Staff from the Department of Geography and Planning conduct innovative theoretical and policy relevant research on the social, ecological and institutional dimensions of change at multiple scales, addressing some of the major environmental and developmental challenges confronting our world.

Our research centres on understanding the complex relationships between human and environmental systems. Empirically our research concentrates on the cities and regions of Australia and the Asia-Pacific Region and is often undertaken in productive partnerships with a diverse set of contributors.

We are dedicated to producing research outputs that inform policy and practice in order to contribute to a more sustainable, just and resilient world in the face of complex and often surprising changes.

There is a strong track record in research training in geography, planning and interdisciplinary social science across the department. Collaboration with other social and environmental science disciplines is supported, as is cotutelle arrangements with international partners in the doctoral program. 

Staff research includes major projects in urban systems, sustainable transport, Indigenous knowledges, global environmental change, culture and risk in the Asia-Pacific region and environmental justice.

Current student projects include work in Nepal, Taiwan and Bangladesh as well as a range of national and local topics in various elements of geography, planning, political ecology and professional practice.

Research strengths

The Department of Geography and Planning has research strengths in four core areas:

Indigenous geographies and critical development studies of Australia and the Asia-Pacific

Issues of justice are at the heart of work within the Department on Indigenous geographies and critical development studies. In challenging the dominance of western knowledge and colonising processes, our research engages post-­‐development and Indigenous geographies to rethink rights, responsibilities and co-­‐existence. Through innovative approaches, including close collaborations with NGOs, communities, families and place, our research focuses on the interface of Indigenous and local communities, institutional frameworks, governance, sustainability and justice. Our staff, working in Australia, South East Asia, Northeast Asia and New Zealand, are active researchers in Indigenous self-­‐determination and empowerment, Indigenous research methodologies and ethics, water cultures, native title, critical development studies, geographies of aid, social vulnerability, adaptation and community participation.

Staff: Sara Fuller, Richie Howitt, Andrew McGregor, Jessica McLean, Fiona Miller, Sandie Suchet-Pearson.

Urban governance, planning, housing studies and home

Planning and urban governance have implications for the social and economic performance of cities and nations. Our research centres on unpacking the ways cities are managed and experienced by policy makers, the private sector and the urban public. In particular, the Department has research strengths in planning system regulations and reform, metropolitan and strategic planning, social housing delivery and management, community participation and resistance to planning and development, urban regeneration and renewal, local government urban management, urban global policy transfer, sustainable urbanism, social impact assessment, and experiences and perceptions of home.

Staff: Robyn Dowling, Sara Fuller, Donna Houston, Richie Howitt, Kristian Ruming, Greg Walkerden, Alison Ziller.

Climate change adaptation and mitigation

Environmental change and responses to change have social, cultural and political implications that are highly uneven across space, time and society. As one of the most significant challenges facing the world today, climate change has implications for other global challenges such as poverty and global inequality, urbanisation, human security, food security and biodiversity. Social challenges associated with climate change are particularly apparent in terms of social-­‐ecological resilience, food, energy and transport systems, international aid, and decision making on mitigation and adaptation. Staff from the Department currently engage in research on a range of climate-­‐related issues including: urban and rural climate adaptation and policy, vulnerability assessment, low carbon transitions, climate justice and activism, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+), alternative food pathways, climate and environmental history, floods, drought and climate finance.

Staff: Robyn Dowling, Sara Fuller, Donna Houston, Andrew McGregor, Jessica McLean, Fiona Miller, Emily O'Gorman, Greg Walkerden.

Environmental humanities, environmental management and political ecology

The human dimensions of environmental change highlight the complexity of life in the Anthropocene, where the boundaries between society and environment are problematized and where there is increasing recognition of the 'more-­‐than-­‐human' worlds we inhabit. Our environmental humanities, environmental management and political ecology research themes focus on new approaches to understanding human-­‐environment relations on a dynamic planet. Our research focuses on connections across social and environmental systems and boundaries. Staff draw on a range of cross-­‐cultural, interdisciplinary, historical and philosophical approaches that bridge theory and practice and which support just and resilient ways of living with and managing environments. Current research includes: environmental governance, phenomenology and environment, human-­‐wildlife conflicts and co-­‐operations, politics in agricultural landscapes and hydrological systems, watershed management, environmental management practice, Indigenous environmental knowledge and management, and political ecologies of food, waste and waste.

Staff: Donna Houston, Andrew McGregor, Jessica McLean, Fiona Miller, Emily O'Gorman, Sandie Suchet-Pearson, Greg Walkerden.

Research collaborations and partnerships

Members of staff have conducted research for local councils, state government agencies, non-government organisations, international aid agencies, community organisations and private consultancies. The Department has strong research collaborations with universities across the Asia-Pacific, including Kyoto University and University of Malaysia Sabah.

In the 2012 Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) Macquarie University was ranked as being at "world standard" for both Human Geography and Planning. The Department of Geography and Planning has an excellent success rate in securing funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC), with five Discovery projects and one Linkage projects awarded to staff over the past five years. The Department also plays a central role in the Macquarie-Ryde Futures Partnership, with Professor Richie Howitt, the Partnership Director, located in the Department.

We welcome enquiries about our research and potential research collaborations and partnerships. Potential higher degree research students (PhD and Master of Research) and postdoctoral research fellows are encouraged to contact the Department of Geography and Planning about research opportunities.

Social Impacts Australia

Macquarie University is a world leader in social impact assessment (SIA) offering a dedicated specialist discipline in this important field of study. The approach to SIA teaching at Macquarie embodies the University's values of scholarship, integrity and empowerment, specifically the underlying need for all institutions to conduct themselves ethically, equitably, and for mutual benefit with the people that use and share resources. Learn more about Social Impacts Australia.

Higher Degree Research (HDR) students

Current HDR students

Ashraful Alam 

Ashraful AlamE:

Project: Margins and more-than-human homes in urban transitional spaces

My research falls under the broad umbrella of political ecology in urban built environment. I am interested in the everyday more-than-human entanglements of ordinary citizens. Drawing on a range of performative methods I explore the non-anthropocentric agencies of homes in urban transitional spaces of coastal cities that are constantly in flux due to climate change-induced displacement. Being attentive to the mundane encounters with non-human nature in home processes helps me to leave any analytical abstraction or perceived non-presentations (i.e., homelessness, dispossession) to explore life at the margin. My ongoing PhD explores how thinking through ‘home' informs an emerging ecology of nature-culture giving a hint to an alternate mode of production of space in those apparently non-plannable liminal sites, from the 'below'.

See Ashraful's Academia profile

Sunita Chaudhary

Sunita ChaudharyE:

Research interest

I am a forester with interdisciplinary research interests in human-environment relationship. Over the last 5 years, I have been involved in different projects on people and protected areas, biodiversity and ecosystems management to inform better landscape planning and management in the Hindu Kush Himalayas. My current PhD research is focused on ecosystem services and differentiated human wellbeing. I am trying to understand how the globalized ‘ecosystem services’ concept can be more just and inclusive to shape the wellbeing of the invisible sections of a society, with a case study in Nepal. Currently, I am visiting Department of Geography, University of Cambridge and working with Prof. Bill Adams to understand how, and why the costs and benefits of ecosystems are distributed among different social groups, and how injustices are created. With this, I aim to critically explore equity and justice with implications on ecosystem services discourse.

  • International Macquarie University Research Excellence Scholarship (iMQRES) (2013-2017)
  • Nuffic Fellowship 2013 for training grant on climate change adaptation, Uganda
  • National Academic Excellence Award 2010, Government of Nepal
  • East West Center Fellowship (2008-2009) for Asia Pacific Leadership Program (APLP), United States of America
  • International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) Fellowship 2006 for“Biodiversity Assessment and Monitoring (Field Techniques for Conservation Research) Training Course” at Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, United States of America
  • North-South Dialogue Scholarship 2005-2007, Austrian Exchange Service (ÖAD), Austria for M.Sc in Protected Areas Management
  • Prince Bernhard Scholarship (PBS) 2003 by WWF International, Gland, Switzerland
  • Winrock Women Scholarship 2002, Winrock International Nepal and Ford Foundation
  • Tharu Merit Scholarship 2001, Tribhuvan University, Government of Nepal
Research Grants
  • Rufford Small grant 2009 for project entitled “A Participatory Dolphin Conservation Initiative in the Koshi River of Eastern Nepal”
  • Rufford Small Grant 2006 for research entitled “Status of, and Threats to, the Ganges River Dolphins (Platanista Gangetica) in the Koshi River, Nepal”
  • Research Grant (2004) by Danish International Development Agency funded Natural Resource Management Sector Assistance Program (NARMSAP) for research entitled “GIS based Range post Level Database Management System of Community Forestry of Kaski District”
  • Research Grant, 2003, Netherlands Development Organization funded Biodiversity Sector Program for Terai and Siwalik (BISEP-ST) for research entitled “Evaluation of Income Generating Activities in Community Forests and Leasehold forests”
  • Travel Grant from United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animas (CMS) (2007-2008)
  • Training Grant by Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and ETH Sustainability, Zürich, Switzerland (2007) to attend “Youth Encounter on Sustainability”
  • Training Grant by EUROPARC Federation, Hamburg, Germany (2006) to attend “Communicating NATURA 2000: training future leaders for communicating NATURA 2000” in Arnhem, The Netherlands.

See Sunita's list of publications

Minna Hsu 

Minna HsuE:

Short description of project: Post-disaster relocation and reconstruction of Indigenous communities in Taiwan

See Minna's Academia profile

Rabiul Islam 

Rabiul IslamE:

Short description of project: My research interests are: community-based disaster risk reduction, social capital and disaster resilience, and climate change adaptation

My current research project is Social capital and cyclones: how households’ social networks contribute to disaster resilience and recovery in Bangladesh. This thesis investigates the contributions of three kinds of social networks to disaster resilience and recovery, following cyclones in Bangladesh: bonding networks (within extended families), bridging networks (amongst neighbours), and linking networks (between households and institutions). Households’ limited physical, financial and human capital limit the support provided through bonding networks. Bridging networks perform well initially, but tend to break down due to competition over access to relief goods. Linking networks provide valuable support, but are marred by corruption. Local civil society is the key to address corruption. The national policy would be more effective if the local social capital is strengthened.

See Rabiul's full profile in ResearchGate

Kate McCauley

Kate McCauleyE:

Kate is currently undertaking a PhD at Macquarie University which is centred on ‘Enhancing sensitivity to subtle forms of communication in real estate development professional practice for the advancement of architectural design and property development processes’. Her research is designed to elicit and distill skillfulness in professional practice in ways which enable project team members and key stakeholders of real estate development to leverage subtle forms of communication for more innovative and creative decision-making during architectural design and property development processes of urban built environments.

Twitter: @ecolibre_com
See Kate's Research Gate profile
See Kate's Academia profile

Nicole K McNamara

Nicole McNamaraE:

Project title: Understanding cycling practices in Sydney

My research project considers the multiplicities of cycling. It uses ideas from social practice theory to map the elements of cycling for different cycling practitioners and, by talking to cycling practitioners about cycling practice, aims to gain a more careful understanding of cycling in Sydney. If cycling is to be considered a viable alternative mobility form by governments, a detailed understanding of the multiplicity of cycling is needed in order to encourage greater uptake.

See project website

Elizabeth Morgan

Elizabeth MorganE:

At the start of the 21st century, the world's food systems are in crisis and a business-as-usual approach will continue to fail. My overarching research question is: how will big cities like Sydney feed themselves when the 'perfect storm' of climate change, peak oil, environmental stress and rapid urbanisation soon is upon us? Contemporary discourses on urban food security make the case for more local solutions while involving food system stakeholders at all scales, from the global to the individual. Within this context, I am analysing and critiquing the role of local government (specifically two local government authorities in Western Sydney), non-governmental organisations and alternative food networks in attempting to address food (in)security, its causes, and possible remedies.

See Elizabeth's ResearchGate profile
See Elizabeth's Academia profile

Wayne Williamson

Wayne WilliamsonE:

Project: Social media and participation in planning

Description: This research seeks to investigate the use of social media by community groups and government agencies during strategic planning processes. The researcher hopes to gain an understanding of whether social media is improving communications between communities and planning authorities, who is involved and what they contribute.

See Wayne's website
See Wayne's Academia profile

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