Our champions

The GEES Urban Initiative has very privileged links with a range of local and international champions. These champions act as external advisers and mentors.

Our Champtions have established privileged and innovative links with the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences and the University of Birmingham through a range of teaching and research collaborations. Read more about our Champions.

International Champions

Professor Timothy Beatley

timothy-beatley-230x230Professor Timothy Beatley
School of Architecture, University of Virginia

Timothy Beatley is the Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities, in the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning, School of Architecture at the University of Virginia, where he has taught for the last twenty-five years. Much of Beatley’s work focuses on the subject of sustainable communities, and creative strategies by which cities and towns can fundamentally reduce their ecological footprints, while at the same time becoming more livable and equitable places. Beatley believes that sustainable and resilient cities represent our best hope for addressing today’s environmental challenges. Personal website: http://timbeatley.org ; http://BiophilicCities.org

Professor Thomas Elmqvist

thomas-elmqvist-230x230Professor Thomas Elmqvist
Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University

Thomas Elmqvist is a professor in Natural Resource Management at Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University. His research is focused on ecosystem services, land use change, urbanization, natural disturbances and components of resilience including the role of social institutions. He serves as associated editor for the journals Ecology and Society, Conservation and Society, Ecosystem services, and Sustainability Science. He has led the Cities and Biodiversity project, currently leading the Future Earth project "What is Urban" and he is part of the scoping expert group on regional and subregional assessments for IPBES.

Professor Nancy B Grimm

nancy-grimm-230x230Professor Nancy B Grimm
School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University

Nancy B. Grimm studies the interaction of climate variation and change, human activities, and ecosystems. Her interdisciplinary research in both urban and stream ecosystems has focused on disturbance, resilience, and biogeochemical processes. The Grimm Lab studies how disturbances (such as flooding or drying) affect the structure and processes of desert streams, how chemical elements move through and cycle within both desert streams and cities, the effects of stormwater infrastructure on water and material movement across an urban landscape, and impacts of extreme events on urban social-ecological-technological systems and their infrastructure. From 1997-2016, Professor Grimm directed the Central Arizona–Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research program, a pioneering interdisciplinary study of the Phoenix metropolitan region.

She currently co-directs a Sustainability Research Network focused on urban resilience to weather-related extreme events. She was president and is a fellow of the Ecological Society of America of and is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is an editor of  the AGU e-journal, Earth’s Futurea past program director for the U.S. National Science Foundation and senior scientist for the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and a lead author for two chapters of the U.S. National Climate Assessment, released in 2014.

Professor Shahbaz Khan

khan-shahbazShahbaz Khan, Director Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific and UNESCO Representative for Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste

Professor Shahbaz Khan is Director Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific and UNESCO Representative for Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste. He has multidisciplinary academic background and professional experience in engineering, environmental law, economics and international diplomacy. He is a Fellow, Chartered Engineer and Engineering Executive of Engineers Australia, Hon Fellow of Institution of Engineers, Malaysia, Fellow of the ASEAN Academy of Engineers, Hon Fellow of the Myanmar Engineering Society, Founding Fellow of the Academy of Engineering and Technology of the Developing World and Fellow of the Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand. Shahbaz is Adjunct Professor at the University of Canberra and Western Sydney University, Australia, Adjunct Professor at the Lincoln University, New Zealand, Distinguished Professor at the National University of Science and Technology, Pakistan and Distinguished Professor at the Capital Normal University, China.

Prof Khan has worked in Australia, France, Indonesia and Pakistan in various research, consultancy and policy positions. Before joining UNESCO, Shahbaz was Professor and Director at the Charles Sturt University, Research Director Irrigation Systems at CSIRO and Programme Leader, System Harmonisation for Regional Irrigation Business Partnerships at the Cooperative Research Centre for Irrigation Futures, Australia. His work has been recognised through the receipt of many awards such as the Great Wall Friendship Award China 2017, FEIAP Engineer of the Year Award 2016, UNESCO Team Award for Managing Hydro Hazards 2009, Land and Water Australia’s Eureka Prize 2007, CSIRO Medal 2007, Biennial Medal of the Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand. He has widely published in the area of water, environment and sustainable development and received several outstanding publications awards.

Professor Gabriela Lee Alardín

gabriela-lee-230x230Gabriela Lee Alardín 
Professor, Department of Architecture, Urbanism and Civil Engineering. Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México. gabriela.lee@ibero.mx

PhD in Urban Studies, National University of Mexico (UNAM); Master’s Degree in Conservation and Restoration of Historic Towns and Buildings, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Architecture Degree, Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México (IBERO). Faculty member at IBERO since 1997, where she headed the Master Program in Projects for Urban Development from 2009 to 2016, and is a member of the research chair ‘Territorial dynamics and Well Being’. Obtained the INAH Prize 2015 (Restoration and Conservation of Architectural and Urban Heritage) to the best doctoral thesis, from the National Institute of Anthropology and History. Teaches subjects in graduate and undergraduate programs: design studios, architectural restoration, urban renewal workshops, urban history, and cultural heritage. Author of various texts on architectural and urban heritage in national and international publications, her research interests also include urban history and sustainable urban development.

Professor Jari Niemelä

jari-niemela-230x230Professor Jari Niemelä
Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Dept of Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki

Jari Niemelä is Professor of Urban Ecology and Dean of the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Helsinki. He has a PhD degree in zoology (ecology) from the University of Helsinki. He has been working in various research teaching positions since 1980s. He also spent three years as a Postdoctoral researcher in Canada (University of Alberta, Edmonton) in the early 1990s. He has had his professorship in urban ecology since year 2000. Professionally, Niemelä is broadly interested in issues related to sustainable urban development. His own expertise is in ecology, biodiversity, and conservation biology, but his research team also addresses issues related to the integration of natural and social sciences. Niemelä is also interested and active in the science-policy interface, i.e. in transferring research results to the society to inform planners, decision-makers etc.

Local Champions

Peter Churchill

peter-churchill-230x230Peter Churchill
Honorary Professor, University of Birmingham

Peter Churchill has worked for over 37 years in research and research management. He is an environmental scientist by training, and until July 2016 was responsible for advising the Director General of the European Commission's scientific arm, the Joint Research Centre, on its scientific development. He has a full and deep knowledge of the European Union's research policy, research programmes, and research organisations. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Wolverhampton.

Peter is now retired, working part time as an Honorary Professor at the University of Birmingham.

He has worked as an academic at Cranfield University UK, and as a consultant at Hunting Technical Services, UK before moving to work for the European Commission in 1988. Peter has extensive experience of research management, strategy and policy from the project level to the European and international level.

Peter has chaired G7 technical groups in a range of fields related to Earth observation, and has worked extensively with a wide range of European and international organisations.

Johanna Gibbons

gibbons-johannaJohanna Gibbons is a Landscape Architect and founding member of J & L Gibbons LLP, established in 1986, and founding Director of social enterprise Landscape Learn with design partner Neil Davidson. Jo studied Landscape Architecture at Edinburgh College of Art / Heriot Watt University. She is a Fellow of the Landscape Institute and the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and serves on several advisory panels including Historic England’s Urban Panel and the Forestry Commission’s London Forestry and Woodland Advisory Committee. She is a core research partner of Urban Mind, a cross-disciplinary project lead by Kings College London with Nomad arts projects, exploring how the urban environment affects mental wellbeing, recently published in Bioscience. Jo is an Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. Jo’s expertise concerns heritage, green infrastructure and urban regeneration and she leads on collaborative cross-disciplinary practice at a strategic and local level, mostly in London. Recently exhibited work includes ‘Rethinking Urban Landscapes’ at the Building Centre London and ‘Urbanistas’ at the Roca Gallery, celebrating innovative women in urban design. She advocates for urban forestry, soil biodiversity and landscape architecture on an international stage.

Many of her projects are award winning, including Making Space in Dalston shortlisted in the prestigious Rosa Barba International Landscape Prize 2014. Her Landscape Institute awards including the 2008 and 2011 overall Landscape Institute President’s Award for the Mayor of London’s East London Green Grid and Making Space in Dalston respectively. She headed a multi-disciplinary team working with Transport for London in producing the London’s first Sustainable Drainage Design Guide, published in 2016, which won the New London Architecture (NLA) Award for Transport and Infrastructure in 2017.  Jo’s work at Bushey Cemetery for United Synagogues received a World Architecture Award and is currently shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize 2018.

Nick Grayson

nick-grayson-230x230Nick Grayson is Climate Change and Sustainability Manager for Birmingham City Council, with a current lead on natural capital. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham on the research programme called Liveable Cities (EPSRC) – ‘transforming the engineering of cities for global and societal wellbeing’.

In his City role Nick has had extensive European experience with the EU-Project URGE- devising a draft European policy for urban green space; EU-Cities-Adapt, involving 21 cities across Europe on multi- governance adaptation assessment. Nick authored of the City’s integrated Gi and adaptation policy- Birmingham Green Living Spaces Plan; that introduced natural capital to the City in 2013. In 2014 Birmingham was invited to join the global Biophilic Cities Network, a sharing platform for 11 aspirational green cities; becoming the UK’s first Biophilic City.

Nick contributed to the National Ecosystem Assessment Follow-On project and suggested the need for a Natural Capital Planning Tool. The UK Business Council for Sustainable Development helped shape a partnership to devise and test such a tool; initially supported by the RICS Research Trust. Now funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the Tool is being trialled nationally with 17 case studies - co-sponsored by RTPI and RICS.

The Liveable Cities research project has demonstrated the huge hidden significance of natural capital in cities; with systems thinking mapping revealing the inter-dependence of the other 4 capitals. Nick is keen to develop the deeper integration across Birmingham and the West Midlands Combined Authority, through the Natural Capital Roundtable; who are working with both HS2 and the economic intelligence unit on natural capital metrics. Nick is keen to embed a 25 year natural capital plan at the heart of the growth agenda; and in so doing construct all the essential elements of a natural capital protocol for cities; and provide the underpinning framework to achieve a Biophilic City- for all to enjoy. 2017 presentations at 12th Metropolis World Congress, Global Challenges: Major Cities in Action, Montreal; and The UN World Forum on Natural Capital, Edinburgh.

Phil Jones and Mark Nettleton, Phil Jones Associates (PJA)

mark-nettleton-230x230Mark Nettleton is Director at Phil Jones Associates Limited, an established independent transport planning consultancy, known for its industry-leading street design capabilities. Mark is a Civil Engineer and Transport Planer with over 18 years’ experience  of providing technical and strategic advice to public and private sector clients. He is best known for being the specialist transport advisor for large regeneration schemes at the former MG Rover plant at Longbridge and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.

Mark has strong working relationships with local authorities offering comprehensive transport and movement strategies for urban areas. He has led a number of ground breaking new initiatives to influence travel behaviour and parking choices in destination such as Birmingham City Centre, University of Birmingham, and at the NEC/BHX. Mark is also known for his work with developers seeking planning permission for urban extensions and new settlements, including emerging Garden Towns and Villages. Mark is a design review panel member and is a guest lecturer at the University of Birmingham.

phil-jones-230x230Phil Jones is Managing Director at Phil Jones Associates Limited which he founded in 2003. PJA is an established transport planning consultancy, best known for its industry-leading street design capabilities. Phil is a Chartered Engineer with over 30 years’ experience in the planning and design of development infrastructure. He specialises in achieving synergy between highway and urban design, with the aim of creating places and spaces that meet aesthetic, social and functional aims. He has extensive experience on preparing technical guidance and standards and was part of the team that produced Manual for Streets and other seminal publications.

In recent years Phil has been involved in many cycling initiatives, including editing the Welsh Government’s Active Travel Design Guidelines and is a member of the DfT’s Cycle Proofing Working Group. He is an external examiner for the University of Westminster on its Transport Planning MSc course and sits on a number of Design Review panels which provide independent review of major transport and development proposals, including Transport for London and the national CABE panel.         He regularly delivers training for fellow professionals, including on behalf of Urban Design London and is a guest lecturer for the Universities of Birmingham, Westminster and Nottingham Trent. Phil is a highly respected professional, with a broad range of knowledge spanning the fields of highways and transportation, urban design, practice, research and academia.

Phil Jones Associates (PJA) is an established transport planning and engineering consultancy, formed in 2003 by Phil Jones who has been joined by a strong senior team of Technical Directors, and supported by a committed team of graduates and professional staff. The overall company now numbers over 50 people and is continuing to grow, making us one of the largest independent transport planning and engineering firms in the UK. PJA currently operate from our headquarters in Birmingham and offices in London, Reading, Bristol and Exeter and with further expansion planned. PJA has a strong design ethos, working closely with a range of fellow professionals including architects, urban designers and landscape architects. Their core business is the planning and design of infrastructure for new developments, and we are now working on numerous large schemes involving thousands of homes. PJA is also well known for our industry-leading street design capabilities, blending transport planning, engineering and urban design, together with training and research work.

Jonathan Morgans

jonathan-morgans-230x230Jonathan Morgans, Royal HaskoningDHV

Jonathan Morgans is a Chartered Civil Engineer and Chartered Manager with more than 25 years’ experience in the construction industry. At Royal HaskoningDHV he is the regional manager for the Midlands and Scotland and provides management advice and strategic support to our resource planning nationally. He has extensive expertise from holding significant roles within the Environment Agency, consulting engineering and charity sector.

Jonathan is a DEFRA/EA Appointee on the Trent Regional Flood and Coastal Committee and will be working with the University of Birmingham as an Industry Champion on behalf of Royal HaskoningDHV.

Chris Rance

chris-rance-230x230Chris Rance

Chris is a Technical Director in the Landscape and Urban Design department of multidisciplinary consultancy WSP UK. Previously employed in a similar capacity by consultancy Atkins, he has been involved in the landscape and environmental aspects of many types of projects. The includes most recently a number of major infrastructure schemes such as the reconstruction of Birmingham New Street Station and High Speed 2 rail from London to the Midlands and North.

He has also has an interest in street scale green infrastructure. Chris has recently run a number of small trial projects looking at how the urban public realm environment can be improved at relatively low cost to the benefit of local communities and businesses. These include a trial installation of green screen vegetation alongside a major road- elping to trap airborne particulates and the conversion of a loading bay/parking space into a very small piece of public green space, a ‘parklet’.

Chris has interests in urban forestry and worked for the former National Urban Forestry Unit on the Black Country urban forestry initiative. There he created a network of woodlands and tree planting in the urbanised and industrial area to the west of Birmingham. Chris is also a member of the Forestry and Woodland Advisory Committee for the West Midlands which provides advice to the Forestry Commission.

Steve Rose

rose-stevenSteve Rose is the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Insight and Knowledge at The Active Wellbeing Society. He is a strategic thinker, innovator and problem solver. A geography graduate from the University of Leeds, his early career was in the private sector with Great Universal Stores and Avon Cosmetics. There he used research and analytical techniques to understand customer behaviour. He then joined public service pointing his spatial analytical efforts at crime and community safety, winning the accolade of US Department of Justice International Crime Mapping Champion! His career has always focused on data analytics and building evidence using research techniques. As a Director for The Active Wellbeing Society he is using his expertise for using evidence, insight and data to shape delivery and strategy.

Current Projects include: Active Communities - one of Sport England's Local Delivery Pilot areas. This is a huge community led, whole system approach to achieving community level resilience using the power of physical and civic activity; 

  • Active Data - realising the value proposition of data supporting free to access physical and community activities
  • Big Birmingham Bikes - trial giving 7000+ bikes away with GPS tracking
  • Parklives/Active Parks/Streets (CSR with Coca-Cola) - programme of free activities in Parks, open spaces and streets
  • Urbact Vital Cities – International network looking at radical place based ways to make cities places where people are active
  • Horizon 2020 SETA - Big Data innovations in urban mobility modelling. Visit The Active Wellbeing website for more information and case studies.