Dr Sarah Bell
University of Exeter Medical School, Knowledge Spa, Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro, TR1 3HD
Dr Sarah Bell is a Senior Lecturer in Health Geography, whose research focuses on the intersections between human health, wellbeing and the interlinked physical, social and cultural environments encountered through the life course. Sarah’s work is underpinned by a passion for qualitative methodological development, designing sensitive approaches that promote critical awareness of alternative ways of embodying, experiencing and interpreting diverse everyday geographies.
Sarah joined the European Centre in January 2012, where she developed a novel geo-narrative research approach to understand and situate people’s ‘green’ and ‘blue’ space encounters in the context of their everyday and whole lives. This combined GPS and accelerometer data with in-depth narrative and mobile go along interviews to explore the dynamic ways in which people seek out and experience such settings to foster a sense of health and wellbeing (or otherwise) over time.
During the PhD, Sarah developed a particular interest in the varied ways in which people come to embody such nature-based settings with the onset and progression of sensory impairment, and how such settings could be managed and interpreted in more socially inclusive ways. She was able to explore this further in a post-doctoral project, using in-depth narrative interviews to examine the mental health impacts of life with Ménière’s disease; a long-term progressive vestibular condition, defined by episodes of severe and debilitating vertigo, aural fullness, tinnitus and sensorineural hearing loss. This work reiterated the importance of designing qualitative research methods that are carefully tailored to people’s everyday lives and sensory priorities.
Building on this, Sarah secured funding through the Economic and Social Research Council’s Future Research Leaders scheme to explore the role of diverse nature-based settings in the sensory, affective and emotional geographies of visual impairment through the life course. In examining these aspects of experience and establishing a collaborative stakeholder network, this research aimed to promote more inclusive, multisensory opportunities to experience a sense of wellbeing with nature; recognising disability as a source of creativity, strength and collective expertise rather than solely an ‘access need’.
Sarah has been expanding this work through the 'Re-Storying Landscapes for Social Inclusion' ESRC IAA-funded project, alongside an AHRC-funded network grant, designed to encourage more socially inclusive landscape decision-making to support health and wellbeing amongst diverse individuals and groups: "Unlocking Landscapes: History, Culture and Sensory Diversity in Landscape Use and Decision Making". Visit www.sensing-nature.com and https://www.unlockinglandscapes.uk/ for more details.
Sarah's work has also highlighted the need to complement growing moves to ‘connect’ people with nature in the name of 'health' with efforts to mitigate, cope with and adapt to experiences of environmental degradation, loss, risk and uncertainty in the face of our rapidly changing global climate. In response, and against the challenging backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, Sarah has been developing valuable new collaborations to co-design an interdisciplinary programme of research to explore as-yet overlooked opportunities to foreground disability knowledges in climate adaptation scholarship, policy and practice.
- 2020 Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice and Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (University of Exeter)
- 2015 PhD (University of Exeter Medical School)
- 2007 MSc Practising Sustainable Development (Royal Holloway, University of London)
- 2006 BA Biological Sciences (Oxford University)
Research group links
Sarah’s main research interests include:
- Geographies of health, wellbeing, disability and social inequality;
- Disability-inclusive climate adaptation;
- More-than-human therapeutic landscape experiences.
- 2022: "What can blue do for you: a collaborative resource to share research findings and promote blue space engagement for people with severe mental illness", Closing the Gap Impact Accelerator Fund, Co-I.
- 2021 - 2022: "What does blue do for you? Experiences of blue spaces and health in the lives of people with severe mental illness", Closing the Gap Kick Starter Fund, Co-I.
- 2021 - 2026: "GroundsWell: Community-engaged and Data-informed Systems Transformation of Urban Green and Blue Space for Population Health", UK Prevention Research Partnership, Co-I.
- 2020 - 2022: "Re-Storying Landscape for Social Inclusion", ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA)-funded Strategic Initiative Award, PI.
- 2020 - 2022: "Unlocking Landscapes: History, Culture and Sensory Diversity in Landscape Use and Decision Making", AHRC-funded Research Networking Highlight Notice Award, Co-I.
- 2019-2020: "Living Well With Weather", Wellcome Trust Small Grant in Humanities and Social Sciences, Co-I
- 2018: "Nature Narratives: Vocalising Nature Sense", ESRC IAA-funded Project Co-Creation Award, PI
- 2017: "Nature Sense", ESRC IAA-funded Impact Cultivation Award, PI
- 2016-2018: "Sensing Nature", ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellowship, PI - www.sensing-nature.com.
Royal Geographical Society Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group (https://ghrg.wordpress.com/)
The Landscape, Gardens and Health Forum (http://www.lghn.org.uk/latest-news--updates)
Publications by category
Publications by year
Sarah_Bell Details from cache as at 2022-10-07 12:53:51
I enjoy teaching on a range of themes rooted within critical health geography, including: therapeutic landscape encounters; geographies of health, wellbeing and disability; disability and environmental change; political ecologies of health; green/blue space and health; and environmental justice and health. I also enjoy teaching research methods, with a particular focus on qualitative and mixed methods research approaches. I'm very happy to supervise undergraduate or postgraduate dissertations that fall within these fields, as well as studies around the mental health/wellbeing impacts of illness, impairment and ableism/disablism.