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Dr Mark Pelling

Professor Mark Pelling

Mark PellingProfessor

Tel:  +44 (0)20 7848 2462 

Department of Geography 
King's College London Office: Bush House North East Wing, Room 6.19 


Mark is Professor of Geography. Before this he was based at the Department of Geography, University of Liverpool, UK and the University of Guyana. His research interests are in the institutions and social relationships that shape vulnerability and adaptation to natural disasters, including those associated with climate change, and in the ways in which conflicting values and practices of development inform resilience and transformation in the face of environmental change.

Mark has served as a coordinating author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) and its Fifth Assessment Report. He also sits on the Scientific Steering Committees for the IGBP-IHDP core project Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone (LOICZ) and the ICSU core project Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR). 

BSc (Hull), MSc (Heriot-Watt), PhD (Liverpool)

Mark convenes an MA in Disasters Adaptation and Development which includes the student managed blog Masters of Disaster.

Research interests
  • disaster risk reduction
  • adaptation to climate change
  • urban political ecology

I am interested in better understanding the social production of vulnerability to environmental change and hazard, and in partnering with practitioner organisations in promoting proactive and egalitarian international risk reduction agendas. In recent years I have published on disaster risk reduction, adaptation to climate change and resilience and transformation.

Over the last decade and more, individual projects have enabled me to engage in risk indexing using quantitative and qualitative methodologies working from the local to the global scale. A string of projects have allowed me to explore the social dynamics surrounding learning systems in organisations, communities and urban governance regimes as actors seek to cope with hazard and adapt to climate change.

Most recently I have explored the notion of transformation as a pathway for adaptation and as a repost to the predominant and (though not essentially) de facto conservative application of resilience framings for adaptive action.

Field work has taken me to explore experiences of risk and its management in Guyana, Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Russia and Haiti. With colleagues at King’s I have also focussed on London and in particular vulnerability to and adaptation in the management of heat wave and drought risk. 



Pelling M and Wolfe T with ARUP and UCL Seasonal health and climate change resilience for ageing urban populations: the development of vulnerability indices for selected cities and priorities, NERC Research Grant, £200k (£50k to KCL). 

Pelling M and Visman E with Christian Aid, To develop transformational solutions to climate variability and disasters in Burkina. DFID, Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters programme, Full Grant, £2m (£219,000 to KCL), 2015-2017 

Pelling M and Visman E with Christian Aid, Building capacity in Ethiopia to find transformational solutions to climate variability and disasters, DFID, Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters programme, Full Grant, £2m (£221,000 to KCL), 2015-2017

Thomalla, F, Schipper, L., Pelling, M., Howitt., R., Calgaro, E.ISSC Transformations to Sustainability Programme Seed Fund Grant, Transformative Knowledge Network on Context, Culture and Environmental Risk E29.600 2014-15.

Pelling M, Johnson, C, Satterthwaite D Parnell S et al, ESRC Programme Grant, Urban African Risk and Capacity, £4 million (£800k to King’s) 2014-2017. 

Pelling, M (lead PI), Agboola, J., Birhmann, J, Grimmond, S., Solecki. W., Ramachandran, R., M Yamamuro. Transformation and Resilience on Uran Coasts, Belmont Forum Coastal Vulnerability Grant, £1m (£200k to KCL), 2013-2015

Karger M (lead PI).; Orsini, J., Pelling., M., Merill, S., Nunes, L., Chou, S., Aragao, S., Grimmond, S., Reynolds, C., Kartez, J., Lockman, J., Vairavamooth, K. Metropole, Belmont Forum Coastal Vulnerability Grant, £1m (£275k to KCL), 2013-2015 

Pelling, M PEARL: Preparing for extreme and rare events in coastal regions, EU FP7 Grant, E5m (£280k to KCL), 2014-2017.

Pelling M, Blackburn, S. ‘The Risk Social Contract’, ESRC International PhD Partnering Scheme grant with the University of Manila, £7k, 2013-2015

Malamud, B., Drake, N., Pelling, M. ‘LAMPRE: Landslide modeling and tools for vulnerability assessment preparedness and recovery management’, EU FP7 Grant, £250k to KCL, 2012-2014.

Pelling M, Grimmond S. ‘emBrace: Building resilience amongst communities in Europe’, EU FP7 Grant # 283201, £317K to King’s 2011-2015

Pelling M Australian Research Council International Collaboration Award of AUD7,500, part of a larger grant (AUD 215,000) on the Demographic Consequences of Asian Disasters: Mortality, Family Formation, Fertility and Migration Patterns, to work with colleagues at the Australian National University. 2011-2014.

Since 1998 Mark has completed a further 14 research grants (9 as lead researcher)

PhD topics
  • Communication between NGOs and the State in disaster relief 
  • Community based risk and vulnerability assessment
  • Global indicators of disaster risk, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change or natural disasters
  • Urban risk governance 
PhD students

Jose Di Bella 
Climate Change and Disasters: Cooperation Strategies and Partnerships for Climate Change Adaptation in the Americas

Fanny Frick 
Riskscapes of flooding in a rapidly urbanising coastal region: The case of the Densu Delta, Accra, Ghana (with Antje Bruns, Humboldt University Berlin)

Erin Roberts 
Climate Change Loss and Damage Assessment and Opportunities for Social Change in Bangladesh


Sophie Blackburn
(Re)Negotiating the risk social contract? Impacts of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami on state-society relations in Tamil Nadu and the Andaman Islands

Joel Gill
'Natural Hazards and Multi-Hazard Risk in Small Urban Areas', NERC-ESRC (first supervisor, Professor Bruce Malamud)

Rebecca Enderby

Miracle plants? The political, social and ecological impacts of indigenous biofuels on marginal land in India

Hazel Webber
'Vulnerability and Adaptation Amongst a Sea-Gypsy Community', self-funded (with Dr Debby Potts)

Justin Sharpe 
'A critical assessment of disaster risk reduction pedagogy' (with Dr Daanish Mustafa)


Dr Park Hyungguen

'Political negotiation and for formation of national climate change policy: A comparison of South Korea and Finland' (co-supervisor, Dr Daanish Mustafa

Dr Michael Gilmont 

Political negotiation and for formation of national climate 'Water governance: forms, emergence and implications of a new water policy system, with Tony Allan, (2009-2013)

Dr Sarah Pellegrin 
Integrating urban design and peacekeeping principals for regenerating the urban environment following violent conflict, with Tim Bulter, (2008-2012)

Dr Maria de Lourdes Melo Zurita
Environmental policy and local impacts in southern countries, with Michael Redclfit, (2007- 2012)

Dr Ahoura Meskinazarian 
Social resilience in reconstruction of post-disaster Bam, with Daanish Mustafa  (2006-2012)

Dr Erin Smith

‘Communication and disaster risk management in Sri Lanka’, ORS (second supervisor Daanish Mustafa)

Dr Jennifer Holden
'Myth and reality: heavy metals from irrigation water to the dinner table evidence from Zambia’, self/King’s College funded/DFID (co-supervision with Bruce Malamud)

Dr David Wrathall
'Reconstructing urban governance post Mitch: Honduras' (second supervisor Daanish Mustafa)

Dr Simon Gosling
Quantify uncertainties associated with climate change health impact assessments. NERC Case with MetOffice (primary supervisor Glenn McGregor) (2004-2009)

Dr Tanja Wolf

The development of a vulnerability index for predicting the spatial variation of heat related mortality in large European cities, KCL (primary supervisor Glenn McGregor) (2004-2009)

Dr Paulo Amaral

'Managing the risk of oil spills in the European maritime space', Foundation for Science and Technology, Ministry for science and technology, Lisbon (second supervisor David Demeritt).(2005-2009)

Dr Edward Bourque
‘Urban governance and unequal geographies of water access in Dar-es-Salaam’, self funded (second supervisor Debby Potts) (2004-2009)

Dr Llewellyn Leonard
‘Environmental Justice in Southern Africa’, Ford Foundation (second supervisor Debby Potts) (2005-2009)

Dr Marco Grasso
‘The role of distributive justice in the development of a political economy of adaptation to climate change’, self-funded, part-time (primary supervisor Michael Redclift) (2005-2008)

Dr Theresa Ferguson
‘The discursive construction of sustainable development in Jamaica’, Commonwealth Scholar (2001-2005)

Dr Sarah Brennan
‘The social, economic and environmental auditing of the social economy on Merseyside’, ESRC CASE (Liverpool City Council). (2002-2005)

Dr Quingan Yu‘
Privatisation and peri-urban land-use in China’, ORS (2002-2006)


MA Disasters, Adaptation and Development, Programme Director

As director of the Disasters, Adaptation and Development (DAD) programme my role is to oversee the academic content, ethos and professional trajectory of our students and alumni. We take post-degree trajectory as seriously as in-degree learning opportunities. 


Disasters and Development

A required module for the DAD degree, here we focus on the broad theoretical positioning of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation within sustainable development and focus on core policy areas such as urbanisation.

Practicing Social Research

Also a required DAD module, we meet as a group in seminars to follow-up on and discuss content delivered through lectures on research methods and management. Much is student led.

Environment and Livelihoods

A module open to any interested in international development, I contribute a lecture on resilience and its conceptualisation.

Thesis supervision

In line with the DAD approach to promoting career development and service to the humanitarian sector through our student work I supervise students working with a number of host organisations through thesis internships - for example the Red Cross, Oxfam, Save the Children and Y-CARE International


2nd year: SG20147 Fieldwork (India) in Human and Development Geography

I coordinate this field class which is one of the highlights of the academic year. We start with a series of lectures on the development history and context of Kerala and then work in small groups to develop mini-research projects selected by students. These project are then implemented in the field class. 

3rd year : Current Research in Geography

A great opportunity to challenge myself and students with my most up-to-date research ideas and results, usually around an aspect of vulnerability to disaster including climate change- how it is measured and managed.

Thesis supervision

Undergraduate students are able to undertake a wide range of thesis topics with staff working to make sure that the conceptual and methodological frameworks are appropriate and doable - a real opportunity to celebrate the importance of diversity in the geographical tradition of research.

with the School of Medicine & Life Sciences

MSc Global Health with Disasters, Adaptation and Development: International Development, Disasters and Development

Impact, innovation and outreach

Mark is frequently invited to advise government agencies, research councils and humanitarian organisations on aspects of research and policy development for climate change adaptation, resilience and transformation and disaster risk reduction. Below are listed some of the more formal consultancies and longer-standing committee service roles has performed. 

International/Expert Advisory Board Memberships

UKCDS Disasters Research Group, board member

LOICZ, Scientific Steering Committee

IRDR, Scientific Steering Committee

Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre, International Advisory Board

United Nations University – Institute for Environment and Human Security, Measuring Vulnerability Expert Group

Recent Consultancy

European Space Agency (PI for KCL, 9/11–8/12, €250k, of which 30.5k€ to KCL). VA-4D – Visual Analysis of 4-Dimensional Fields, Processes & Dynamics. (Co-I: Mark Pelling, KCL). Coordinator: R. Ribeiro, UNINOVA, Universidade Nova Lisboa, Portugal.

Asian Development Bank, Background paper on ‘How to better protect the poor in hazard prone areas: implications of climate change resilience for poverty reduction and environmental policy’ for a conference on The Environments of the Poor, 24-26 Nov 2010, New Delhi (with D Mustafa), £12,000

ISDR, Background paper on urban governance and disaster management for ISDR Global Assessment Review 2010, July 2010, £3,000

Oxfam GB, Systematisation review of urban disaster risk reduction projects in the Caribbean region, May-June 2010, £7,500

UK Government Office for Science, Foresight project on International Dimensions of climate change, commissioned to write a think piece on ‘social capital and climate change’, March 2010 £500.

International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, January 2010, commissioned to write a chapter on Vulnerability to disasters in cities for the World Disasters Report March 2010, £5,000.

World Bank, author of background paper on The urban poor's vulnerability to climate change in low and middle income countries, for a report on the Implications of Climate Change for Urban Social Organization and Policy, with IIED, December 2008, £5,000.

Rockefeller Foundation, report on Adapting to climate change in urban areas: the possibilities and constraints in low- and middle-income nations, with IIED. July 2007, £4,000


ProVention Consortium, write a report on the ProVention Consortium 2007 Annual Partners Meeting on From the grassroots to the global: making people-centred disaster risk reduction work, February 2008, £2,500

Shelter Centre, report on Community participation for a toolkit on Shelter after Disaster: Guidelines for Assistance, 2008, £2,000.

ProVention Consortium, write a report on the ProVention Consortium 2007 Annual Partners Meeting on Incentives for disaster risk reduction, February 2007, £2,500

Tearfund, Examining institutional barriers to disaster risk mainstreaming into development policy within the EU and amongst national governments in poor countries at risk, February-March 2006.

Honorary Positions Held

Associate Fellow of the Institute for the Study of the Americas for the academic year 2005-0


For a full list of publications, please visit Mark's research profile.


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