My research encompasses the knowledge systems that express the dynamics of our planet, its ecosystems, geophysical processes and interactions that human societies have with the natural world to survive and prosper. I am especially interested in climate change, ocean health, food-biodiversity systems and the circular bioeconomy and issues of uncertainty, resilience, complexity and the information dynamics of large networks.
I am currently engaged in field work, data analysis and development of theoretical frameworks for knowledge subsystems on natural prosperity – the explicit measures of society’s dependency on nature necessary to sustain wellbeing and prosperity, sustainable development more broadly, sustainable ocean economy, regenerative agriculture, equitability, transformation, resilience and institutional and cognitive aspects of social capital. The development of these knowledge subsystems draws on data and information from earth observation satellites, in-situ measurements, experimental data, fuzzy logic, agent based and non-linear modelling, statistical surveys, mapping, citizen science, community co-laboratories, textual data analysis of social media, news, institutional and academic publications, various semantic technologies including knowledge graphs and ontologies.
To tackle such a broad topic, I work with researchers and communities across the world on human health and the dynamics of environments ranging from the abyssal depths of the ocean to atolls and the major surface currents, the atmosphere and climate systems, polar and coastal ecosystems, upland regions and mountains, rural settlements, and cities. I also work closely with communities and peoples from different indigenous societies, of varying beliefs and ideologies and living in economies at different stages of development. Together we are using an organic approach to discover, co-create, document and curate the knowledge about how the power of our living planet can be used to scale up climate change actions and ensure greater prosperity for all.
I am based in IGP and the Faculty of Engineering and in Kenya at Strathmore University Business School in the Institute for Public Policy and Governance and at the IGP Prosperity Co-Lab; I am also the Frank Jackson Gresham Professor of the Environment. Previously at UCL, I was a Professor in Earth Sciences and Mathematics. Previously, I was Chief Scientist, Chief Statistician and Global Science Director in UN Environment, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency, Director of the NERC Coastal and Marine Centres, Professor in Biological Sciences at Warwick University, Director of Theoretical Ecology at the Forschung Zentrum Jülich, Fellow at Darwin College Cambridge, Associate Professor at the Honda Institute at Cranfield Institute of Technology, Fellow of the International Federation of Institutes for Advanced Studies, and Senior Scientist in Fisheries and Ocean Canada. I hold Honorary Doctorates and Fellowships from University of Kent, Bangor and Keele, am a Knight of the Order of St James (Monaco) for contributions to marine science, awarded the 2017 Geospatial Ambassador, Geospatial World Award, 2013 Global Citizen, Global Spatial Data Initiative, the Il monitor del Giardino Award (Italy), Masaryk Gold Medal (Czech Republic), Minerva Prize (Germany), Jubileum Award (Sweden) and am a elected fellow of the Linnean Society, and Society of Arts and Manufacturing. I have served on various advisory bodies of the UN, Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, World Bank and EU and am a member of the International Network of Government Scientific Advisors, European Bank for Development for Reconstruction Environment and Social Advisory Committee, and European, UK and Kenyan Space Agencies. I am a trustee of various foundations and on the board of community organisation for waste management and women’s empowerment in Kenya.
I currently have research projects on hotspot analysis of climate change and the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity in agri-food systems in the forests and savannah of Kenya, air quality in east African cities, global marine litter and plastics, sustainable ocean economy, COVID detection and reporting, ecosystem extension to the UN Climate Change Bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Storage instrument. I lecture on a range of topics including sustainable development, human security, gender, international conflict negotiation, data analytics and natural resources management. I have more than 200 publications covering a wide range of topics in ecology, environmental economics, governance, policy and legal instruments, mathematics, and information science. I have a number of software applications for fuzzy logic and decision-making under conditions of uncertainty including SimCoast, FloodRanger and a number of radio series including Nature’s Numbers and award winning films including Ocean Planet, Planet ReThink, Our Arctic Challenge and One Degree Matters.