Catherine Walker

Catherine Walker


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Personal profile


I am a Research Associate at Sustainable Consumption Institute, and am afflilated to University of Manchester's Department of Politics. I am also an Honorary Researcher at the School of Geography, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Melbourne.

As an interdisciplinary social scientist, my work is predominantly located in child and youth geographies, but extends into and is theoretically informed by environmental politics, sociology of childhood and the family, political geographies and critical environmental education.

I am currently leading the ESRC-funded New Investigators project ‘Young people at a crossroads: Negotiations of environmental knowledges, practices and subjectivities in immigrant homes at a time of climate crisis' (Jan 2021- Feb 2023; ES/T015594/1). This project will generate unique understandings into how families composed of first and second generation immigrants from the Global South (GS) are responding to lived experiences of climate crisis in two ethnically diverse cities: Manchester and Melbourne. This pioneering project will be the first of its kind to conduct research with this often overlooked group of young people, generating insights from two cities, with young people from a range of ethnic backgrounds. The question at the heart of the project is how second generation immigrants - part of the most 'climate change-aware' generation alive today - discuss and negotiate responses to the climate crisis with parents who may have first-hand experience of living with resource and climate uncertainty, yet whose knowledge is often not valued in Global North contexts. 

I am a co-Investigator on the Leverhulme Trust-funded project ‘Towards Inclusive Environmental Sustainabilities’ (Jan 2021-Jan 2024), led by Dr Sherilyn MacGregor.


I gained my PhD in Sociology from UCL Institute of Education in March 2016. My thesis considered children's (aged 11-14) experiences, understandings and practices of environment in India and England. This PhD was linked to the ESRC-funded project 'Family Lives and the Environment' (FLE) and part of the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods node 'Narratives of Varied Everyday Lives and Linked Approaches' (NOVELLA). My PhD was supervised by Professor Ann Phoenix (UCL Institute of Education; Principal Investigator on NOVELLA and Co-Investigator on FLE) and Professor Janet Boddy (University of Sussex; Principal Investigator on FLE). Along with Ann, Janet and Professor Uma Vennam (SPMV Women's University, Tirupathi, India) I am a co-author of a book based on the Family Lives and the Environment project, entitled 'Environment in the Lives of Children and Families'.

From October 2016 - August 2017 I was based in the Geography department at Leicester University, where I worked as a post-doctoral researcher on the cross-institutional ESRC/Newton-funded project '(Re)Connect the Nexus: Young Brazilians' learning about and participation in the food-water-energy nexus' under the supervision of Dr Ben Coles, Co-Investigator on (Re)Connect the Nexus. 

In August 2017 I was elected Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group.

I joined the Sustainable Consumption Institute, University of Manchester in February 2018 and for almost two years, I worked with Dr Sherilyn MacGregor and Dr Tally Katz-Gerro to develop a research agenda on the intersecting axes of social difference that shape individuals’ engagement with environmental governance, particularly governance aimed at making household practices more sustainable. This intensive collaboration resulted in pioneering research on migrant understandings of sustainability with Somali residents of Manchester, seed funding to collaborate with colleagues at the University of Melbourne to further develop this research agenda, and two international research projects funded by ESRC and the Leverhulme Trust, which I returned to the Sustainable Consumption Institute to work on in January 2021. 

From January - December 2020 I worked as a Teaching Fellow in Human Geography at University of Birmingham, co-leading final year undergraduate modules on Geographies of Children and Young People, and Geography in the Classroom, an innovative placement module run in partnership with the School of Education. I also supervised final year undergraduate and masters dissertation students, and taught human geography research methods and foundations in social geography.

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

Secretary, Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group (2017-2021).

Member of European Sociological Association Biannual Conference 2019 Local Organising Committee.

Research interests

Children and youth agency; environmental/sustainability education; intergenerational household negotiations; the food-water-energy nexus; feminist and post-human ethics frameworks; cross-national research; Latin America.

Methodological knowledge

Narrative analysis; mobile interviewing; photo elicitation; research with children and young people; interviewing in translation; group interviews; secondary analysis of qualitative data; ethics and practice of transcribing and translating qualitative data.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, University College London (UCL)

1 Oct 201127 Mar 2016

Award Date: 30 Apr 2016

Master of Social Science, School of Advanced Study, University of London

1 Sept 20081 Sept 2010

Award Date: 30 Sept 2010

Bachelor of Arts, Hispanic Studies, University of Nottingham

1 Sept 200330 Jun 2007

Award Date: 30 Jun 2007

Areas of expertise

  • H Social Sciences (General)
  • Environmental Sociology
  • Sociology of Childhood and the Family
  • Geographies of Children and Youth
  • Environmental politics

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global inequalities
  • Sustainable Futures
  • Sustainable Consumption Institute


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