts to address the challenges of extreme heat-related weather events and its impacts on health in unequal urban environments. With the increasing prevalence of hot weather and the urban heat island effect, cities worldwide are experiencing rising temperatures, posing significant health risks such as dehydration, allergies, and cardiovascular and respiratory complications, particularly affecting vulnerable populations such as the elderly, those living with chronic conditions, outdoor workers, and economically disadvantaged communities. 

As an interdisciplinary team, Melting Metropolis adopts a community-based research approach, utilising ethnographic, historical and creative methods, to understand how communities in London, New York, and Paris have historically and currently responded to urban heat stress. Through these study sites, Melting Metropolis aims to develop a rounded understanding of the relationship between history, place, community memory, and the (in)tangible experiences of urban heat stress.

To foster a national and global dialogue on climate and health justice in urban environments, the PhD studentship will primarily focus on Port of Spain, Trinidad and is encouraged to engage Caribbean diaspora communities living in the UK.  

PhD Studentship 

Based within the Department of Geography and Planning at The University of Liverpool, this PhD studentship aims to broaden the focus of Melting Metropolis to include cities in tropical regions, with a particular focus on the Caribbean region, to explore themes of environmental change, climate justice and healthy planetary futures. 

Aims and objectives

The PhD will provide a qualitative, ethnographic exploration of heat and health and will be supported to expand these methodologies into creative and artistic research practice with support from Melting Metropolis Research Artist, Bryony Ella. 

The successful proposal will include two intersecting components:  

  • Ethnographically explore the unequal impacts of high temperatures on communities and individuals. Drawing on fields of such as science and technology studies and climate psychology the project will critically analyse individual and socio-political responses to environmental change.
  • Collaborate with Research Artist Bryony Ella to develop creative research methodologies and co-create an artistic output reflecting on key themes that emerge from fieldwork. The format of this will be decided by the PhD student in collaboration with supervisors and will be of interest to scholars and practitioners of creative, place-based research.

Specific requirements of the candidate 

The ideal candidate will:  

  • Have a Bachelor’s degree (2:1 or above) and a Master’s degree (Merit or above) in Human Geography or a related social science. 
  • Be available to do extended fieldwork in Trinidad, and/or UK.  Expected to take place over the second year of the studentship. 
  • Be able to demonstrate an informed understanding of environmental change and its impacts on health, in particular urban heat island effects.
  • Be acquainted with or have prior experience and knowledge of the Caribbean region, including its geographical, historical and sociocultural context.
  • Be familiar with qualitative research methods. Training in ethnographic and interview methods will be provided but some prior knowledge or experience is desirable.
  • Have an interest in interdisciplinarity, creative research methods and artistic practice. 
  • Be highly motivated to work on your ethnographic case study as an early career researcher and to be an active member of an international research team.
  • Have excellent communication skills.
  • Have excellent spoken and written English. 

How to Apply 

In order for an application to be considered you will have to go through the formal application process clicking the following link: https://app.askadmissions.co.uk/AYApplicantLogin/fl_ApplicantLogin.asp?id=liv

Your application should include the following documents:

  • A Research Proposal (max 1500 words) outlining your proposed project overview, its research questions, conceptual, methodological or theoretical approaches, research data collection methods, possible creative outputs and how this PhD project will contribute to the broader Melting Metropolis project. 
  • A Personal Statement (max 500 words) addressing research interests, motivation and suitability, any relevant past experience and how these would contribute to the PhD project.
  • A one-page CV
  • Any Degree Certificates & Full and final transcripts – from previous Bachelor or Masters.
  • 2 Academic references – signed on University headed paper.
  • English Language qualification (if applicable) – Please see following link for our English Language requirements: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/study/international/apply/english-language/postgraduate-entry/   

Please make sure your application is made under the following code ‘DGPR’ – Geography (Desk based) and that you specify the title of the studentship ‘Heat, Health and Human Geographies: Exploring Caribbean Responses to Urban Heat Stress through Creative Ethnographic Methods ’ and Dr Shelda-Jane Smith as primary supervisor.

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to an online interview. 


For more information about how to apply, please contact the School of Environmental Sciences Postgraduate Research Team (envspgr@liverpool.ac.uk)

For more information on the project, please contact Shelda-Jane Smith (shelda-jane.smith@liverpool.ac.uk)