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lauren.rickards 'at'

Dr Lauren Rickards

Research Fellow, MSSI

Email: lauren.rickards 'at'

Phone: 9035 7577


Lauren is a critical human geographer currently working as a Research Fellow in the Melbourne School of Land and Environment and Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute. In this role, she works on the socio-political and cultural aspects of sustainability issues with a range of academic and practitioner groups, including the Primary Industries Adaptation Research Network (PIARN) (, the Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research ( and the community farmer organisation Birchip Cropping Group ( She also lectures across a range of subjects within and beyond the faculty, including leading the Masters subject Interdisciplinary and Environment for the Office of Environmental Programs.

From 2006-2009, Lauren worked as an Associate Partner at RM Consulting Group, consulting to various public, private and community sector groups on strategic rural and sustainability issues. Prior to joining RMCG, she was Vice-Principal of Janet Clarke Hall, one of the University of Melbourne’s academic colleges, and a post-graduate student and non-stipendiary lecturer at the University of Oxford, where she had a Rhodes Scholarship. A fellow and inaugural chair of the Board of the Centre for Sustainability Leaders Fellowship Program (, she is now Deputy Chair of the Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Network (

At Oxford, Lauren did a D.Phil. in critical feminist and rural political geography on the gendered and humanist construction of the "ideal agriculturalist" in formal agricultural education institutions. She also completed a MSc in Environmental Change and Management with a biogeography dissertation in the Canary Islands, building on the interdisciplinary nature of her earlier studies.

Areas of interest

Lauren's primary research interest is the intersection of power, identity and socio-environmental change. She is particularly interested in the imagined geographies of climate change adaptation, the humanist ideals they reflect, and the governance issues they pose. Her recent research explores the role of citizenship ideals and knowledge claims in shaping our response to climate variability and change, particularly within the rural context.

Lauren has worked collaboratively with a wide range of colleagues within and beyond academia on climate change adaptation, rural change, governance and knowledge production. Her work combines a deep intellectual interest in geographical theory with a compassionate understanding of the myriad issues facing diverse practitioners working on and in the context of environmental change, whether researchers, policy makers, local governments or farm families. In a wide range of contexts, she tries to extend recognition of the inherently political character of current ideals, governance structures and seemingly innocent practices and representations, and to examine the implications of this politics for social change initiatives such as climate change adaptation.

Current research

  • PIARN – Lauren is completing a number of tasks for PIARN of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, including some collaborative writing with other PIARN members, the literature review for the update of the National Adaptation Research Plan and a literature review for a project on adapting smallholder Filipino farmers to climate variability and climate change funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.
  • MSSI – Through a University of Melbourne Career Interruption Fellowship housed at Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI), Lauren is pursuing a range of writing projects stemming from previous work, as well as new work with MSSI colleagues John Wiseman and Taegen Edwards on Climate Transformations (
  • Melbourne Interdisciplinary Collaboration Exploration – Led by Lauren, this ongoing project uses the University of Melbourne’s Interdisciplinary Seed Grant funding scheme as a window onto researchers’ experiences and perceptions of interdisciplinary research in the contemporary research setting. Phase One is now complete (the report can be found at and papers will be available soon.

Recently completed research

  • Critical Breaking Point? The effects of climate variability, climate change and other stressors on farm households – Lauren led this unusual social research study into the effects of climate extremes and other pressures on farm households. Longitudinal, in-depth and relatively large scale, the project tracks the experiences and perceptions of farmers and their families in the North-West of Victoria between 2007 and 2011, capturing a period characterised by severe drought and flood as well as pronounced economic pressures and climate change discourse. Conducted with the help of trained local interviewers, the project was funded in different phases by the Tattersall’s George Adams Foundation, the Rural Innovation, Research and Development Corporation and the Sustainable Agriculture Platform Initiative. Two extensive reports are available at A short piece based on the project is also available on The Conversation website:
  • Scenarios for Climate Adaptation project – Lauren worked as a Research Fellow on this twelve month study led by Professor John Wiseman. The project explored the role of scenario-based processes in helping government and others address the paradox that climate change intensifies the need to consider the long-term while introducing deep uncertainty about what that future holds. Lauren has spoken about this project in various fora, including presentations at the recent climate change symposium held by the Royal Society of Victoria and to the University of Exeter. She is currently coordinating the production of a journal special issue of papers on themes related to the project. A report, guidebook, presentations and working papers are available at ( and a related piece is on The Conversation website:

Future Research

  • Identity, space and climate change adaptation – Conceptually and practically, climate change adaptation is performed as a new expression of localism. At the same time, climate change and adaptations to it destabilise local assemblages and identities. How these two processes intersect is an area Lauren is keen to work on in the future.
  • Imagined geographies of agriculture and development – Drawing on her D.Phil. work, Lauren is interested in exploring the convergent ways in which agriculture and international development are imagined, their role in representations of time, space and civilisation, and implications for sustainable development agendas and practices. Climate change adaptation again provides a valuable window onto these processes.

Teaching and supervision


  • Interdisciplinarity and the Environment (postgraduate subject MULT90005)
  • Knowing Nature (undergraduate subject 100-187)
  • Sustainability, Policy and Management (undergraduate subject 950-601)
  • Emerging Issues in Land and Food (undergraduate subject NRMT 40001)
  • Social Inclusion and the Politics of Recognition (short course SOTH9005)
  • Climate Change Adaptation (Graduate Cert. in Climate Change for Primary Industry)


  • Upcoming
    PhD – Svenja Keele (climate change adaptation)
  • Past
    Honours - Edward Perrett (valuation of rural groundwater and implications for climate change adaptation)
    Lauren welcomes enquiries from Honours and graduate students interested in applying critical geographical thought to questions of how we imagine and govern socio-environmental change and climate change in particular.