Dr Catherine Walker

Research Associate

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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.

Education / academic qualifications

  • 2016 - Doctor of Philosophy University College London (UCL) (2011 - 2016)
  • 2010 - Master of Social Science School of Advanced Study, University of London (2008 - 2010)
  • 2007 - Bachelor of Arts, Hispanic Studies, University of Nottingham (2003 - 2007)

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