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Dr Helen Adams

Dr Helen Adams

Adams HelenEmail:

Department of Geography 
King's College London 
Office: Bush House North East Wing, Room 6.18




Helen is an environmental social scientist working on the subjective dimensions of human interactions with environmental change, with a focus on marginal regions of low income countries.

Helen joined in November 2015 from Geography at the University of Exeter, where she worked with Neil Adger on the linkages between human wellbeing and natural resource dependence in marginal populations of Bangladesh, as part of the Espa funded project ‘Assessing Health, Livelihoods, Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation in Populous Deltas’ (Espa Deltas). Helen completed her PhD at the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia in 2012. Her thesis examined the role of the environment in migration decision-making in rural Peru.

Prior to starting her PhD, Helen worked with the Climate Change Expert Group at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris on policy frameworks for adaptation to climate change in the water sector and at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat supporting negotiations on adaptation and the implementation of the Nairobi Work Programme. 

Helen is a Contributing Author on the Human Security chapter in the IPCC‘s Fifth Assessment Report, Working Group 2.

Working with Mark Pelling, Helen convenes the Centre for Integrated Research on Resilience and Risk – a college-wide initiative to promote research that critically examines the conceptualisation and use of resilience across three intersecting global challenges: climate change and disaster reduction, conflict and security; and human health.


BSc Natural Sciences, Durham University 
MRes Environmental Social Science, University of East Anglia 
PhD Environmental Social Science, University of East Anglia

Research Interests
  • Migration under environmental change
  • Ecosystem services and wellbeing linkages
  • Subjective wellbeing and environmental change
  • Transformations and socio-ecological resilience
  • Adaptation to climate change
  • Immobility and place attachment

Helen’s research falls under three areas: migration and immobility under environmental change, ecosystem services for poverty alleviation; and transformations and socio-ecological resilience.

Migration under environmental change
Helen has been active member of the environmental migration research community since 2008. Using ideas from behavioural migration theory, her research explores why people stay in marginal locations despite multiple incentives to leave. Subjective dimensions are often excluded from analyses of migration under environmental change despite the fact that residential satisfaction, place attachment and mobility potential are important dimensions of the decision to migrate. Helen is involved in the project Deltas, Vulnerability & Climate Change: Migration & Adaptation (Deccma) which takes a system approach to understanding the conditions under which migration constitutes a successful adaptation to climate change in deltas.

Ecosystem services for poverty alleviation
In Espa Deltas, Helen investigated the ways in which people gain multi-dimensional wellbeing from ecosystem services in resource dependent households across a range of socio-ecological systems in coastal Bangladesh. She focuses on the micro-level social processes that prevent the benefits of ecosystem services accruing to the poorest; subjective, material and health-related wellbeing, and the impact of the dominant socio-ecological system. She led on the implementation of a longitudinal 1500 household survey in seven socio-ecological systems to quantitatively analyse these factors and provide data on managing the natural environment to benefit the poor

Transformations and socio-ecological resilience
Helen has applied a socio-ecological systems approach to land use change in Bangladesh in order to understand the complex role of land use change in poverty alleviation. In particular, Helen is interested in the ideas of irreversibility and how to manage the legacy of past land use transformations in a constantly evolving world. Helen is also interested in understanding mobility of people and ecosystem services between different socio-ecological systems at moments of transformation.

PhD students

David Smedley, co-supervised with Mark Mulligan, researching the potential for low- and zero-cost agricultural adaptations to low rainfall in Burkina Faso.


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