My extant research interests focus on understanding social and cultural dimensions of environmental change and society-environment interactions at multiple scales of analysis in the following thematic areas: sustainable consumption and production; energy use and everyday life; environmental education; social movements and sustainable communities; environmental governance; environmental policy and planning; socio-technical transitions and innovations; political ecology and political economy; and innovative research methods for critical sustainability research. To this end, my work can be situated at the interface between human geography, sociology, social psychology, lifecourse studies, planning, environmental policy and science and technology studies.
Methods with which I am experienced include surveys, interviews, focus groups, ethnography, diaries, video, social movement analysis, living lab approaches, creative art methodologies, life course methods, world café and open space methodologies, discourse analysis and participatory action-based and mixed method research approaches. I also have experience with quantitative methods and an understanding of the statistics behind important social science significance testing (e.g. correlation, regression, factor and cluster analysis etc).
Recent and ongoing research:
Researching complex contextual drivers of (un)sustainable consumption
My research forms part of a rapidly expanding body of sociological approaches to sustainable consumption research and environmental governance. To this end, my recent and ongoing work has explicitly focused on exploring the intersections between lives, practices and contexts in energy systems change. Central to this has been an emphasis on progressing understandings of the intersection of dynamics in everyday consumption with broader systems of provisions. My research has primarily focused on applying, developing and innovating theoretical and methodological approaches to investigating consumption. To this end, I have developed strong expertise in sociological theories of consumption, including practice theories, transition theories, multi-level perspectives, political economy and energy cultures, to name just a few.
My ongoing and future research aims to develop and advance cross cultural comparative investigations of evolving consumption cultures and practices. Since the completion of my doctoral research, I have obtained two competitive grants that have enabled me to expand my research to include cross-cultural case studies in African (The Gambia) and non-European Anglophone (New Zealand) urbanising contexts. (Greene and Schiffer, 2018). Comparative cross-cultural case study explorations are a significant means by which to explore contextual processes and development mechanisms shaping the evolution consumption cultures and practices. Going forward my ambition is to continue to innovate and advance the field of sustainable consumption by progressing cross cultural investigations. This work is progressing cross cultural investigations of how individuals’ everyday energy practices, including food, mobility and laundry practices, intersect and interact with processes of biographic and socio-technical change. To date, field contexts have included Ireland, The Gambia and New Zealand. This research has been facilitated by funding from the Irish Research Council, the Royal Irish Academy and the H2020 SHAPE ENERGY project.
Decoding the Disciplines in European Institutions of Higher Education: Fostering Interdisciplinarity and Increasing Intellectual Diversity
This year I took over as project coordinator and pedagogic expert on the ERASMUS Plus project. Running from 2016 to 2019, this cross-European project seeks to foster interdisciplinary learning and collaboration in developing and sharing pedagogic experiences and innovations in teaching complex social problems at university level. Interdisciplinary learning is occurring between participating partners in Vilnius University (Lithuania)(PI), NUI Galway, College VIVES (Belgium), Roma Tre University (Italy), and Vytautas Magnus University (Lithuania). My role on the project focuses on coordinating and leading in the application of the Decoding the Disciplines Methodology to develop a set of innovative teaching tools that will help academics to foster student-centred, field-based and problem-centred pedagogical approaches to teaching critical environmental social science.
2009-10 ‘Microcosms of Sustainability’
This research focused on community-based practices for sustainability in London using a participatory, action-based research methodology. Focusing on the Transition Town movement, it examined how this movement has become a site of innovation for sustainable consumption social. Employing an ethnographic qualitative approach, it explored the transformative impact movement membership had on participants’ subjectivity and action and the influence of the movement in stimulating community transitions towards a lower carbon future.
2006-07 ‘Children’s Conceptions of ‘Environment”
This study focused on primary school children’s developing conceptions of human-environment relations. Using a creative mixed method qualitative methodological, children’s own voices were captured to map out the variations in their conceptions and understandings of the environment and human environment relations. The thoughts and conceptions of the children concerning ideas of ‘environment’ were assessed through a two-phased methodological approach that included a creative methodology involving expression through art work and focus group discussions.
2006-07 ‘Men, Masculinities and Help-seeking behaviour’ (Psychology)
This research sought to investigate whether masculine identity and gender role allocation was related to men’s help-seeking behaviour for psychological and physical problems. The quantitative methodology incorporated two surveys that measured masculinity on the one hand and help-seeking behaviour on the other. The analysis was quantitative in nature and the participants responses were analysed using the statistical package SPSS.
Scholarship, Research Awards and Grants
2018 Royal Irish Academy Postgraduate Mobility Scholarship (€2,500)
2018 ERASMUS PLUS Decoding the Disciplines (Coordinator and Pedagogic expert)
2018 Geographical Society of Ireland Doctoral Research Award
2017 H2020 SHAPE ENERGY Research Design Challenge (€2,500)
2017 Ryan Institute Travel Award, NUI Galway (value €800)
2013-16 Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship (value: c €70,000)
2015 Geographical Society of Ireland Travel Grant (value €250)
2015 College of Arts Travel Grant, NUI Galway (value €500)
2012-13 Hardiman Research Scholarship, NUI Galway (value c. €20,000)
2007 Bursary Scholarship, NUI Galway (value €250)
2007 Best Undergraduate Dissertation Award (Geography, NUI Galway) (value €200)
2007 Geography Student of the Year Award (Geography, NUI Galway)