Simon’s research explores how people make sense of their relationships with the natural world, in an era of complex social and environmental change. In particular, Simon is interested in how these meanings shape perceptions of and responses to sustainability challenges, as well as how they are communicated and enacted through management, policy and governance.
Simon’s empirical research to date has predominantly focused on how people create, share and use knowledge within the everyday practice of biodiversity conservation. This has included work on environmental monitoring, adaptive ecosystem management, and adaptive governance. His current research project examines Indigenous land management in northern Australia.
Simon’s work is inter-disciplinary and collaborative in nature, and his unique contribution is to introduce interpretive social science – including work from sociology, policy analysis, science and technology studies, human geography and the environmental humanities – into the emerging trans-disciplinary field of sustainability science.
Simon has a keen interest in the methodological and theoretical development of sustainability science. Methodologically, he is interested in knowledge coproduction, trans-disciplinary and decolonizing research practices, and qualitative methods (including photovoice, q-method, narrative interviews and discourse analysis). Theoretically, he is interested in complexity theory, practice theory, dwelling, actor-network theory, and process/relational philosophy.
Simon received a PhD in Sustainability Science from the Stockholm Resilience Centre in December 2016. In his PhD he explored the creation, interpretation and use of sustainability concepts – including adaptive management, biosphere reserves, biodiversity corridors and planetary boundaries – in a variety of contexts in South Africa and Australia.
Simon holds an MA in Environmental Law and Sustainable Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London), and a BA in American and English Literature from the University of East Anglia. He has extensive experience volunteering in practical conservation projects in the UK, including with the Wildlife Trusts and Natural England.
In 2014, Simon co-designed and ran a PhD course together with Wijnand Boonstra, ‘Why bother with Durkheim? Using (classical) social science to understand the social dynamics of social-ecological systems.’ He has also co-run the SRC’s MSc programme course module ‘Adaptive Governance’ in 2015 and 2017 together with Lisen Schultz.
Research news | 2018-04-19
New study of UNESCO biosphere reserves sheds light on how people learn to live with social-ecological complexity
Research news | 2016-07-13
New study explores new ways of describing the connection between people and planet
Research news | 2015-12-28
'Invasive aliens' is catchy but fails to convey the complexity of environmental systems and change
Research news | 2015-05-18
Practices of the European Court of Human Rights support adaptive governance
2018 - Journal / article
Learning is considered a means to achieve sustainability in practice and has become a prominent goal of sustainability interventions. In this paper we explore how learning for sustainability is shaped by meaning, interpretation and experience, in the context of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves (BRs). The World Network of Biosphere Reserves brings environmental conservation, socio-economic development and research together in ‘learnin...
2016 - Journal / article
‘Success’ is a vigorously debated concept in conservation. There is a drive to develop quantitative, comparable metrics of success to improve conservation interventions. Yet the qualitative, normative choices inherent in decisions about what to measure — emerging from fundamental philosophical commitments about what conservation is and should be — have received scant attention. We address this gap by exploring perceptions of w...
2016 - Journal / article
Adaptive management is an approach to environmental management based on learning-by-doing, where complexity, uncertainty, and incomplete knowledge are acknowledged and management actions are treated as experiments. However, while adaptive management has received significant uptake in theory, it remains elusively difficult to enact in practice. Proponents have blamed social barriers and have called for social science contributi...
2016 - Journal / article
Resilience has emerged as a prominent paradigm for interpreting and shaping human–environment connections in the context of global environmental change. Resilience emphasizes dynamic spatial and temporal change in social–ecological systems where humans are inextricably interwoven with the environment. While influential, resilience thinking has been critiqued for an under-theorized framing of socio-cultural dynamics. In this ...