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Dr Marion Ernwein

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Professional biography

I joined the Open University as Lecturer in Environmental Geography in October 2020. I read geography at undergraduate level at the University of Rennes 2 (France). I hold an MA and a PhD in geography from the University of Geneva (Switzerland). Prior to moving to the OU, I held a lectureship at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland)(2015-2016), a postdoctoral fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation (2016-2017), and a departmental lectureship at the University of Oxford (2017-2020). Between 2018 and 2020, I was also a Junior Research Fellow at Mansfield College, Oxford.

Beside my role at the Open University, I am also a short-term research associate at the University of Oxford.

Research interests

I am a cultural and political ecologist with a focus on urban ecologies.

Broadly speaking, my research interests encompass the following:

1) The political economy of urban nature

My early research examined how urban responses to global environmental challenges—specifically relating to biodiversity loss, biosecurity, and food sufficiency—are shaped by neoliberal logics of eventification, neomanagerialism, and public-private partnerships. My book Les Natures de la Ville Néolibérale: Une Ecologie Politique du Végétal Urbain (UGA Editions, 2019), tackles some of these questions, drawing on research in Geneva.

Building on this work, my current research investigates how austerity policies in France and the UK are reshaping local environmental governance, focusing in particular on the politics of urban environmental volunteering (Swiss National Science Foundation grant), expertise (John Fell OUP Research Award), and local finances (Agence Nationale de la Recherche project partnership).

When approaching these questions, I put a particular emphasis on environmental work, its management, and its politics; a focus which encompasses professional, volunteer, and more-than-human work.

2) The changing role of plants in urban environmental management

A second strand of my research investigates how emerging knowledge of plant intelligence and capacities is reshaping ideas about the role of plants in urban environmental management, in areas as diverse as urban design, ecological management, and air pollution mitigation. This research informs a new book, entitled The Work that Plants Do (co-edited with Franklin Ginn and James Palmer, both at the University of Bristol, and forthcoming with Transcript), which will advance a new vocabulary for theorising emerging vegetal economies.

In the near future, I am hoping to develop a research agenda on the role of digital infrastructures in shaping plant-based environmental management. I recently conducted a pilot project on the role of connected sensors and the Internet of Things in putting moss to work for urban air pollution mitigation (with James Palmer, University of Bristol).

3) Visual and digital methods

Finally, my third area of expertise is in qualitative methods, with a particular interest in qualitative digital methods and filmic geographies. I have made four research films and published about film-making as embodied method in social and cultural geography. I have also used film-making as a method for stakeholder engagement. In my current work, I am interested in extending my work with digital technologies to sensors.


I have developed this expertise through my involvement in a variety of research projects:

1) Parks in Trust: exploring third sector-led change in the post-austerity city University of Oxford John Fell Fund, 2020-2021.

Since the beginning of the UK Government’s austerity agenda in 2010, funding for urban parks and green spaces has decreased dramatically, and new management solutions based on blending public and voluntary sector delivery models are being explored through collaborative work between local authorities and third-sector organisations. This project examines how large third-sector organisations attempt to re-shape the work of local authorities in park management. I am the Principal Investigator, and work in collaboration with Dr Alex Vasudevan (University of Oxford).

2) Local public investment and territorial systems. Sustainable development, local authorities and financial viability – Agence Nationale de la Recherche, 2019-2021.

This research, led by Dr Ludovic Halbert (CNRS, UMR LATTS), seeks to understand how national austerity policies shape the way local authorities in France implement and finance urban sustainability initiatives. The project focuses on six cases across France. I am a partner and researcher on this project.

3) The affective politics of volunteering in environmental management: Manufacturing consent to work for free, producing neoliberal subjectivities? – Swiss National Science Foundation, 2016-2017.

Following years of austerity and a massive decrease in workforce, urban public parks in the UK rely increasingly on the work of volunteers. This research examined how consent to work for free is manufactured, and how volunteering is redefined and revalued when it becomes the main mode of delivery of a public service. It also examined the role of specific materialities – both bodily and more-than-human – in mobilising volunteers. I was awarded an EarlyPostdoc.Mobility fellowship to conduct this research, which I conducted while hosted at the University of Oxford as Honorary Research Associate.

4) Les Natures de la Ville / Renaturalising Cities – Swiss National Science Foundation, 2011-2015.

This project, led by Prof. Juliet Fall (University of Geneva), examined how new ideas about urban nature, as lively, inventive, and mobile, reshape the way urban space is conceived and managed. As a PhD candidate, I researched the way in which urban biodiversity is governed and managed through new bureaucratic logics, work practices, and citizen participation.

5) Biological invasions, security, biosecurity: Rethinking territories, actors, and practices Boninchi Foundation, 2010-2011.

This project, led by Prof. Juliet Fall (University of Geneva), and conducted in collaboration with Dr Laurent Matthey and Dr Irène Hirt, investigated the emergence of biosecurity policies in the transboundary region of Geneva. It explored the role of naturalistic science in shaping policy and analysed modes of communicating this sensitive issue to the public. I contributed to the project as research assistant and co-authored one of the outputs.

Teaching interests

I have an extensive teaching experience, which spans social, cultural, and political geography; the geography of nature, urban ecologies, and conservation; and a range of qualitative methods, including film-making, which I taught both at the Universities of Geneva and Oxford.

At the Open University, I am involved in the production of DD325: Researching Geographies of Change, and in the presentation of DST206: Environment: Sharing a Dynamic Planet; DD319: Environmental Policy in an International Context; and SDT306: Environment: Responding to Change.

Postgraduate supervision

At the moment I am co-supervising three PhD students:

  • Carley-Jane Stanton (University of Oxford, co-supervisor, with Dr Tom Thornton): Post-wildfire morel mushroom harvesting and the production of post-disaster opportunity in settler-colonial Canada.
  • Gregory Anderson (University of Oxford, second supervisor, with Dr Jamie Lorimer): Conservation banking in California: uneven dividends.
  • Julia Spanier (University of Utrecht, third supervisor, with Dr Giuseppe Feola and Prof. Ellen Moors): Rural-urban relations in transition: unmaking the capitalist food system.

I am welcoming applications from prospective students with an interest in urban political ecology, plant geography, more-than-human political economy, environmental work, and visual and digital methods.


« Et les jardins ils sont à qui ? » Entretien sur les luttes de défense des jardins populaires (2023)
Adam, Matthieu; Ernwein, Marion; Paddeu, Flaminia; Amandine, Mélanie; Arnoux, Claire and Parreaux, Marie-Hélène
Métropoles, 32

De‐municipalisation? Legacies of austerity for England's urban parks (2023)
Smith, Andrew; Whitten, Meredith and Ernwein, Marion
The Geographical Journal ((Early access))

Filmic geographies: audio-visual, embodied-material (2022)
Ernwein, Marion
Social & Cultural Geography, 23(6) (pp. 779-796)

[Book Review] Natura Urbana: Ecological Constellations in Urban Space by Matthew Gandy. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2022 (2022)
Biehler, Dawn Day; Agyeman, Julian; Wakefield, Stephanie; Ernwein, Marion and Gandy, Matthew
The AAG Review of Books, 10(4) (pp. 43-51)

Débats, Engagements, Critiques: un espace pour penser la production et la circulation des savoirs critiques sur l’urbain (2021-12)
Adam, Matthieu and Ernwein, Marion

Bringing Urban Parks to Life: The More-Than-Human Politics of Urban Ecological Work (2021)
Ernwein, Marion
Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 111(2) (pp. 559-576)

Events in the affective city: Affect, attention and alignment in two ordinary urban events (2019-03-01)
Ernwein, Marion and Matthey, Laurent
Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 51(2) (pp. 283-301)

Urban agriculture and the neoliberalisation of what? (2017)
Ernwein, Marion
ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 16(2) (pp. 249-275)

Communicating invasion: understanding social anxieties around mobile species (2015)
Ernwein, Marion and Fall, Juliet J.
Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 97(2) (pp. 155-167)

Framing urban gardening and agriculture: On space, scale and the public (2014-09)
Ernwein, Marion
Geoforum, 56 (pp. 77-86)

Au-delà de l’agrarisation de la ville : l’agriculture peut-elle être un outil d’aménagement urbain ? Discussion à partir de l’exemple genevois (2014)
Ernwein, Marion and Salomon-Cavin, Joëlle
Géocarrefour, 89(1-2) (pp. 31-40)

« Les quatre mondes du lac Léman » ou explorer avec des non-voyants un paysage polysensoriel (2012-09)
Ernwein, Marion and Sgard, Anne
Cahiers de géographie du Québec, 56(158) (pp. 279-295)

Les natures de la ville néolibérale: Une écologie politique du végétal urbain (2019-09)
Ernwein, Marion
ISBN : 9782377470815 | Publisher : UGA Editions | Published : Grenoble

The work that plants do: Life, labour and the future of vegetal economies (2021-10-22)
Ernwein, Marion; Ginn, Franklin and Palmer, James eds.
Social and Cultural Geography
ISBN : 978-3-8376-5534-6 | Publisher : Transcript | Published : Bielefeld