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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Dr Emma Tompkins 


Dr Emma Tompkins's photo

Dr Emma Tompkins is Professor within Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Southampton.


Emma is a Professor of Geography, Environment and Development. She has worked on climate change adaptation since 2001 specifically barriers and limits to institutional adaptation, public-private partnerships for adaptation, and drivers of individual action and national policy on adaptation.

She has been a lead author for the IPCC Assessment Report Five, a contributing author to the IPCC Special Report on Climate Extremes and Disasters, an expert reviewer for the IPCC Assessment Report Four, and provides on-going expert reviews for research councils in the UK and other European countries. Emma was part of the lead expert group for the Government Office of Science Foresight project ‘Improving Future Disaster Anticipation and Resilience’

She has published numerous papers, articles and policy briefs on environmental management, adaptation to climate change, and social and ecological resilience as well as handbooks on surviving climate change in small islands and participatory coastal zone management.

She has a PhD Environmental Science (UEA), MSc Environmental and Resource Economics (UCL) and BA Economics (Leicester).


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Research interests

Her research interests include:

  • processes of human/social adaptation to climate variability and change (individual, household, community and state level)
  • the role of institutions in hazard/climate resilience
  • risk mitigating behaviours and attitudes (in relation to natural hazards and disaster preparedness)
  • synergies and trade-offs between climate adaptation, mitigation and development

Her focal areas are:

  • natural hazards, especially tropical cyclones, floods and drought
  • climate extremes, variability and change
  • small island states
  • coastal zones
  • Europe, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa

Current research projects

Deltaic Environments, Vulnerability and Climate Change: Migration as Adaptation (DECCMA)

DECCMA is a 4 year, IDRC-funded, CAD$13.5million programme of applied research on the adaptation options, limits and potential in deltaic environments to current weather variability and extremes, as well as climate change. The project runs from February 2014 to September 2018. Research focusses on four deltas – the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (Bangladesh and India); the Nile (Egypt); the Volta (Ghana); and the Mahanadi (India). Large tracts of land at low elevation make deltas vulnerable to sea-level rise, but they also experience climate impacts such as droughts and fluvial flooding. Deltas have some of the highest population densities in the world with 500 million, often poor, residents. The adaptive strategies available to delta residents (e.g., disaster risk reduction by building shelters, or land use management) may exacerbate gender inequalities, and may not be adequate to cope with pervasive, systemic, or surprise changes associated with climate change. Hence, large movements of deltaic people are often projected under climate change. Emma Tompkins is responsible for the Work Package on Adaptation. Completed research projects since 2011.

Recently completed projects

Pathways of resilience to future storms - PREFUS (2013-2017)

This Leverhulme-funded project investigated the drivers of resilience of crop lands to tropical cyclones. We focus on a case study of Kendrapara, Odisha in East India. PREFUS focusses specifically on identifying where (and why) rice croplands withstand or recover rapidly from tropical cyclone impacts such that there is little or no harm to livelihoods, food security and economic development in the region.

Linking Adaptation, Mitigation and Development in East Africa in Coastal Forests and Agricultural Systems (2011-2013)

This project explores the synergies and trade-offs between adaptation, mitigation and development, looking at different development pathways and policy mixes in coastal areas.

Achieving Triple Wins: Identifying Climate Smart Investment Strategies for the Coastal Zone (2011-2012)

This demand-led project aims to support policy makers in making hard choices about resource allocation to achieve climate compatible development. The project involves an assessment of the co-benefits of adaptation and mitigation activities in the coastal zone. It focuses on case studies in four areas off Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Research group

Global Environmental Change and Earth Observation

Research project(s)

Pathways of resilience to future storms

Coastal resilience in the face of sea-level rise

Programme Leader: MSc Sustainability

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Book Chapters



Working Papers


GEOG1010 – Tutor
GEOG3018 – 3rd year dissertation supervisor (please see my research interests)
GEOG3057 – Adapting to climate and weather hazards (convenor)


GEOG6097 – Data collection and research methods for sustainability (convenor)

7973/7974 Programme leader for MSc Sustainability

PhD supervision:

Emma is currently supervising:

Miriam Joshua (Southampton, started 2012 part-time)
Formal institutions and access to water for food security in Malawi

Margherita Fanciotti (Southampton, started 2014)
Tropical cyclone resilience in the Mahanadi Delta, India

Giorgia Prati (Southampton, started 2014)
Gender and adaptation: the implications of migration for women’s adaptive capacity in the Mahanadi delta, India

Heather Brown (Southampton, started 2016)
Governance of sustainability in coastal zones of small island states

Emma's previous students include:

Fiona Simmance (Southampton, 2013-2017)
The role of small-scale Inland Capture Fisheries for food security in Malawi

Radhika Dave (Southampton, 2012- 2016)
Can ecosystem-based approaches deliver climate change adaptation in socio-ecological systems

Alex Chapman (Southampton, 2012-2015)
Climate change adaptation, mitigation and development in the Mekong Delta

Tudor Vilcan (Southampton, 2012-2016)
Discourses of resilience in climate change adaptation policy

Paola Hernandez Montes de Oca (Leeds, 2009-2013)
Vulnerability and resilience of SMEs to extreme weather events in south-east México

Khandaker Munim (Leeds, 2008-2013) 
Vulnerability of food systems to salinity intrusion in south-west Bangladesh

Salma Hegga (Leeds/Southampton, 2008-2013)
Social capital and flood preparedness in Kilosa District, Tanzania

Arnoldo Matus Kramer (Oxford, 2006- 2011)
Adaptation to climate change in the tourism sector of the rapidly urbanizing Yucatan Caribbean coast



She is interested in supervising in the following areas:

  • Human dimensions of climate change adaptation (including drivers and barriers)
  • Socio-ecological resilience for natural disaster management
  • Natural hazard risk management
  • Science-policy links in integrated coastal zone management
  • Small island sustainability
Dr Emma Tompkins
Building 44 University of Southampton University Road Southampton SO17 1BJ

Room Number: 44/2083

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