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Humanities for the Environment Key Researcher Lesley Head
Distinguished Professor of Geography, Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research, University of Wollongong

Lesley Head

Research Interests and Expertises:

  • Human-environment interactions over space and time
  • Cultures of nature
  • Cultural dimensions of environmental and sustainability issues
  • Responding to climate change and the Anthropocene
  • People and plants

Statement of Research Interests

My long-term research fascination is human-environment relations, both conceptual and material. That is, I want to understand how humans have physically changed earth’s systems, how we think about our place in nature, and how these two things are connected. I have a particular focus on humans and plants. In recent years I have worked mostly in cultural geography, with projects on backyard gardens, wheat and invasive plants. This developed from my earlier interest in Aboriginal land use, ethnobotany and fire. I started my research career using palaeoecology and archaeology to study long term changes in the Australian landscape, and the interactions of prehistoric peoples with their environments.

Central to my contributions is the concept – and challenge – of coming to terms with landscapes that have been peopled for many thousands of years. Paradoxically, although it is now widely understood that human influences pervade all Earth surface processes, ideals of pristine past landscapes without people continue to dominate environmental management. Recent empirical contexts of my own research include households, suburbs, cities, farms, national parks and indigenous land. By using Australian evidence in international comparative work I have helped bring to light the cultural specificity of many Anglo-American conceptual frameworks. In AUSCCER we are now applying cultural research methods and approaches to the pressing questions of sustainability and climate change.