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Research project

Routes of infection, routes to safety: creative mappings of human-viral behaviours on the bus to understand infection prevention practices.

Project overview

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, life has changed in ways that many of us couldn’t have imagined. SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes COVID-19) is so small that it is invisible to most of us, but its spread has forced us to adapt how we live, work and travel. We have come to realise that public spaces are where we interact not only with other humans, but with viruses and bacteria too.

The pandemic has seen a huge drop in public transport use. This raises challenges for the sustainability of services that serve a diverse range of communities and users, and also signals worsening social isolation and inequality as a result of reduced mobility, and an increase in air pollution and green house gas emissions caused by an increase in private vehicle use.

We are a group of researchers at the University of Southampton and the University of Newcastle who are interested in how we understand infection and how we can prevent it. This project, ‘Routes of infection, routes to safety: Creative mapping of human-viral behaviours on the bus to understand infection prevention practices’, has been funded by UK Research and Innovation. We are looking at what risks there are of COVID-19 (and other pathogens) on buses, whether current control measures (enhanced cleaning, social distancing, mask wearing) are effective, and how we can enhance public understanding about how to travel safely and confidently on buses.

The team has a wealth of experience, across Geography, Microbiology, Planning and Art, and are working with a number of partners, including bus operators, bus passenger organisations and community groups. Over the 12 month project we will undertake ethnography, interviews and microbiome studies, and will share our findings on this website via project reports, online workshops, video and visual materials.


Lead researcher

Professor Emma Roe

Professor of More-Than-Human Geographies
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Other researchers

Dr Sandra Wilks

Associate Professor

Research interests

  • Applied biofilm research
  • Medical devices
  • Infection prevention
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Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups