The Evolving Landscape Research Cluster

The Evolving Landscape Research Cluster

Evolving Landscapes

The focus of this research cluster is the ‘landscape’ in its broadest sense as a multifaceted, dynamic arena at the interface of the human and natural world. It incorporates research spanning heritage and historical landscape evolution to contemporary cultural landscape challenges relating to biodiversity, climate change, material metabolism, tourism and (rural) development. A cross-cutting theme is the resilience of evolving landscapes; how the physical landscape shapes and is shaped by society.  Our research draws on theoretical perspectives from historical and cultural geography, hazards research and a social-ecological systems perspective.  The core members of the cluster are John Crowley, Eileen O’Rourke, Kieran Hickey, Karen Ray, Don Lyons, Richard Scriven and Ray O’Connor

Research Themes

Cultural and Historical Landscapes 
Building on a significant tradition of research in cultural and historical geography in the department, our research approaches landscape as the intertwining of the past and the present, the built and the natural, and the cultural, social, and ecological. Our theoretical and empirical explorations of landscape apply geographical and interdisciplinary approaches and methodologies to ensure a conceptually rich interrogation that produces socially relevant insights. The research in this cluster incorporates historical geographies of conquest, colonisation, famine, and revolution; examinations of rural landscapes and co-operative finance-scapes; historical geographies planning and landscape character, the transformation of religious-spiritual  landscapes and performed landscapes (Crowley, O’Connor, Scriven, Ray).

Biodiversity and Farming Systems 
This research theme concentrates on the links between high nature value (HNV) farming systems and biodiversity, with particular reference to upland environments.  Biodiversity is positioned with a holistic social-ecological system and the research is policy relevant.  Field based research has been undertaken within high nature value landscapes in France – Pyrenees and Cevennes, Romania and Ireland – Burren and Iveragh Peninsula, Co. Kerry (O’Rourke).

Landscape processes and climate change 
This research focuses on landscape change driven by both natural and anthropogenic processes. Concerns about the management of the resulting dynamic landscape are also emphasised through the taught M.Sc in Applied and Coastal and Marine Management linked to this cluster. Research focuses on current and quaternary geomorphologies, natural disasters, the climate-coastal interface, climate history and climate change (Hickey).

Industrial Metabolism and Circular Economy
This research theme focuses upon developing a circular economy where wastes and by-products are redirected into production processes.  Such an approach offers an innovation conceptual and applied framework to re-imagine how economy and landscape are interlinked.   Traditional models of economic development are focused on the computation of production costs plus an added margin for profit.  Industrial wastes and by-products are generally disposed of in the landscape with the costs attached to the production price.  Similarly, post-consumer waste is generally discarded as waste and also dumped in landfills.

As a result, the environmental impacts from virgin material extraction and waste/ by-products, from both production and consumption, are redirected to either recycling, remanufacturing, or reprocessed to form the materials necessary for new production.  In the process waste and the environmental impacts from extraction and production processes are removed from the landscape.  Research in this area has focused on Texas and Pennsylvania in the United States and, most recently, from Irish industries, including pharmaceuticals, plastics, post kiln lime, and meat products (Lyons).

Recent Publications


Edited Books:

Crowley, J., Ó Drisceoil, D. and Murphy, M. (2017) Atlas of the Irish Revolution, Cork: Cork University Press

Crowley, J. and Smyth, W.J. Eds. (2012) Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, Cork: Cork University Press

Crowley, J. and Sheehan J. (2009) The Iveragh Peninsula: A Cultural Atlas of the Ring of Kerry. Cork: Cork University Press



Maddrell, A. and Scriven R., (2016) Celtic pilgrimage, past and present: from historical geography to contemporary embodied practices, Social & Cultural Geography,Vol. 17, Issue 2, pp. 300-321


O’Rourke, E., Charbonneau, M., Poinsot, Y. (2016) High Nature Mountain Farming Systems in Europe:Case Studies from the Atlantic Pyrenees, France and the Kerry Uplands, Ireland.  Journal of Rural Studies, in press.

O’Rourke, E. (2014) Human Wildlife Conflict: The Reintroduction of the White-Tailed Sea Eagle to Ireland. Land Use Policy, 38, 129-137. 

O’Rourke, E., Kramm, N., Chisholm, N. (2012) The Influence of Farming Styles on the Management of the Iveragh Uplands, Southwest Ireland.  Land Use Policy, 29: 805-816.

O’Rourke, E., Kramm, N. (2012) High Nature Value (HNV) Farming and the Management of Upland Biodiversity: A Review. European Countryside, 2: 116-133.

O'Sullivan, B., Brady, W., Ray, K., Sikora, E. and  Murphy, E. (2014) Scale, Governance, Urban Form and Landscape: Exploring the Scope for an Integrated Approach to Metropolitan Spatial Planning, Journal of Planning Practice & Research, 29:3, 302-31.

Scriven, R (2014) ‘Barefoot and Rosary-in-Hand: a Geography of Pilgrimage in Ireland‘, The Boolean, 4, p.174-179.


Chapters in Books:

Book Chapters:

Crowley, J. and Sheehan, J. (2017) ‘The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks – Na Cruacha Dubha’ in O’Sullivan, V., The Macgillycuddy’s Reeks: People and Places of Ireland’s Highest Mountain Range, Collins Press, Cork

Farrell, E.J., Ellis, J.T. and Hickey, K.R. (2015) 'Tsunami Case Studies' In: Jean T. Ellis and Douglas J. Sherman (eds). Coastal and Marine Hazards, Risks and Disasters. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier

Hickey, K. R.
  (2017) 'Coastal Climates and Meteorology, Storms and Storminess and The Big Wind 1839' In: Robert J.N. Devoy, Valerie Cummins and Max Kozachenko (eds). Shorelines: The Coastal Atlas of Ireland. Cork, Rep. of Ireland: Cork University Press

Hickey, K. R. (2015) 'The Record of Cattle Epizootics in Ireland up to 1856' In: Michael O'Connell (eds). Cattle in Ancient and Modern Ireland: Farming Practices, Environment and Society. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Hickey, K. R. and Ludlow, F. (2015) 'The Impact of Severe Weather on Settlement and Society in Ireland' In: David A. Fleming (eds). The Impact of Climate and Environment on Settlement and Society in Ireland. Dublin: Four Courts Press. 

O’Sullivan B and Ray K. (2012) "The Metropolitan Cork Green Belt: Synergies and tensions between strategic and local understandings of landscape value". In: Mianowski, M. (ed.). Irish Contemporary Landscapes in Literature and the Arts. Basingstoke: Palgrave McMillan  

Ray, K.,
2016. "Landscape and Planning: Exploring the Relationship in Decision-Making". In: Collins, T. et al. (eds.). Landscape Values: Place and Praxis. Galway: Centre for Landscape Studies.

Ray, K.,
2013. ‘Where a European Convention Meets a European Directive’. In: Newman, C., Nussaume, Y., and Pedroli, B. (eds.). Landscape and Imagination: Towards a new baseline for education in a changing world. Florence:

O’Connor, R.,
Power C. and Rylands, M.  “Bounded Spaces and Cultural Places: The Reorganisation of the Farmed Landscape in Ireland” in Walls, Fences, Borders and Boundaries: Essays on Social Exclusion, Inclusion and Integration, Besosa, Ragaven, C. M., Allen, S. and O'Halloran, A. (eds.),Kendall Hunt Publishers, Iowa, 2010, pp. 219-244.

O’Connor, R.
and Power, C. and., “Peat and Energy Production in Iveragh”, The Iveragh Peninsula: A Cultural Atlas of the Ring of Kerry, Crowley, J. and Sheehan, J., (eds.) Cork University Press, Cork, 2009, pp.384 -385, ISBN 97801859184301


Power, C. and O’Connor, R., “Cill Rialig”, The Iveragh Peninsula: A Cultural Atlas of the Ring of Kerry, in Crowley, J. and Sheehan, J., (eds.) Cork University Press, Cork, 2009, pp.454 – 457, ISBN 97801859184301


Published Conference Proceedings:

Hall, J., O'Connor, R., Power, C. and Brady, W. (2016) New Structures for Local Government in Ireland: Evaluating the Impact on Community Participation in the Local Planning Process. In: ISS21 Local and Community Development Working Group eds. The Changing Landscape

ISS21 Local and Community Working Group, O’Connor, R. (2016) Co-editor of Conference Proceedings: The Changing Landscape of Local and Development in Ireland: Policy and Practice of Local and Community Development in Ireland: Policy and Practice, Cork

Rylands, M., O'Connor, R. and Power, C. (2016) Local Government Reform in Ireland: Implications for Rural Development and Community Engagement. In: ISS21 Local and Community Development Working Group eds The Changing Landscape of Local and Community Development in Ireland: Policy and Practice Cork,  pp.57-66 

Rylands, M. and O’Connor, R., (2006) “Geographical perspectives on the information society and Irish rural spaces” in Sociedade da informacion en Espacios Perifericos: Novas Formas de Exclusion Social, Sexto, C.A., Quinta, F.X.A., Arce, X.C.M., Vazquez, Y.G. (eds.), pp.93 – 104

Scriven, R
(2014) Reflecting on the pilgrim path: routes, landscapes and performing bodies, Paper 64, Proceedings of the 46th Conference of Irish Geography, CIG 2014, University College Dublin, 6-10th May 2014


Ray, K., Sikora, E. and Counsell, D. 2014. The Rothschild Reserves in Ireland, 1914-2014: An Investigation into the Natural Heritage of the Republic of Ireland. Newark: The Wildlife Trusts. Funded by Carnegie UK Trust

Networks and Engagements

Centre for Co-operative Studies, University College Cork   (ROC)


Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork (KH)

European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism (EFNCP) – active member of the EFNCP network which promotes projects and research on High Nature Value farming in Europe. (EOR)

International Network of Irish Famine Studies (INIFS) based in Radboud University, Nimegan. A collaboration between scholars based in the Netherlands, Ireland, the UK, Finland, the US, Canada, and Brazil. Its purpose is to study the Great Irish Famine (1845-52) from a variety of disciplines and national perspectives and to develop collaborative research projects which advance our knowledge of this formative event in the history of Ireland and the Irish diaspora (JC) (JC)

Irish Uplands Forum – (EOR)

ISS21 Civil Society Research Cluster (ROC)

KerryLife Project – European Pearl Mussel - advisor (EOR)

National Library of Ireland (NLI) – partner institution Atlas of the Irish Revolution (Cork University Press/New York University Press, 2016) 1916 Atlas of the Irish Revolution Lecture series – venue NLI Atlas of the Irish Revolution Digital Schools project (JC)


Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) – in collaboration with the Department of BEES we undertook a four year SFI funded research project on modelling biodiversity change in the Irish Uplands. (EOR)


The Heritage Council – (EOR)

Irish Planning Institute (IPI), (KR)

Landscape Research Group, UK (KR)

Irish Landscape Institute (ILI) (KR)

Graduate Students

Current PhD students:

Donal Murphy (JC)

Margaret Fitzpatrick (JC)

Elaine O’Driscoll Adam (ROC/JC)



Diarmuid Crowley (EOR/KH)


Recent PhD Graduates:

Richard Scriven (JC/ROC)

Karen Ray (JC)


Recent MA Graduates:

Emer Dennehy (ROC, JC)

Geraldine Cahalane (ROC)

Department of Geography


University College Cork, Cork