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Professor Claire Waterton

Professor Emerita, Director

Claire Waterton

Bowland North



Tel: +44 1524 593322

PhD supervision

I welcome applications from prospective students in all areas of my research, including:
Environment-society relations, especially using the theoretical resources of Science and Technology Studies (STS);
The making of environmental knowledge;
The politics of environmental knowledge;
Environmental knowledge, policy and collective politics;
STS and the making and politics of databases;
Social studies of classifications;
Knowledge, practices and biodiversity;
Barcoding of Life (BOLI) and shifting cultures of taxonomy;

Current Teaching



  • SOCL 220: Sociology of the Environment

  • SOCL 221: Climate Change and Society


  • SOCL527: Ecology, Conservation and Culture

  • SOCL 931: Methods in Science and Technology Studies

  • SOCL 521: Theories and Debates in Environment and Culture

  • SOCL 949: Skills and Dissertation

Research Interests

Research interests

I am interested in the theory and methodological practices of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and in working with these to understand all sorts of contemporary environmental issues and problems. My approach is to understand 'environmental problems' as particular kinds of orderings in on-going natureculture relations. This helps us to open up questions about these relations, including how they came into being, as well as whether it is possible to create hopeful spaces for re-ordering them.Several aspects of my research dwell on highly intractable and difficult challenges thrown up by modernity – such as the disposal of highly radioactive nuclear wastes, the diffuse pollution and enrichment of large tracts of land and water, the on-going acceleration of biodiversity loss, the creation of large global databases that might somehow afford environmental protection. In the last 20 years or so, I have had the opportunity of thinking through these issues using the theoretical tools of STS with many different scientists, policymakers and NGOs. I am interested in their ways of working, and in exploring whether we can work together in ways that might produce new ways of thinking about, and enacting, natureculture relations.

  • The making and politics of scientific knowledge, especially that relating to nature/the environment
  • Scientific and other forms of expertise
  • The making of classifications
  • Public perceptions of environmental issues
  • The relationship of scientific knowledge to contempotary environmental policymaking in the UK, Europe and on a global level
  • Analysis of deliberative mechanisms and participatory processes
  • Performativity of method in STS
  • The role of the science studies researcher in studying contemporary science and policymaking

Research projects and funding

  • NERC Water Security Knowledge Exchange Programme (01/02/2012-31/05/2012)“Understanding and Acting in Loweswater: A community approach to catchment management” – informing the Defra/EA Pilot Catchments trialling a catchment based approach.

  • AHRB 2011 co-PI with Judith Tsouvalis (Department of Sociology, Lancaster) Scoping Study Award:‘Producing and performing 'communities': Looking at the paradox of public participation and de-politicisation’ (1st July 2011-30 September 2011). AHRB’s Connected Communities Programme.

  • 2010 (August-December) Understanding and Acting in Loweswater: Transferable Insights. Defra Funded. PI Claire Waterton Researchers are Ken Bell, Judith Tsouvalis, Lisa Norton, Stephen Maberly, Nigel Watson.

  • 2007-2010 'Understanding and Acting in Loweswater: A Community Approach to Catchment Management' RELU funded. PI Claire Waterton. Researchers are Ken Bell, Judith Tsouvalis, Lisa Norton, Stephen Maberly, Nigel Watson.

  • 2006-2009 'Taxonomy at a Crossroads: Science, Publics and Policy in Biodiversity'. ESRC funded. PIs Claire Waterton, Brain Wynne, and Johannes Vogel (NHM))
  • ESRC (2005-6) databases, Naturalists and the Global Biodiversity Convention, PI with Rebecca Ellis (PI) and Maria Pacha (IEPPP)
  • ESRC (2002-2005) 'Amateurs as Experts: harnessing new networks for biodiversity' (in collaboration with the Natural History Museum, London. Other PIs are Robin Grove-White and Johannes Vogel)
  • ESRC Science and Society Programme (2005-6) 'Databases, Naturalists and the Global Biodiversity Convention'. Other PI Rebecca Ellis.
  • DEFRA, January-July 2004 'Non-Indigenous Species: Exploring their Meanings in Human and Social Terms'. With Jeffrey Waage, Imperial College, London.
  • Rural Environment and Land Use Programme (RELU), July- December 2004, 'Understanding Loweswater: a Study to Generate new Understandings of Ecological, Economic and Social Interactions in a Lake District Catchment'. PI with Steve Maberly (PI, CEH, Lancaster), Lisa Norton (CEH, Lancaster) and Jake Morris (IEPPP).

Additional Information


April 2007 - present: Senior Lecturer in Environment and Society, Department of Sociology, Lancaster University

January 2006- April 2007 - Lecturer in Environment and Society, Department of Sociology, Lancaster University

October 2000 - 2006: Lecturer in Environment and Social Policy, Institute for Environment, Philosophy and Public Policy (IEPPP), Lancaster University. This lectureship was funded through HEFCE and was intended to create bridges between the natural and the social sciences at Lancaster University and through extended research and policy networks

1992-2000 Researcher within the Centre for the Study of Environmental Change, Lancaster University

March 1998 - Sept. 2000: Applicant, co-ordinator and researcher of ESRC-funded project 'Scientists Reflect on Science: How Scientists Encounter the Environment-Risk Domain'.

Dec. 1997 - Mar. 1998: Researcher on Forestry Commission-funded project 'The Recreational uses of Woods and Forests in Contemporary Britain'.

Apr. 1994 - Dec. 1997: Researcher on an ESRC-funded project 'Databases and European Environmental Policy', as part of CSEC's 'Science, Culture and the Environment' Programme, Lancaster University.

Oct. 1993 - Apr. 1994: Researcher on WWF-funded project on the European CORINE programme (Co-Ordination of Information on the Environment).

June - Oct. 1993: Researcher on international social science project, 'Social Learning in the Management of Global Environmental Risks', co-ordinated by Professor Bill Clarke at Harvard University, USA.

Oct. 1992 - June 1993: Researcher at CSEC, Lancaster University, on Cumbria County Council-funded project 'Public Perceptions and the Nuclear Industry in West Cumbria'.

Awards and Membership


Claire Watertonreceived a fellowship in 2005 from the US Social Sciences Research Council (SSRC) and the UK's Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to spend two months at the Centre for Science Technology and Society, Santa Clara University, California, USA. Here she made links with Professor Geoff Bowker, the Director of the Centre, Susan Leigh Starr and other science studies scholars and attended a two week workshop on Values in Design. The purpose of the visit was to carry out theoretical work on contemporary databases which would feed into the ESRC Science in Society project 'Databases, Naturalists and the Global Biodiversity Convention'.


I was elected a member of the Council of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) fromJanuary 2009 - December 2011. 

I am currently an elected member of the Council for the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) (2013-2016).

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  • Book launch and seminar

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesOther

  • EASST / 4S

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference -Mixed Audience

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