Dr Laura Sauls


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Laura studied International Relations and Environmental Science & Policy at the College of William & Mary in Virginia (USA) for her BA before completing the MPhil in Development Studies at the University of Oxford in 2009. After five years working in civil service, and a graduate certificate in GIS (also from William & Mary), she decided to return to academia, completing her PhD in Geography at Clark University (Massachusetts, USA).

Subsequent to her role as a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in Environmental Studies at the College of the Holy Cross (also in Massachusetts), Laura joined the University of Sheffield Department of Geography as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in 2020. She also maintains an affiliation with the Clark University Center for the Study of Natural Resource Extraction and Society (Extractives@Clark).

Drawing on political ecology and critical development studies, Laura examines how resource-governing institutions change, particularly at the community level, in the context of global climate change and political economic shifts. Incorporating an environmental justice lens and a deep commitment to engaged and collaborative research, Laura works with Indigenous and forest-based community organizations across Mexico and Central America to understand what just and sustainable resource governance might look like across scales. She has examined how global climate change policy, extractive industry expansion, and mega-infrastructure development can threaten these communities, but also provide space for contestation and the formulation of alternative projects of development.

Laura is also interested in the role of geospatial methods in resource governance; her Leverhulme project, “Envisioning forests past and future: contested earth observation in Mesoamerica,” will examine how emerging remote sensing and near-earth observation technologies intersect with ongoing land rights struggles in the region.

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