Dr Jonathon Turnbull

Postdoctoral Researcher in Digital Dimensions of Nature

Member of the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery

Junior Research Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford

Academic Profile

Jonathon is a cultural, environmental, and urban geographer from Newcastle upon Tyne. His research examines how understandings of nature are produced and contested across geographical contexts and why this matters for more-than-human social, political, and economic life.

Джонатон є культурним, енвайроментальним та урбаністичним географом родом із Ньюкасла-на-Тайні. У своїх студіях він вивчає, як формують і заперечують розуміння природи в різних географічних контекстах і чому це має цінність для поза-людського соціального, політичного й економічного життя.

Jonny's ESRC-funded PhD research took place in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone in Ukraine where he conducted long-term ethnographic research examining contrasting and spectacular narratives concerning nature's recovery in the Zone. This involved deploying a range of more-than-human ethnographic, participatory, historical, and visual methods.

У дисертації Джонні, фінансово підтриманій Радою з економічних та соціальних досліджень, йдеться про Чорнобильську зону відчуження в Україні, де він провадив довготривале етнографічне дослідження, вивчаючи протилежні та спектакулярні наративи щодо відновлення природи у зоні. Це передбачало застосування низки поза-людських методів – етнографічного, партисипативного, історичного й візуального.

His current postdoctoral research, funded by the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery, investigates urban rewilding initiatives, from top-down governance schemes to local community-based practices and raptor recovery in the British Isles. Jonny is currently conducting fieldwork on beaver reintroduction sites in Enfield and Ealing, London in collaboration with Dr Thomas Fry and Professor Jamie Lorimer.

Prior to joining Oxford, Jonny obtained his PhD in Geography from the University of Cambridge (King's College). During his PhD, he held two visiting researcher positions: at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Kyiv, Ukraine from 2019-2022; and at Wageningen University, The Netherlands between March and July 2022. Jonny obtained his BA (Geography, first class, Jesus College) and MSc (Nature, Society, and Environmental Governance, distinction, Christ Church College) at the School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford.

With Dr Liam Saddington, Jonny is co-editor-in-chief of Routes: The Journal for Student Geographers. Together, they are interested in widening participation in academic geography by engaging high school and undergraduate geographers in the publication process. Jonny is also a sub-editor of Anthroposphere: the Oxford Climate Review magazine.

Awards & Grants

  • Documenting Ukraine Grant, Institute for Human Sciences (with UkrEnvHum and Solomiya Magazine) (€5000, 2023)
  • Procter Fellowship, Princeton University (2021, declined)
  • Cambridge Festival (2023, £5000)
  • ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership Award, University of Cambridge (2018-2023)
  • Green Templeton PhD Scholarship, University of Oxford (2018, declined)
  • AJ Pressland Prize for best language report (Ukrainian), University of Cambridge Language Centre, 2022
  • AJ Pressland Award, University of Cambridge Language Centre, 2020
  • JNL Baker Prize in Geography, Jesus College, Oxford, 2015
  • Graham Ward Award, Jesus College, Oxford, 2013
  • Eliahou Dangoor Scholarship, Oxford, 2012

Current Research

There are six key strands of Jonny's current research:

I: Rewilding The City

How are different groups taking active steps to make cities wilder? By elucidating the meanings and practices of rewilding in the city, this research strand asks how rewilding is refracted by the urban, and how the urban is refracted by rewilding. Funded by the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery, it investigates the role of cities in nature recovery more broadly and centres the importance of maintenance and repair in the production of urban wilds, bringing together contemporary literatures in political economy, posthuman geographies, and urban ecologies.

To this end, several case studies are harnessed to conceptualise urban wilds. Currently, these include: beaver reintroductions in the UK and Germany; forms of "low maintenance" gardening in Newcastle; and peregrine falcons. Further work will be conducted on less charismatic creatures and processes obscured from the rewilding discourse.

II: Nuclear Natures

This research strand is interested in how and why the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone - site of the world's worst nuclear catastrophe of 1986 - comes to be understood simultaneously as a post-apocalyptic wasteland and a thriving nuclear nature reserve. Funded by the ESRC, it conceptualises "nuclear natures" by tracing how nature at Chornobyl is represented in public discourse and art, unpacking the scientific controversy that exists among radioecologists working on Chornobyl, and through ethnographic research with those living with and caring for free-roaming dogs in the Zone.

This project draws on a wide range of literature from across geography and the environmental humanities to conceptualise weird ecologies, spectacular natures, and contaminated care at Chornobyl. Diverse and collaborative more-than-human methods - notably collaborative photography - are deployed to get a sense of how human and animal lives play out in the context of contamination.

With a Ukrainian film crew, Jonny is producing a film on the dogs living in the Zone called Собаки Що Вижили (The Dogs That Survived). The film and exhibition were shown at The Cambridge Festival in 2023. Jonny has also collaborated with the ceramicist Thomas Hedley to represent nuclear natures in ceramic form.

III: Digital Ecologies

This research strand examines the mediation of more-than-human worlds via three thematic lenses - materialities, encounters, and governance - and across diverse case studies. It develops a framework for understanding how digital mediation is becoming increasingly inseparable from how nature is made sense of in what might be termed the "technonatural present."

With Dr Adam Searle and Dr Henry Anderson-Elliott, Jonny co-founded the Digital Ecologies research group, an interdisciplinary and international research group seeking to foster critical conversations at the interface of more-than-human and digital geographies, political ecology, and new media studies. Their inaugural conference was held online in 2021, and the proceeds of this will be published as an edited collection under contract with Manchester University Press in 2024. Their second conference - Digital Ecologies in Practice - was held at Bonn University in July 2022, and the proceeds with be published as a special issue of cultural geographies in practice.

This collaborative project has received funding from King's College (Cambridge), the Vital Geographies research group at the Department of Geography (Cambridge), the University of Bonn, the German Research Foundation (project number 446600467), the European Research Council (grant number 949577), the Olso School of Environmental Humanities, and the Technological Life research cluster at the School of Geography and the Environment (Oxford).

Empirically, this research project has thus far unfolded through four sub-projects:

  1. Anthropause Environmentalisms - a collaborative research project that examines how human-nature relations were reconfigured during the COVID-19 Anthropause. It explores resurgent natures, quarantine urban ecologies, and digitised human-nature relations. The Self-Isolating Bird Club, an online nature group that emerged in the early days of the pandemic, is used as an illustrative case study. This ongoing project is conducted with Dr Adam Searle, Professor Jamie Lorimer, Professor Bill Adams, Professor Christian Rutz, and Naomi Parker and has received funding from the Harding Fund from Hertford College, Oxford.
  2. The Digital Peregrine - a collaborative research project with Dr Adam Searle and Professor Bill Adams exploring the parallel history of peregrine falcon resurgence and the development of webcam technologies. It offers a "technonatural history" of peregrines in the United Kingdom and examines how "nestcams" are transforming understandings of peregrine ecology, leading to novel scientific discoveries.
  3. Virtual Ecologies - a collaborative project with Dr Adam Searle, this line of research explores human-nature relations in VR, most recently through field work in Breda, The Netherlands at the studio of the Dutch design Collective, Polymorf.
  4. Minimal Ecologies - a collaborative project with Dr Timothy Hodgetts, Oscar Hartman Davies, Dr Siddharth Unnithan Kumar, and Dr Sam Cushman conceptualising novel approaches to landscape connectivity able to account for animals' geographies and mobilities.

IV: Ukrainian Environmental Humanities

Jonny's research contributes to the emerging field of the Ukrainian Environmental Humanities, which brings environmental humanities scholarship into conversation with Ukrainian studies, including his work on nuclear natures at Chornobyl, urban ecologies in Kyiv, and representations of animals during war.

In 2022, he co-founded the Ukrainian Environmental Humanities Network with a group of early career researchers, designers, artists, and curators from Ukraine, Poland, and the UK: Karolina Uskakovych, Dmytro Chepurnyi, Oleksandra Pogrebnyak, and Ewa Sułek. The interdisciplinary network serves as a community and space to gather and share ideas, promote and support work, and enable and encourage collaboration within Ukraine and beyond. The inaugural seminar series ran online over the summer in 2023. Recordings are available.

In winter 2023, the network curated the online residency "Grounding. Invasion" in collaboration with IZOLYATSIA and with support from the Stabilisation Fund for Culture and Education of the German Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut. The residency and public programme examine the impacts of Russia's war on Ukrainian environments and communities.

Between July and August 2022, Jonny undertook a writing residency with Ukraine Lab, funded by the Ukrainian Institute, the British Council, and PEN Ukraine. His piece on the Kyiv thickets is published in The Ecologist (in English) and Українська Правда (in Ukrainian), alongside fellow environment resident Katia Iakovlenko's work. The entire collection of Ukraine Lab essays are available online in English and Ukrainian, and the launch event at the British Library is also available online.

Jonny is involved in numerous fundraising collectives and initiatives in Ukraine and encourages others to continue learning about the devastating consequences of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

V: Bovine Geographies and Metabo-politics

Jonny's MSc research (supervised by Dr Maan Barua) examined the bovine geographies of India's sacred cows. Drawing on archival and ethnographic research, he explored how certain cattle in India came to be understood as "surplus," and track what life looks life for these animals, living on waste, in Delhi. This project brings biopolitics and bioeconomy into critical conversation to provincialise lively capital.

With Dr Catherine Oliver, Dr Adam Searle, Dr François Thoreau, and Dr Else Vogel, Jonny is working on a project concerning metabolism and cattle, theorising metabo-politics as an emerging form of biopower that operates across scales, from the microbiome to the planetary.

VI: Weird Geographies

Provoked by New Weird Fiction (notably Jeff VanderMeer and China Miéville), a subgenre of science fiction, this research strand conceptualises the contemporary socioecological condition as one of "global weirding." Global weirding signals a process of anthropogenic socioecological disruption while foregrounding the shifting experiential qualities of dwelling within altering worlds. With Dr Adam Searle and Ben Platt, Jonny outlined the promise of a New Weird Geography and has developed this framework attentive to natures out-of-place at Chornobyl. This research strand has extended to include work on terraforming with Dr Charlotte Wrigley.

Teaching and Supervision

Jonny is the course convener for the MSc elective, Digital Ecologies.

At the School of Geography and the Environment, Jonny co-supervises several BA, MSc and PhD students on topics relating to more-than-human geographies, digital ecologies, and urban ecologies. Jonny has also lectured on the MSc course in Medical Anthropology at Oxford.

At Cambridge, Jonny taught on undergraduate courses across the breadth of the geographical discipline, including: Cultural Geography; Society, Environment and Sustainable Development; Geographies of landscape; Geographies of gender; Unequal Geographies: Housing and Inequality; Contemporary Urban Geographies; and Environmental Knowledges and the Politics of Expertise.

Jonny has extensive experience in mentoring high school to doctoral students from diverse backgrounds. He welcomes those from underrepresented backgrounds with an interest in studying geography at university to get in touch.

Selected Publications

Please get in touch if you are unable to access any of my publications and I can send you a copy.

Digital Ecologies: Mediating More-Than-Human Worlds
Turnbull, J., Searle, A., Anderson-Elliott, H. and Giraud, E. (eds.) (In press)
Manchester University Press
Cover: Digital Ecologies

Journal Articles



Book Chapters

  • Wrigley, C., Turnbull, J. and Searle, A. in press. Terraforming Terra. In Green Transitions.
  • Searle, A. and Turnbull, J. (2023) More-than-Human Reflections on Anthropause. In A. Franklin (Ed.) The Routledge International Handbook of More-than-Human Studies. London: Routledge.
  • Turnbull, J. (2023) The Kyiv Thickets. In S. Dovzhyk (Ed.) Ukraine Lab: Global Security, Environment, and Disinformation Through the Prism of Ukraine. New York: Columbia University Press. Available here and here.
  • Turnbull, J. and Brown, K. in press. Compounding Catastrophes in Polissya: Chornobyl's Legacy Along the E40 Waterway. In P. Högselius (Ed.) Nuclear-Water Nexus.
  • Turnbull, J. and Searle, A. (2023) Digital Geographies and Ecologies. In T. Osborne and P. Jones (eds.) A Research Agenda for Digital Geographies. Cheltenham and Camberley: Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Adams, W.M., Searle, A. and Turnbull, J. (2023) Peregrine flights: the emergence of digital winged geographies. In Petri, O. and Guida, M. (eds.) Winged Worlds: Common Spaces of Avian-Human Lives. London: Routledge.
  • Alexis-Martin, B., Turnbull, J., et al. (2021) Nuclear Geographies and Nuclear Issues. In D. Richardson, N. Castree, M.F. Goodchild, A. Kobayashi, W. Liu and R.A. Marston (eds.) International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment and Technology.


Edited Special Issues

  • Turnbull, J. Searle, A., Hartman Davies, O., Dodsworth, J., Chasseray-Peraldi, P., Anderson-Elliott, H. and Poerting, J. in press. Digital Ecologies in Practice. cultural geographies.
  • Wrigley, C., Turnbull, J. and Searle, A. in press. Terraforming Terra. Geoforum.
  • Turnbull, J. and Searle, A. (eds.) (2020) The Other Animals. The Philosopher, 108(1). Including contributions from Bill Adams, Maan Barua and Anindya Sinha, Eva Giraud, Lori Gruen, Christine Korsgaard, Diane Morgan, and Cary Wolfe.


Public Scholarship







  • Turnbull, J. (2017) Got Milk? Material Biopolitics and More-than-Human Health at the Gaushala. MSc Thesis, University of Oxford. [available on request].



  • Uskakovych, K., Turnbull, J., Zarkh, N., Krichevsky, B., Rachkovsky, E. and Melnik, D. (2023) The Dogs That Survived / Собаки Що Вижили. The Cambridge Festival, University of Cambridge.
  • Turnbull, J. and Searle, A. (2022) Nature Buffering. Digital Ecologies in Practice, University of Bonn.
  • Turnbull, J. (2020) 'Contaminated Canids in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone', in Visualizing Toxic Places Exhibition, Center for Ethnography, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography.


Media appearances and public engagement

  • 'Онлайн резиденції й промоція України' (How online residences contribute to the popularisation of Ukrainian culture abroad), 25th May 2023. Available online.
  • 'Thirty-minute birder column: meet the nest cam gang'. Suburban Wild UK, 8th June 2023. Available online.
  • 'The Kakhovka Dam Collapse Is an Ecological Disaster'. Wired, 8th June 2023. Available here: https://www.wired.com/story/kakhovka-dam-flooding-ukraine/.
  • 'The Dogs That Survived / Собаки Що Вижили'. BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, 23rd March 2023. Available online.
  • 'More-than-human perspectives on COVID-19'. COVIDCalls podcast, 22 October 2021. Available online.
  • 'Gone to the dogs'. University of Cambridge, 25 May 2021. Available online.
  • 'Chernobyl Guards Befriend Abandoned Dogs In Exclusion Zone'. The Koala, 7 May 2021. Available online.
  • 'The guards caring for Chernobyl's abandoned dogs'. BBC Future, 23 April 2021. Available online.
  • Lockdown and Nature. BBC Radio 4: Reignite, 28 March 2021. Available online.
  • Digital human-animal relations during lockdown. In https://arobase.substack.com/p/des-pomes-prdits-par-lordinateur, 11 February 2021.
  • Digital human-animal relations during lockdown. In https://arobase.substack.com/p/des-animaux-en-direct-et-une-blogueuse, 28 January 2021.
  • Virtual tourism to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Lonely Planet, 24 April 2020. Available Explore Chernobyl virtually as the world marks the anniversary of the disaster.
  • Interview with Essie Chen on Chornobyl fieldwork. Compass, CUGS Magazine, 2018.
Dr Jonathon Turnbull