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Frederick Soddy Postgraduate Award

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

About the Award

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

Frederick Soddy was one of the early pioneers of what today is considered 'interdisciplinary research'. Through the foundations of the Frederick Soddy Trust, he sought to encourage research that would provide a holistic view of an area, environment, or community encompassing elements of both human and physical geography. Applicants are encouraged to make clear how their research relates to this specific objective, and are expected to engage with both physical and human geographical components in their projects.

The Frederick Soddy Postgraduate Award was established in 2010 and was previously administered by the Society on behalf of the Frederick Soddy Trust. The award is open to individual PhD students or teams of PhD students. One or two awards are given every year.

In 2018 the Frederick Soddy Trust became a linked charity of the Society, creating a new set of grants, the Frederick Soddy Awards, to support school and student fieldwork and expeditions.

Applicants must registered at a UK higher education institution. The grant is open to applicants from any nation. 

Deadline: 3 February


Apply now

All prospective grant applicants are encouraged to read our Advice and Resources pages, which include more information about the grants programme, its conditions, how to apply for a grant and what is expected if your application is successful. Please read this information carefully and send your application, or any enquiries, by email to


Previous recipients

2024: Lena Easton-Calabria (School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford) From the Amazon to the Alps: Governing the Socio-Ecological Cost of Gold Production

This study analyses formal and informal gold production governance and its impacts on socioenvironmental outcomes in two key Global South and North countries. Unlike most research focusing solely on extraction, this study follows the production process from extraction in the Peruvian Amazon to refining in Switzerland. It seeks to investigate the role of governance both within these particular geographical contexts and internationally through sustainability certification schemes, analysing how these various forms of governance enable or inhibit socio-ecologically just gold production. Situated within Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute, research findings will inform recommendations for a more ethical and sustainable gold supply chain. 


2024: Natalie Carter (Department of Geography, University of Cambridge) In the Margins of Protection: Narrating the Gendered Dynamics of Conservation in (Post)Conflict Uganda

With Target 3 (30x30: the commitment to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030) enshrined in global biodiversity commitments, countries are seeking to enhance the ‘connectivity’ of conservation spaces through corridors. The gendered dynamics of such spaces are frequently overlooked and understudied. Research is warranted in Karamoja, Uganda, where embodied experiences of human non-human relations intersect with a history of protracted conflict. Weaving feminist and affective geographies and using ethnographic and historical research methods, this interdisciplinary project will narrate the operation of gender (and other intersecting inequalities) in the mosaic of boundaries that makes up Karamoja’s ‘Kidepo Critical Landscape’. 


2023: Bharath Ananthanarayana (University of Exeter). 'From India’s ginger fields to the table: Documenting geographies of ginger'

Ginger cultivation is increasingly becoming environmentally extractive and capitalistically intensive in the Western Ghats, India. This documentary project uses visual ethnography to make visible the connections between ginger, land, ecology, farming, producers, and consumers along its commodity chain. The creative methodology involves collaborative and co-creating interactive documentary (i-docs) practice to witness stakeholders’ life-worlds. Following within a bio-diversity hotspot and UNESCO World Heritage Site enables broad questions around ecological conservation and decolonial land politics to be addressed. Culminating as a Strategic Impact Documentary, alternate spaces of public discourse will be constituted to engage with adaptive ecological, cultural, and political changes needed.


2023: Sarah Oakes (University of Leeds). 'Unearthing the past to safeguard the future: Preserving Indigenous biocultural heritage through participatory videomaking in the Peruvian Andes'

The potato is the third most consumed staple crop; global food security depends on its survival amid climate chaos. Urgent need for adaptation drives international scientists towards reductive approaches prioritizing genetics and production, with little consideration for indigenous perspectives and knowledge. Yet for rural Andean communities, the potato represents much more; it is integral to sociocultural life. Integrating Indigenous potato knowledge is critical to a holistic understanding of this at-risk bioheritage and its birthplace, southern Peru. Through participatory videomaking, this interdisciplinary PhD will document knowledge Indigenous communities see as valuable, enabling their direct contributions to inform international research and decision-making.


2023: Medha Mukherjee (University of Oxford). 'Intersectional Inequalities and Drinking Water Services in Rural India'

This ethnographic research examines historical, economic, political, social, cultural and religious processes of providing safe drinking water for all in mountain rural communities in India. Access to safe drinking water, or lack thereof, has historically been an emblem of one’s identity in India, especially caste, class, culture, religion, political affiliation and economic status. Such intersectional markers of identity shape, and are shaped by, inequalities. Inequalities further intersect and overlap, producing aggravated effects as intersectional inequalities. Analysing intersectional inequalities, this research investigates how equitable access can be achieved, with reliable rural water services maintained across diverse and difficult landscapes of the Uttarakhand Himalaya and the Maharashtra Sahyadri. The research is supervised by Professor Rob Hope, and is a part of the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development at Somerville College.


2022: Cristina Argudin (University of Southampton). 'Subsistence hunting, climate change and food security in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, Mexico'

Climate change is affecting traditional livelihoods vital for food security of indigenous and rural communities in the world’s poorest regions. The work aims to assess the vulnerability of subsistence hunting in Mexico’s Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and to enhance the resilience of the rural communities in the area. The research will interview farmer-hunters and women in two villages to explore the impacts of climate change in their hunting practices along with its associated sensitivity and adaptative capacity, considering social, economic, cultural, and environmental factors. In different workshops, this research will co-produce knowledge that will shape the design of context-specific best practices for sustainable hunting.


2022: Maureen Kinyanjui (University of Edinburgh). 'Improving the resilience of human-elephant coexistence in the face of rapid socio-ecological changes' 

Focusing on conservation efforts to achieve coexistence between humans and elephants in Kenya, this research project will use a case-study approach to analyse the broader, deep-rooted social processes and issues that contribute to human-wildlife conflict and affect the resilience of human-elephant coexistence. The research will analyse how the exercise of power has influenced human-elephant coexistence over time, and how emotions are embedded within the community’s daily life and inform how community members navigate and give meaning to social-ecological changes, their interactions with each other, their natural world, including elephants, and conservation institutions. 


2022: Chantal Bright (University of Manchester). 'Water, land rights, and gendered peacebuilding in Liberia'

Women were instrumental in helping bring an end to Liberia’s 14-year civil war yet have since been largely excluded from peace and security efforts. Liberia’s water insecurity and land disputes are destabilising risk factors and have a disproportionate impact on women. The research provides comparative analysis of the land and water challenges perpetuating gender inequality for inland and coastal regions, uncovering the women-water-peace nexus and the equitable land rights protection for women in Liberia. The research supports feminist approaches and argues that gendered peacebuilding and gender equality are key in sustaining and furthering stability achievements in Liberia.


2021: Julien Picard (London School of Economics and Political Science): 'Will you reject food if it is morally incompatible with your beliefs?'

We propose an online survey experiment to assess the role of the rural-urban divide in evaluating how cultural convictions, environmental beliefs and social recognition affect dietary preferences. Using a factorial design experiment, where respondents will face ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ menus, we aim to study how (1) cognitive dissonance (cultural and environmental beliefs mismatch) influence dietary choices, (2) such effects are attenuated by social recognition, and (3) such trade-offs are affected by spatial heterogeneity (rural v/s urban). This project will advance our current geographic understanding by exploring the role of spatial heterogeneity in influencing the nuanced interactions of moral trade-offs with social recognition which shape dietary preferences.


2021: Vassilis Gkoumas (University of Cambridge): 'Social impacts of conservation policies: Assessing the perceptions and attitudes of local communities towards Marine Protected Areas in South Europe'

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), a widely used policy for nature protection and the promotion of long-term ecosystem resilience, often negatively affect the wellbeing of local communities by restricting certain activities, such as fishing and recreation. Lack of conformity with regulations and low support for MPAs, by locals, have been identified as key factors preventing MPAs from meeting their targets. This project explores the perceptions and attitudes of local communities towards the MPAs they live in, in order to provide a policy-relevant understanding of the social impacts of MPAs and to assess their spatial and social distribution among different stakeholder groups.


2020: Julio Rodríguez Stimson (University of Oxford): 'Climate Change on the Galapagos Islands: Cultural Translation, Perception & Response'

People around the world are already feeling the effects of climate change, but we still know very little about how this is experienced, comprehended or acted upon. Hence, anthropologists have a vital role in conducting multi-sited ethnographies that help localise and materialise climate change. This project will carry out ethnographic fieldwork about how farmers, fishermen, scientists and the tourism sector understand the discourse of climate change, perceive changes in their environment, and act upon their beliefs of future risks.

Find out more about this project


2020: Lindsay Sekulowicz (University of Brighton): 'After the fire: documenting ethnobotanical knowledge, material practices and belief systems within indigenous communities of the Northwest Amazon' (subject to final approval)

Following a large-scale fire in the Museo Nacional of Rio de Janeiro in 2018, which destroyed the museum’s entire ethnographic collection, there has become an urgent need to consider the role that contemporary communities and existing archival material can take in preserving site-specific cultural
heritage. This project will use multidisciplinary and collaborative approaches to map the forest and river ecosystems of the Upper Rio Tiquié region of Brazil’s Northwest Amazon, and document how this landscape influences traditional craft practices of the region.


2019: Danielle Johnson (University of Auckland). 'Climate change and indigenous health and wellbeing in the Kaipara Catchment, New Zealand'

Drawing upon political ecology, indigenous geographies and notions of solastalgia and adaptive capacity, the research responds to a gap in critical social science scholarship about climate change in New Zealand. The project employs qualitative, participatory methods to investigate the relationship between climate change and indigenous health and wellbeing in the Kaipara Catchment of northern New Zealand.


2019: Joss Lyons-White (Imperial College London). 'What does “zero deforestation” really mean? Balancing forest conservation and development needs in Liberia'

This project aims to explore the diverse values and attitudes of stakeholders in Liberia regarding the zero-deforestation concept and the High Carbon Stock Approach. This will promote an improved understanding of how zero-deforestation policy interacts with social, economic and cultural life in Liberia. It will also facilitate dialogue in both Liberian and international policy forums about how palm oil-driven deforestation can be effectively and equitably addressed.


2019: Silvia Hassouna (Aberystwyth University). 'Curating the future of Palestine: environmental/artistic approaches to preserve cultural heritage from loss and expropriation in the West Bank'

This three-month fieldwork project will take place in the Palestinian towns of Ramallah and Bethlehem to study innovative approaches adopted by museums to preserve cultural heritage from the urgent risk of loss and expropriation. Specifically it explores how ‘ecosystem heritage’ (traditional forms of plants and wildlife) is understood as a key component of cultural heritage by museums working to preserve Palestinian life in a context of cultural erasure.

Find out more about this project


2018: Daniel Robins (University of St Andrews). ‘Sao Paulo to London: voluntary immobility, place attachment and the geographical imagination’ 

Fieldwork will be conducted in Sao Paulo to explore the motivations behind why people migrate and why people remain. Qualitative interviews and participant observation will be conducted to explore the relationship between class, ideology and concepts of home and belonging.


2018: Lydia Gibson (University College London). ‘Saving parrots, destroying culture? The effect of species conservation and protected area designation on Maroon identity’ 

This project examines the role that conservation plays in the formation and maintenance of Maroon identity in Cockpit Country, Jamaica. In order to understand the impact of conservation on Maroon culture, the research explores the Maroon's clandestine use of, and relationship with, the forest - including hunting yellow-billed and black-billed parrots.


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.