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Frederick Soddy Award

The Frederick Soddy Postgraduate Award provides up to £6,000 to support a PhD student/group of PhD students carrying out fieldwork/research on 'the study of the social, economic, and cultural life of a region’ - anywhere in the world.

Recipient Michael Musgrave (University of St Andrews) studied the decline of the Zambezi Teak forests of western Zambia and the implications for social and economic development. Here he measures tree heights.


18 January (each year)


  Frederick Soddy Postgraduate Award Guidelines (PDF) 
Code of Practice for the Grants Programme (PDF)



Frederick Soddy Award recipients

 2017: Sarah Rosenberg-Jansen (University of Oxford). 'Voices in the Dark: Geographies of renewable energy policies in refugee settings in East Africa’

Working with refugee communities in Rwanda and Kenya, this research project aims to understand the mechanisms by which international development agencies are delivering renewable energy to refugees, and the role displaced communities and households have in defining their access to energy.

 2017: Harry Hilser (University of Exeter). ‘Empathising With Nature: Nature Connectedness and its Relationship with Conservation Advocacy and Behaviour in Indonesia'

This research will investigate mechanisms of conservation advocacy and pro-environmental behaviour in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, and assess the effectiveness of strategies for conservation approaches related to hunting and logging. Data from participant observation and focus groups will be analysed and used to help practitioners refine approaches to biodiversity conservation.

 2016: Agnese Marino (University College London). 'Conflict and coexistence with large carnivores in the Northwest of Spain'

By focusing on an area of Spain where management and habituation to wolves and brown bears differs considerably across short distances, this research project will look at the ecological, economic, social and cognitive drivers of conflict and coexistence with large carnivores.

 2016: Aoife Bennett-Curry (University of Oxford). 'The Political Ecology of Oil Palm, People and Forest Conservation: Searching for a Balanced Approach to Development in the Peruvian Amazon'

The Amazon region – like many other developing regions – has a long history with failed rural development projects. These failures are often a result of a lack of understanding about local cultures, values and economies at the design phase of projects. This research will address this asymmetry in development planning, using a mixed methods human geography approach.

 2015: Jeanna Loyer (Queen's University Belfast). 'Life and death in the steppe: investigating the impacts of socio-economic, political and climatic change on the health of prehistoric pastoralists of the Volga Region'

Major socio-economic, political and climatic changes have shaped the Volga steppe region during the Bronze and Iron Ages (3rd millennium BC – 4th century AD). Global environmental fluctuations greatly impacted the steppe and several striking shifts in the pastoral economies have been traced. The current research will investigate the palaeopathology of about 600 skeletons, in relation with climatic, archaeological, and health geographic data. This study will provide unique data which will enable a better understanding of the past and present effects of climate and socio-economic change to be gained in relation to the health of pastoralist communities.

 2014: Samuel Derbyshire (University of Oxford). 'A History of Turkana Material Culture: Tracing Change and Facing the Future with the People of the Grey Bull'

This project explored the on-going development of the Turkana people and region in Kenya. An exhaustive ethnographic investigation was undertaken, during which Turkana material culture was analysed as it operated in daily life. This ethnography will be placed within its deep historical context by combining it with a range of documents and photographs spanning the 20th century.

 2013: Yuri Boyanin (La Trobe University, Australia). 'Sedentary Nomads: Pastoralism, Nomadism, Settlement and Tribalism Among the Kyrgyz of High Asia'

This archival and oral history study focuses on the Kyrgyz mountainous pastoralists: scattered across Inner Asia and separated by modern national borders. The project aimed to uncover how the Kyrgyz identity has adapted to various changing patterns of settlement. Evidence suggests that a number of social, economic and political factors have pushed the Kyrgyz to permanent settlement in their high-altitude alpine pastures.

 2013: Kate Porter (University of East Anglia). 'Imagining Climate Control: The Case of the ‘Geoclique’ and the ‘Haida’'

This project explores the underlying ecological worldviews - signalled by ontological, epistemological and axiological assumptions - that people draw on when engaging with the idea of climate control and when reaching normative conclusions about its desirability and feasibility. Using discourse analysis, the project will explore this through two case studies: 1) the metaphorical ‘Geoclique’ and 2) residents of Haida Gwaii and employees of the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation. Both case studies are sights of visible controversy about the desirability of geoengineering interventions.

 2012: Michael Musgrave (University of St Andrews). 'The Decline of the Zambezi Teak Forests of Western Zambia and the Implications for Social and Economic Development'

The Zambezi Teak forests of western Zambia have been logged for 70 years and are severely depleted. The study mapped the current and historical geographical extent of the forests and examined the social and institutional issues surrounding their management. A unique opportunity exists to make an important contribution to common–pool resource theory by examining the social, cultural and economic differences between communities living in Zambezi Teak forests in Zambia and Zimbabwe. The lessons learned from comparing the differences in managing Zambezi Teak in the two countries, will play an important role in future management of the Zambian forests.

 2011: Dan Keech (University of Southampton). 'Social Enterprise and the Production of Nature'

The project studied the commercially challenging nature of orchards - the costs of husbanding often exceeds earned income. However, orchards varied biological structure represents great value to wildlife. Recent attempts by wildlife NGOs to protect orchards include experimenting with social enterprise methods (balancing commercial with social/environmental objectives) to revive orchards. This project compared influences on orchard social enterprises in Germany and England.

 2011: Konstantina Isidoros (Oxford University). 'Social Transformation Among saharan Desert Nomads'

The project examined the social landscape of the Sahrāwī hassāniya-speaking nomads whose territory spans the whole of the western Sahara. Exploring the hidden logic of how and why this tribal nomadic pastoralists’ social adaptation has persistently survived as a powerful and dynamic system of human social behaviour and organisation, where others have weakened under climate change, post-colonial conflict and our ‘modern’ Western economic-political template.

 2010: Evelyn Landerer (University of Cambridge). 'Re-Imagining the Land: Experiences of Cultural, Social and Spatial Change Among Forest Dwellers in a Region in Eastern Siberia'

The project studied a remote region of eastern Siberia, contrasting indigenous reindeer people (Evenki), who walk endlessly around the dense boreal fores, with settlement-dwelling Russians and others who engage only briefly with the forest as hunters or (recently) oil prospectors. The project analysed how each group conceptualises, perceives and orders their social, cultural and economic spaces under rapid anthropogenic change.

For further information on the projects listed above, including a summary of the research and expedition reports, please browse the Society's Expeditions Database.

About the Award

Born in 1877, Frederick Soddy was a Nobel Prize winning atomic scientist, who later in his career developed sociological interests.

Through the foundation of the Frederick Soddy Trust, he sought to encourage research that would provide a holistic view of the whole life of an area or community, encompassing both human and physical geography.

The award, which started in 2010, is administered by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), but awarded by the Trustees of the Frederick Soddy Trust.

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