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Emily O'Donnell

Research Fellow, Faculty of Social Sciences

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Biography

Emily O'Donnell (nee Lawson) trained as a glacial water chemist at the University of Bristol and was awarded her PhD in November 2012, receiving a Postgraduate Award for Excellence in a Doctoral Thesis. Her PhD included designing novel incubation experiments to monitor methane and carbon dioxide production in sub-ice environments, as part of a NERC-funded project ('Biogenic Production of Climatic Amplifiers Under Ice') at the University of Bristol. She then completed three months post-doctoral research investigating the impact of glacial nutrient export on ecosystem productivity in downstream, near-coastal marine environments. Emily then worked as a lecturer in Physical Geography at the University of Bristol (7 months), teaching Cryosphere and Physical Geography Research Methods.

Emily joined the University of Nottingham in April 2013 as a Research Fellow in flood risk management. She managed and coordinated the multi-disciplinary, multi-institution EPSRC funded project "Evaluating the multiple benefits of flood risk strategies in Blue-Green Cities" (EP/K013661/1, www.bluegreencities.ac.uk) and associated "Clean Water for All" initiative (a UK-US-China collaboration). Her research focused on identifying the uncertainties and challenges that act as barriers to the widespread implementation of Blue-Green sustainable flood risk management solutions, the evaluation of the multiple social and environmental benefits of blue-green infrastructure using GIS, and stakeholder engagement practices. Emily worked closely with local government stakeholders in Newcastle, UK, and Portland, USA, to develop a sustainable vision for urban surface water and flood risk management via Learning and Action Alliances.

Emily's is currently working on the EPSRC-funded research project entitled 'Achieving Flood Resilience in an Uncertain Future' that aims to enable the coordinated planning, design and operation of closely coupled urban water systems necessary to achieve transformative change in urban flood risk and water management. Her work on this project focuses on enabling engineering, scientific and vernacular knowledges to be co-produced by urban water professionals and beneficiary communities and applied to design adaptive flood and water infrastructure that provides safe, healthy and attractive Blue-Green urban spaces that are intensively used and highly valued by citizens and communities. Emily's research also addresses how interactions between responsible authorities and stakeholders (ranging from the planners and developers responsible for wider urban forms, to the engineers and scientists who design optimal solutions for specific locations and the communities at risk of flooding) evolve to enable cities to achieve flood resilience and water security that in ways that are sustainable, reliable and enduring.

Expertise Summary

Sustainable flood risk management, Blue-Green infrastructure, multiple benefit evaluation using ArcGIS, establishing and running Learning and Action Alliance, multi-criteria analysis, investigating barriers to sustainable drainage and worling with stakeholders to develop solutions.

Research Summary

I coordinate and manage an EPSRC-funded research project entitled 'Achieving Flood Resilience in an Uncertain Future' that aims to enable the coordinated planning, design and operation of closely… read more

Selected Publications

Current Research

I coordinate and manage an EPSRC-funded research project entitled 'Achieving Flood Resilience in an Uncertain Future' that aims to enable the coordinated planning, design and operation of closely coupled urban water systems necessary to achieve transformative change in urban flood risk and water management. My work on this project focuses on enabling engineering, scientific and vernacular knowledges to be co-produced by urban water professionals and beneficiary communities and applied to design adaptive flood and water infrastructure that provides safe, healthy and attractive Blue-Green urban spaces that are intensively used and highly valued by citizens and communities. My research also addresses how interactions between responsible authorities and stakeholders (ranging from the planners and developers responsible for wider urban forms, to the engineers and scientists who design optimal solutions for specific locations and the communities at risk of flooding) evolve to enable cities to achieve flood resilience and water security that in ways that are sustainable, reliable and enduring.

Past Research

I coordinated the a multi-disciplinary reserach project 'Delivering and Evaluating Multiple Flood Risk Benefits in Blue-Green Cities' (2013-2016). This is focused on investigating how flood risk management strategies might implement blue-green infrastructure, e.g. bioswales, wetlands, retention ponds, to manage surface water flow, stormwater runoff and pluvial (from rainfall) flooding, and investigating the use of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS) for building sustainable environments, more resilient to future flooding. A particular interest was in the identification and quantification of the social, environmental and economic benefits from multifunctional land use, e.g. using football fields for storage in times of flood, and recreation use during non-flood periods, and raising awareness of successful blue-green infrastructure projects, e.g. Portland, Oregon, greenstreets and river restoration programmes. My work in this project led to the development of a new framework to characterise the uncertainties and barriers to widespread implementation of Blue-Green infrastructure; in our Portland case study, the socio-political uncertainties, including public preferences and political will to champion Blue-Green approaches, exerted a much stronger influence on decision making when compared with the biophysical uncertainties (e.g. modelling, future maintenance and service delivery). I was also instrumental in establishing the Newcastle Learning and Action Alliance (LAA) that brought together professional stakeholders to create a joint understanding of flood and water management problems and negotiate possible solutions. The LAA has opened communication channels with those not typically involved in flood and water management, strengthened existing relationships and created opportunities for collaborative working to achieve common goals and potential for joint funding.

My past research (2008-2013) focused on glacial biochemistry, including a PhD project investigating carbon sourcing and cycling in subglacial (beneath the ice) environments, using ion chromatography to identify and quantify low molecular weight dissolved organic carbon compounds. The objectives of this project were to investigate the provenance, pathways and rates of organic carbon turnover beneath glacial systems, and evaluate such systems as potential "exporters" of organic carbon to downstream ecosystems. Leverett Glacier, Greenland Ice Sheet, was used as a case study. Research found that glacial icemelt represents a significant input of nutrients to near-coastal marine ecosystems, and can help stimulate ecosystem active microbial metabolism and cell growth. Nutrient export from ice sheets is particularly relevant when recent increases in freshwater fluxes (icemelt) suggest net mass loss. This research also acknowledges viable microbial life at the base of glaciers and ice sheets, and found evidence for active microbial mediation of geochemical weathering processes and potential production of greenhouse gases, which may impact on global biogeochemical cycles.

Future Research

Sustainable flood risk management, Blue-Green infrastructure, climate change adaptation, multiple benefit evaluation, stakeholder engagement

School of Geography

Sir Clive Granger Building
University of Nottingham
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Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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