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Research centres and groups


Research in the Department of Geography is organised through five research domains and five activity hubs. 

Research Domains

The Contested Development research domain at King’s represents one of the largest groupings of development expertise of any Geography department in the UK.

At root, members of the domain adopt a critical approach to the theories, ideologies, practices and politics of development, undertaking empirical research across an array of geographical settings and scales from the international to the local.

We have particular research expertise in Africa, with our members engaged in projects across the continent: Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Ethiopia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
We also have significant expertise in South Asia, areas of the Middle East, Southern Europe and small island states. This feeds into our successful undergraduate and graduate teaching and supports an extensive and vibrant PhD community.

Our research brings together an array of arenas where development matters – the second-hand clothing trade, water resource management, vulnerability to disasters, the politics of global health, modernism and decolonisation, environmentalism, consumption practices, migration and urban livelihoods.

Full details of the Contested Development research domain

The Environmental Dynamics Research Domain (ED) seeks a broader and deeper understanding of Earth’s interacting hydrological, geomorphological, atmospheric and ecological processes.

We were one of the first Geography Research Groups in the UK to focus on linking computer-based simulation modelling and laboratory experimental work to field environmental monitoring campaigns using both in situ sensor networks and satellite/airborne remote sensing, and remain a leader in this field.

This thematically and methodologically integrated strategy remains a key part of our research philosophy, and is used to investigate both contemporary and past environmental systems, processes and variability, and to explore the potential current and future implications of climate disruption, land use change and other anthropogenic interventions.

Some of our science contributes to ‘decision support systems’, guiding public policy and management of natural, semi-natural and urban environments in the UK and overseas.

The work of the group is highly international, encompassing a wide range of Earth environments, including at the global-scale. Key foci are arid/semi-arid areas and aeolian environments, urban environments, closed canopy forests (tropical and high latitude), as well as lakes, estuaries, rivers and the riparian zone.

Full details of the Environmental Dynamics research domain

Spatially-referenced data from a wide range of sources – including personal mobile devices, transport and telecommunications systems, environmental sensor networks – are becoming pervasive throughout science and society, heralding a step-change in the power of geographers to understand the world.

Governments and other organisations are opening up digital archives for immediate public access on data relating crime, health, land, the environment and many other issues.

Together, these aspects of the ‘big data’ digital revolution offer new opportunities to understand environments and societies at multiple scales and to identify alternative pathways through an uncertain future.

However, the nature of these streams of geo-data – massive in quantity and often produced in near real-time – mean that innovative uses of computation are needed to investigate them rigorously and effectively.

The Geocomputation Research Domain supports the development of a robust and replicable approach to analysis, one that builds on and improves existing computational methods and tools to investigate geographical patterns and underlying processes.

We bring together researchers using contemporary data and computational tools and that applies these to investigate pressing challenges in human and physical geography.
Building on advances in hardware, software and coding languages, we develop innovative computational methods to process, analyse, visualise and understand social and environmental change and dynamics.

Full details of the Geocomputation research domain

Exceeding its association with any specific hazard or peril, the concept of ‘risk’ is now central to the social theory and governance of late modernity.

The group brings together scientific expertise on various environmental hazards, such as floods, volcanoes, and water contamination, with work elsewhere across the Department and in the affiliated King’s Centre for Risk Management on risk perception and communication and on the governance and social theory of risk.

This multidisciplinary research group has made major contributions to the development of risk both as a field of academic study and body of policy-relevant know-how.

Full details of the Risk and Society research domain

The world is entering an ‘Urban Age’ it seems.
We continuously hear doomsday predictions about the impending global urban crisis where, for the first time in the history of mankind, more people will be living in cities than in the countryside.
We continuously see impressive graphs, pie charts and simulations of this impending urban age presented by experts and state representatives.

The logics of these predictions often have a dominant framing - rapid urbanisation, uncontrolled migration, resource depletion, severe fuel shortages, and the breakdown of law and order.
We are told that cities in the global north and south alike face severe urban crises in the near future. So, we are told to be prepared.
We are told to use the impending ‘urban age’ as an opportunity to transition into a sustainable urban future.

The Urban Futures research domain in the Department of Geography takes a critical perspective towards this ‘urban age’ thesis by examining how contemporary urban theory and practice shape visions, representations and narratives of the present and future.

We examine ‘urban future’ as more than just an anticipatory logic of crises represented as apocalyptic collapse or sanitised utopias. We are interested in examining how alternative visions of urban futures in planning, governance, citizenship and everyday life are being imagined, contested and lived by people across the world.

We understand the ‘urban’ as a heuristic mode of existence that is punctured through time by struggles for recognition, identity, survival and belonging. Attending to where, how and when these struggles are initiated and fought, builds progressive urban futures.

As a multidisciplinary and collaborative group of urban scholars, we are interested in the question of the ‘future’ as a conceptual, analytical and methodological lens into challenging current paradigms of urban theory, practice and research.

Our research is concerned with three key questions:
How is our understanding of the future shaped by past and present urban crises?
How do we imagine a future with the analytical tools of the present?
What are the alternative histories and timescapes of urban futures?

Full details of the Urban Futures research domain

Activity Hubs

The Earth Observation & Environmental Sensing (EOES) Activity Hub within the Department of Geography acts as a focus for Departmental research using key techniques and technologies that enhance the quantification, process understanding, and monitoring of Earth's natural and human environments.

Full details of the Earth Observation & Environmental Sensing Activity Hub

King’s Climate brings together members of the Department who study climate and its changes across time and space and the interactions of these changes with people and their social and political organisation.

Full details of the King's Climate Activity Hub

Our research has impact

The range and scale of impact delivered through the Department of Geography matches our recognised research excellence. Impact – serving society through our research – is embedded into our research culture.

Fire raging in a forest with smoke rising