Investigating the biggest issues facing our planet

Human actions and human-driven climate change are fundamentally altering the Earth’s surface. As global warming continues and as the world becomes progressively more populated, industrialisedand urbanised, the environmental impacts of human activity only increase.

EnvironmentalGeographyexaminesboththephysical processesonEarthas well ashuman-environmentinteractions. Drawing from the natural andsocial sciences,Physical and EnvironmentalGeographersseek to understand the applied and conceptual challengesfacing our planet.

Associated schools, institutes & centres


We investigatenatural and anthropogenic processesand responses. Fromecological degradationtolow-lying coastal transformation,urban green infrastructureand sustainable agricultural practices, weseek tounderstandthehuman impactonournatural environment. We uselong-term records, participatory perspectives to urban and rural development,Geographic Information Systems(GIS)andRemote Sensingtoassess humaninteractions withthe natural world.

Our research isshowcased in high impact, peer-reviewed journals that influence policy—from local to global scales in rural sector economic development, smart urban food systems, environmental protection, conservation of biodiversityand coastal planning.

Competitive advantage

  • Wehavea global impact, evidenced by ’s favourable 2020 global ranking –#13 inRemote Sensing. Our engagement with theand theto build research and teaching capacity in African institutions further demonstratesour role in’s Global 2025 Strategy.
  • Our many collaborations extend to countries including China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Zambia, Ghana,and South Africa.

Successful applications

  • With funding from the University of Western Australia, we held experimental workshops at Gulu University (Uganda) with the Mayor of Gulu, the Vice-Chancellor of Gulu University, town planners, and other stakeholders to conduct mapping experiments to explore smart city urban design possibilities. We have been invited to continue this work in other Ugandan cities.
  • Recent research funded by the Australian Alps Liaison Committee investigated the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to measure and monitor the streambank impacts of feral horses. This work has made an important contribution to the body of science seeking to protect the unique natural environment of the Australian High Country and its vulnerable natural resources.
  • Other recent research has contributed to the management and conservation of biological diversity on Australia’s extensive Defence estate. DAMASCAS (Defence Automated Monitoring and Survey using Cameras and Sound) funded by the Defence Support Group, has developed protocols for cost-effective and humane monitoring of multiple faunal groups at landscape scales.


Wecollaborate with partners across the globeincluding:

  • Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute
  • FourahBay College, University of Sierra Leone
    • Nop, S.,Thornton, A.(2020).CitiesVol.103IF: 3.85; Scopus SNIP:1.91;SCImagoSJR Q1.

    • Cochrane, L., Lewis, S.,Mastawesha, ME.,Thornton, A.,and Welbourne, D. (2019).Journal of Arid EnvironmentsVol. 175IF:1.82; Scopus SNIP:1.02;SCImagoSJR Q2.

    • Thornton, A. (ed) (2020)Urban Food Democracy and Governance in North and SouthPalgrave MacMillan. ISBN 978-3-030-17186-5

    • Islam,M.A.,Paull,D.J.,Griffin,A.L., andMurshed,S. (2020).International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction,Vol. 49, pp. 101667 - 101667,

    • Guo, Y., Jia, X., andPaull D.(2018),IEEE Transactions on Image Processing, vol. 27, pp. 3036- 3048,

    • Welbourne, D.J., MacGregor, C.,Paull, D., andLindenmayer, D.B. (2015),Wildlife Research, vol. 42, pp. 414 - 414,

    • Joseph, V.,Thornton, A., Pearson, S.,Paull., D.(2013),Natural Hazards,vol. on-line June 2013, pp. 675 - 694,

    • Oliver TSN; Tamura T; Murray-Wallace CV, 2020, '', Marine Geology, vol. 421, 

    • Carvalho RC;Oliver TSN; Woodroffe CD, 2019, '', Geomorphology, vol. 341, pp. 65 - 78, 

    • Tamura T;Oliver TSN; Cunningham AC; Woodroffe CD, 2019, '', Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 46, pp. 4705 -4714, 

Study with us

Physical and Environmental Geography teaches undergraduate and postgraduate coursework in a broad range of topics dealing with real-life environmental change issues and the great global challenges of our time.

Our researchers

 Brian Lees
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