Thaut Images / Adobe Stock

Along with the rest of the University of Oxford, the School of Geography and the Environment is currently closed during the coronavirus pandemic. The School is carrying on its work remotely during these difficult times and has joined many other researchers around the university in working to understand COVID-19 and its implications.

Our research

Although some of the most important research into COVID-19 is looking for a vaccine for the virus, there is still lots of work to be done in understanding the implications that this pandemic will have around the world for people, businesses, the economy and the environment.

There are numerous research projects being undertaken across the School that are working towards finding answers to some of the huge variety of questions which surround COVID-19. For example we are: looking at how the virus responds to the weather; analyzing the effects of the lockdown and social distancing on mobility; studying the changes in UK energy use during and after the pandemic; exploring how recovery packages could boost economic growth and stop climate change; and analysing the response to COVID-19 in the black community.

Current research includes:

Medellin metropolitan area, Colombia

Access to healthy living for women in low-income households in peripheral neighbourhoods in the Medellin metropolitan area, Colombia

Prof Tim Schwanen and Dr Juan Pablo Orjuela

This project studies accessibility to healthy living among low-income women in Itagüí, a municipality in the Medellin metropolitan area (Colombia). Under a strongly collaborative framework we incorporate environmental, spatial, and temporal variables to develop a space-time accessibility model of healthy living during and after the COVID-19 social distancing measures. We deploy a mixed-methods approach in which we combine qualitative storytelling from women's testimonies on access to healthcare and food, with quantitative geolocation, physical activity, and air pollution exposure data, to identify how they access healthy living in their everyday life and how this is affected by the covid-19 pandemic. We work with strong network of collaborators including a group of 40 local women, people working in three levels of government (local, metropolitan and national), and Colombian academics which allows us to produce research with the potential to generate significant societal impacts. The project will communicate its findings with different audiences through art exhibitions, online technical tools, academic papers, and briefs.

Centre for Arbovirus Discovery, Diagnosis, Genomics and Epidemiology

Brazil-UK Centre for Arbovirus Discovery, Diagnosis, Genomics and Epidemiology (CADDE)

Dr Janey Messina and Sabrina Li

Dr Janey Messina is working with the Brazil-UK Centre for Arbovirus Discovery, Diagnosis, Genomics and Epidemiology (CADDE) to study the COVID-19 outbreak in Brazil. She and DPhil student, Sabrina Li, have been contributing geospatial analyses linking the spread of the disease to demographic and socio-economic factors.

Credit: Mary Musenya Sammy

Can rural people pay for water in a crisis?

Prof Rob Hope and Dr Guy Hutton (UNICEF)

Making drinking water affordable for rural people has always been challenging. COVID19 places urgent pressures on government, service providers and rural water users with priority needs for water for handwashing at home, in schools and at healthcare facilities. On the 9th June, the REACH programme and UNICEF organised a webinar hosted by RWSN with over 480 participants to examine new evidence of changes in water demand and revenue, and explore how to measure affordability of water supply to help improve policy and programmatic responses.

Thaut Images / Adobe Stock

Changes in UK energy use during and after the pandemic

Prof Nick Eyre / CREDS with the Smart Energy Research Lab (UCL)

Info forthcoming

COVID-19 Hygiene Hub

Dr Katrina Charles, Prof Rob Hope and Dr Li Ann Ong

The COVID-19 Hygiene Hub is a free service funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) that supports actors in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to rapidly design evidence-based hygiene interventions to combat the coronavirus. Dr Katrina Charles, Prof Rob Hope and Dr Li Ann Ong are providing expert advice on public health, behaviour change, and implementation science.

Image: Shift in activity levels. Later starts, calmer evenings. © ECI METER project.

ECI METER project assesses the effects of the lockdown on household life and energy use

Dr Philipp Grünewald, Prof Nick Eyre and colleagues

The ECI METER project collects activity patterns with the JoyMeter app and assesses changes to life and electricity use in response to the lockdown. We link our activity records with smart meter data via the UCL Smart Energy Research Lab (SERL).

Please see the project website and a recent blog article on the Joju Solar website for more information.

Image: Adobe Stock

Green COVID-19 recovery packages will boost economic growth and stop climate change

Prof Cameron Hepburn, Brian O'Callaghan, and colleagues

An analysis of possible COVID-19 economic recovery packages shows the potential for strong alignment between the economy and the environment. Research published by the Smith School reveals that climate-friendly policies can deliver a better result for the economy - and the environment. Led by Prof Cameron Hepburn, the team included Nobel prize winner Joseph Stiglitz and well-known climate economist Nicholas Stern.

Illustration applying the Dorling cartogram algorithm, in terms of the size in proportion to the average daily activity and travel radius of consecutive residents, across the UK

Oxford COVID-19 Impact Monitor

Dr Won Do Lee and Lucas Kruitwagen

Dr Won Do Lee and Lucas Kruitwagen are involved in a collaborative research project across multiple departments entitled Oxford COVID-19 Impact Monitor. It is developing an online interactive digital dashboard showing changes in people's everyday mobility during the COVID-19 outbreak, which aims to shed light on the relationships between mobility, infection and demand for hospital beds and ventilators. The dashboard is publicly accessible and updated daily using anonymised and aggregated mobile phone location data. Won Do Lee is responsible for the collection and development of the geographical datasets, including data about essential premises that have remained open during the UK's lockdown, such as supermarkets, parks, and hospitals. Lucas is responsible for the analysis of inter-regional mobility. This project has so far revealed the profound reduction of population movement in response to the Government's social distancing rules and is beginning to provide important insights to relevant stakeholders who are developing their strategies for dealing with COVID-19.

Oxford Martin Programme on Pandemic Genomics. Adobe Stock.

Oxford Martin Programme on Pandemic Genomics

Dr Janey Messina

Dr Janey Messina is also working with Zoology colleagues for the Oxford Martin Programme on Pandemic Genomics, looking at spatial patterns of human movement pre- and post-lockdown.

Change in total trade (imports + exports) Jan-Apr 2020 relative to Sep-Dec 2019

Mapping the impacts of COVID-19 on international shipping

Prof Jim Hall

Jasper Verschuur, Jim Hall and Elco Koks have been using real-time shipping data to monitor the effect that COVID-19 has had on international trade. The group, which forms part of the UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC), has been processing AIS ship monitoring data to help understand the potential effects of climatic extremes on ports, shipping and supply chains. When COVID-19 broke out, they quickly switched their analysis to understand how the pandemic's impacts were hitting global trade. The impacts are dramatic but complex. Imports and exports from China have been most obviously impacted, but the effects have propagated all over the world. Small island developing states do not show up if one looks at the volume of trade, but proportionately they have been massively impacted and are under-reported victims of COVID-19's impact on global trade.

Image: oly / Adobe Stock

Social Media and Digital Citizenship: Remaking Italians through COVID-19

Prof Anna Lora-Wainwright and Raffaele Ippolito

Current DPhil student Raffaele Ippolito and Prof Anna Lora-Wainwright have been creating a digital ethnography of social media exchanges and tracking changes in Italians' reaction to the pandemic as their country's lockdown progressed. They have found that a defiant mood in the early stages of the lockdown gave way to a rise in patriotic feeling as the pandemic became more serious and mortality increased. A darker mood has been in evidence more recently as the lockdown has taken its toll on communities and the economy. The researchers' observations, coupled with interviews with people directly affected, have highlighted some broader themes, such as the role of collective action and citizenship co-ordinated through social media, and the increasing calls for national cohesion and solidarity in a country which is normally organised regionally.

Three charts that show where the coronavirus death rate is heading / The Conversation

Three charts that show where the coronavirus death rate is heading

Prof Danny Dorling

Prof Danny Dorling has been analysing weekly mortality data, working with a group of epidemiologists from across Europe studying death rates during the pandemic in different countries (and presenting the data in interesting ways!) They are now beginning to think about when a second peak might occur or whether it is very unlikely given the unprecedented levels of surveillance and fear in comparison to what occurred during the pandemics of 1918, 1951, 1957 and 1968. It was during the 1957 influenza pandemic that Harold Macmillan, the prime minster, told the population they had never had it is good. Back then we knew so much less and received information so much more slowly.

Data released by ONS on May 12th showed the following geographical pattern in the distribution of mortality by region and week

Data released by ONS on May 12th showed the following geographical pattern in the distribution of mortality by region and week.

British Red Cross

UK vulnerability index for the British Red Cross

Tom Russell

Tom Russell has contributed to data analysis and visualisation for a UK vulnerability index, working with researchers at UCL, Oxford, Queens Belfast and the British Red Cross. The COVID-19 vulnerability index combines multiple sources of (mostly) open data to identify vulnerable areas and groups within Local Authorities and neighbourhoods (wards and Middle Layer Super Output Areas). The Index currently maps clinical vulnerability (underlying health conditions), health/wellbeing vulnerability (including mental health and loneliness), economic vulnerability, and social vulnerability (including barriers to housing and services, poor living environment). More information about the approach, current indicators and data sources, and forthcoming vulnerabilities is in this open document.


Using the Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium's models and hardware to help model the pandemic

Prof Jim Hall / UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC)

Prof Jim Hall and his research colleagues in the ITRC-MISTRAL research programme have made two submissions to the Royal Society RAMP initiative: first, an offer to use the ITRC's national infrastructure system-of-systems modelling platform NISMOD to look at the impacts of COVID-19 lockdown on demand for infrastructure services, and second, an offer to use the DAFNI computer hardware for pandemic modelling.

In the News

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COVID-19 and the University of Oxford

From vaccine developments to mapping, researchers across the University of Oxford are at the forefront of global efforts to understand the coronavirus (COVID-19) and protect our communities.

Information for Staff and Students

Advice, support, and help on navigating research, work, learning and well-being during the pandemic. Find out more on the University of Oxford website.