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University of Exeter Medical School

Dr Sarah Bell

Dr Sarah Bell

Senior Lecturer

 Peter Lanyon 


Peter Lanyon Building, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Treliever Road, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK


Dr Sarah Bell is a Senior Lecturer in Health Geography at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH). Sarah’s research focuses on the intersections between disability, wellbeing, social inequality and the diverse and changing 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. These range from narrative and ‘geonarrative’ approaches to emplaced, in situ and mobile methods and arts-based approaches.

Much of Sarah’s research examines experiences of mental health, wellbeing, disability and social inclusion in and with diverse forms of ‘nature’ - from parks, gardens, woodlands, coast and countryside to the weather and seasons. Sarah’s collaborative work – funded primarily by the ESRC and AHRC – challenges ableist discourses around the benefits of nature for wellbeing. It also seeks to promote a culture change, affirming the creativity, strength and expertise of disabled people rather than reducing disability to an 'access need'. You can read more about this and related work online:

Sarah's research has also highlighted the need to complement growing moves to ‘connect’ people with nature in the name of 'health' with efforts to cope with and adapt to experiences of environmental degradation, loss and uncertainty in the face of our rapidly changing global climate.

Since 2019, Sarah has been co-designing an interdisciplinary programme of collaborative research to explore as-yet overlooked opportunities to foreground disability rights and knowledges in climate adaptation scholarship, policy and practice. Funded via a Philip Leverhulme Prize in Geography and the UKRI (under the UK government's Horizon Europe funding guarantee), Sarah started this exciting research in July 2023, and you can read a little more about it online via the Sensing Climate website.


  • 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

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Research interests

Sarah’s main research interests include:

  • Geographies of health, wellbeing, disability and social inequality;
  • Disability-inclusive climate action and eco-ableism;
  • More-than-human therapeutic landscape experiences.

Research projects

  • 2023 - 2028: "IncluADAPT: Disability-inclusive climate adaptation", UKRI (via the UK government's Horizon Europe funding guarantee), PI.
  • 2023 - 2026: Phillip Leverhulme Prize in Geography, 2022, PI.
  • 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 -

Research networks

Royal Geographical Society Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group (

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Journal articles

Wright K, Eden S, Hancox A, Windget D, Elliott L, Glossop Z, Johnston G, Johnston RI, Lobban F, Lodge C, et al (2024). A qualitative exploration of the contribution of blue space to well‐being in the lives of people with severe mental illness. People and Nature, 6(2), 849-864. Abstract.
Hickman C, Bell SL (2024). Unlocking landscapes through Westonbirt’s archive: Exploring the inclusive possibilities of entangled histories of plants, places and people. Plant Perspectives, 1, 165-188.
Bell SL, Hickman C, Houghton F (2023). From therapeutic landscape to therapeutic ‘sensescape’ experiences with nature? a scoping review. Wellbeing, Space and Society, 4, 100126-100126.
Rahtz E, Bell SL, Nurse A, Wheeler BW, Guell C, Elliott LR, Thompson CW, McDougall CW, Lovell R (2023). What is known about what works in community-involved decision-making relating to urban green and blue spaces? a realist review protocol. Systematic Reviews, 12(1). Abstract.
Hunter RF, Rodgers SE, Hilton J, Clarke M, Garcia L, Ward Thompson C, Geary R, Green MA, O'Neill C, Longo A, et al (2022). GroundsWell: Community-engaged and data-informed systems transformation of Urban Green and Blue Space for population health – a new initiative. Wellcome Open Research, 7, 237-237. Abstract.
Lowe T, Osborne T, Bell S (2022). Remote graphic elicitation: a critical reflection on the emotional affordance and disruption management in caregiver research. Area
Jellard S, Bell SL (2021). A fragmented sense of home: Reconfiguring therapeutic coastal encounters in Covid-19 times. Emotion, Space and Society, 40, 100818-100818.
Bell SL, Foley R (2021). A(nother) time for nature? Situating non-human nature experiences within the emotional transitions of sight loss. Social Science & Medicine, 276, 113867-113867.
Bell SL, Cook S (2021). IDEAS IN MOTION. Transfers, 11(2), 98-108. Abstract.
Juster-Horsfield HH, Bell SL (2021). Supporting ‘blue care’ through outdoor water-based activities: practitioner perspectives. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 14(1), 137-150.
Hatton A, Haslam C, Bell S, Langley J, Woolrych R, Cory C, Brownjohn J, Goodwin V (2020). Innovative solutions to enhance safe and green environments for ageing well using co-design through patient and public involvement. Research Involvement and Engagement, 6
Phoenix C, Bell S, Hollenbeck J (2020). Segregation and the Sea: Towards a Critical Understanding of Race and Coastal Blue Space in Greater Miami. Journal of Sport and Social Issues
Bell S, Bush T (2020). “Never Mind the Bullocks”: Animating the go-along interview through creative nonfiction. Mobilities, 16, 306-321.
Bell SL (2019). Experiencing nature with sight impairment: seeking freedom from ableism. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, 2, 304-322.
Bell SL, Leyshon C, Phoenix C (2019). Negotiating nature’s weather worlds in the context of life with sight impairment. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Bell S (2019). Nurturing sociality with birdlife in the context of life with sight impairment: a role for nonhuman charisma. Social and Cultural Geography
Bell SL, Tabe T, Bell S (2019). Seeking a disability lens within climate change migration discourses, policies and practices. Disability and Society
Foley R, Bell S, Gittens H, Grove H, Kaley A, McLauchlan A, Osborne T, Power A, Roberts E, Thomas M, et al (2019). ‘Disciplined research in undisciplined settings’: Critical Explorations of In-Situ and Mobile Methodologies in Geographies of Health and Wellbeing. Area
Power A, Bell SL, Kyle RG, Andrews GJ (2019). ‘Hopeful adaptation’ in health geographies: Seeking health and wellbeing in times of adversity. Social Science and Medicine, 231, 1-5. Abstract.
Phoenix C, Bell SL (2018). Beyond “Move More”: Feeling the Rhythms of physical activity in mid and later-life. Social Science and Medicine
Bell SL, Leyshon C, Foley R, Kearns R (2018). The "healthy dose" of nature: a cautionary tale. Geography Compass
Boyd F, White MP, Bell SL, Burt J (2018). Who doesn't visit natural environments for recreation and why: a population representative analysis of spatial, individual and temporal factors among adults in England. Landscape and Urban Planning, 175, 102-113. Abstract.
Bell SL (2017). Emotional Soundscapes of Life with Ménière's Disease. Hearing Journal, 70(3), 54-55.
Bell SL, Westley M, Lovell R, Wheeler BW (2017). Everyday green space and experienced wellbeing: the significance of wildlife encounters. Landscape Research
Bell SL, Foley R, Houghton F, Maddrell A, Williams A (2017). From therapeutic landscapes to healthy spaces, places and practices: a scoping review. Social Science and Medicine, 196, 123-130.
Bell SL, Tyrrell J, Phoenix C (2016). A day in the life of a Ménière’s patient: understanding the lived experiences and mental health impacts of Ménière’s disease. Sociology of Health and Illness
Cleary A, Fielding KS, Bell SL, Murray Z, Roiko A (2016). Exploring potential mechanisms involved in the relationship between eudaimonic wellbeing and nature connection. Landscape and Urban Planning, 158, 119-128.
Bell SL, Tyrrell J, Phoenix C (2016). Ménière’s disease and biographical disruption: where family transitions collide. Social Science and Medicine
Bell SL (2016). The role of fluctuating soundscapes in shaping the emotional geographies of individuals living with Ménière’s disease. Social and Cultural Geography
Bell SL, Wheeler BW, Phoenix C (2016). Using geo-narratives to explore the diverse temporalities of therapeutic landscapes: perspectives from ‘green’ and ‘blue’ settings. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 107, 93-108.
Bell SL, Phoenix C, Lovell R, Wheeler BW (2015). Seeking everyday wellbeing: the coast as a therapeutic landscape. Social Science and Medicine, 142, 56-67. Abstract.
Bell SL, Phoenix C, Lovell R, Wheeler BW (2015). Using GPS and geo-narratives: a methodological approach for understanding and situating everyday green space encounters. Area, 47(1), 88-96. Abstract.
Bell SL, Phoenix C, Lovell R, Wheeler BW (2014). Green space, health and wellbeing: Making space for individual agency. Health and Place Abstract.
Bell S, Shaw B, Boaz A (2011). Real-world approaches to assessing the impact of environmental research on policy. Research Evaluation, 20(3), 227-237. Abstract.
Ekins P, Kleinman H, Bell S, Venn A (2010). Two unannounced environmental tax reforms in the UK: the fuel duty escalator and income tax in the 1990s. Ecological Economics, 69(7), 1561-1568.


L. Bell S (2023). Towards a disability-inclusive environment and human health research agenda. In  (Ed) A Research Agenda for Human Rights and the Environment, Edward Elgar Publishing, 13-30.
Bell S (2019). Sensing Nature: Unravelling Metanarratives of Nature and Blindness. In  (Ed) GeoHumanities and Health, Springer Nature, 85-98.
Bell SL, Hollenbeck J, Lovell R, White M, Depledge M (2019). The shadows of risk and inequality within salutogenic coastal waters. In Foley R, Kearns R, Kistemann T, Wheeler B (Eds.) Hydrophilia Unbounded: Blue Space, Health and Place, Routledge Taylor and Francis.
Tyrrell J, Bell S, Phoenix C (2017). Living with Ménière's Disease: Understanding Patient Experiences of Mental Health and Well-Being in Everyday Life. In  (Ed) Up to Date on Meniere's Disease, IntechOpen.
White MP, Bell S, Jenkin R, Wheeler B, Depledge M (2016). The benefits of blue exercise. In Barton J, Bragg R, Wood C, Pretty J (Eds.) Green Exercise: Linking Nature, Health and Well-Being, Routledge.
White MP, Bell S, Elliott LR, Jenkin R, Wheeler BW, Depledge MH (2016). The health benefits of blue exercise in the UK. In  (Ed) Green Exercise: Linking Nature, Health and Well-being, 69-78. Abstract.
Bell SL, Wheeler BW (2015). Local Environments and Activity in Later Life: Meaningful Experiences in Green and Blue Spaces. In Tulle E, Phoenix C (Eds.) Physical Activity and Sport in Later Life: Critical Perspectives, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Rahtz E, Szaboova L, Guell C, Bell S (2022). P38 Nurturing and negotiating health and wellbeing in small businesses during Covid-19: a qualitative study. SSM Annual Scientific Meeting.
Bell S, Phoenix C (2018). Nature' as an affordable 'activity space'? the importance of attending to embodied space-time-income constraints.  Author URL.

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I co-lead our MSc Environment and Human Health programme, as well as a number of modules listed below. I enjoy teaching on a range of themes rooted within critical health and disability geography, including: therapeutic landscape encounters; geographies of mental health, wellbeing, ableism and disability; disability and environmental change; political ecologies of health; green/blue space and health; and environmental and climate justice. I also enjoy teaching research methods, with a particular focus on qualitative research approaches. I'm very happy to supervise undergraduate or postgraduate dissertations that fall within these fields. 



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Supervision / Group

Postgraduate researchers

  • Kate Morley
  • Salma Shah
  • Qingyue Xue

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