Leonie Schulz

Environmental Social Scientist
Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences
T: +44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)

Environmental social scientist employing a range of social science and environmental research methods, including questionnaire surveys, interviews, social media research and participatory methods like the Delphi technique & participatory mapping. Experience with NiVO, R and GIS for qualitative, quantitative, and spatial analysis.

My research interests include people-nature relationships, human-environment geography, conservation social science, recreation ecology, behaviour change, planetary health, nature-based solutions (NbS), Green Finance, and regenerative tourism. I am further interested in exploring solutions to stakeholder conflicts in natural (protected) areas (e.g. through participatory mapping), ecological restoration, environmental sustainability, climate action, and environmental politics.

I am currently involved in five research projects:

  1. Girls Outdoors: I am involved in a longitudinal study focused on understanding the engagement and connection of pre- and teenage girls with nature. By interviewing girls/ young women from diverse backgrounds, the study intends to identify how greenspaces and outdoor activities can be improved for this age group, with the aim of enhancing their experiences in nature.
  2. Quality of Urban Life study: I am leading a study evaluating Quality of Urban Life (QoUL) linked to greenspace enhancements. By exploring how QoUL assessments reflect greenspace benefits for residents, the study informs urban greenspace management, policies, and QoUL practical applications. It intends to identify how increased urban biodiversity can benefit both wildlife and residents’ well-being.
  3. Mainstreaming NbS: The MERLIN project focuses on mainstreaming Nature-based Solutions (NbS) for restoring freshwater ecosystems. My role involves analysing climate adaptation policies and exploring private sector funding opportunities to enhance nature-based solutions adoption and drive transformative ecosystem restoration.
  4. Planetary Health: Linked to the “Thrive! Healthy People • Healthy Planet” exhibit, the project promotes planetary health concepts, connects ecosystem health with individual well-being. I created a planetary health survey and funding proposal to bring THRIVE! to Aberdeen, aiming to raise awareness of planetary health. If funded, a discussion guide will empower small groups to drive planetary health improvements.
  5. Informing a Just Future for the Scottish Rural Economy: I am contributing to a project that aims to improve understanding of the Scottish rural economy by establishing a comprehensive data collection framework for rural assets. My role involves transforming these assets into a detailed database, enabling in-depth spatial analyses and insights into evolving rural development and inequalities.

Past research

My previous research projects have explored human-nature interactions in conservation areas; spatial distributions of cultural ecosystem services; attitudes, knowledge and awareness of environmental issues; pro-environmental behaviours at home vs. in the outdoors/ on holiday; circular cultural heritage (reuse of buildings and resources for cultural activities and tourism); and attitudes towards regenerative activities (e.g. participating in litter picks/ beach cleans and nature restoration activities).

July 2021 – March 2022: Lln-Iveragh Ecomuseums (LIVE) project, University College Cork, part funded by the Ireland Wales cooperation programme and European Regional Development Fund:

LIVE brought together Welsh and Irish communities, academics, and governments. It aimed to promote sustainable tourism by highlighting the natural and cultural assets of the Iveragh peninsula (Kerry, Ireland) and Ll?n peninsula (north Wales). The project aimed to benefit local communities and move away from extractive tourism practices.

I researched opportunities for adopting regenerative tourism principles. This involved understanding how visitors engage with natural and cultural heritage on the Ll?n and Iveragh peninsulas (participatory mapping) along with the challenges and opportunities for developing regenerative tourism actions. The aim was to amplify positive impacts like heritage awareness and minimise negatives like pollution. As core theoretical underpinnings, the research incorporated the concepts of Tourism Carrying Capacity (TCC), Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC), and Butler’s Tourism Life Cycle Model.

PhD thesis title: Balancing outdoor tourism and recreation development with environmental conservation after major infrastructure improvements: dualling the A9 through Cairngorms National Park.

My PhD employed a mixed methods research approach to investigate conflicts between conservation efforts and tourism/recreation activities within Cairngorms National Park. Initially, I conducted both on-site visitor and online business surveys to explore the experiences, expectations, attitudes, and perceptions regarding potential environmental changes and their impacts resulting from major infrastructure improvements within the national park. By harnessing geotagged and GPS-tracked social media data, often referred to as user-generated geographic information (UGI), I was able to create maps illustrating the use of different habitats by visitors. This data allowed me to identify areas where visitor activities overlapped with (conservation) areas particularly sensitive to human disturbance. Subsequently, I conducted a three-stage Delphi study involving stakeholders from tourism and conservation. This study, which included semi-structured interviews, aimed to identify actionable management strategies for mitigating visitor pressures. The findings revealed areas that require enhanced visitor management and emphasised the need for multi-stakeholder collaboration, employing a systems thinking approach, to restore habitats and protect vulnerable species. Through the integration of UGI alongside traditional data gathered from questionnaire surveys, an adapted Delphi technique, and desk research, my study has contributed to the advancement of methodological approaches in the fields of recreation ecology and socio-ecological systems.

Research on interventions to manage land markets and limit the concentration of land ownership elsewhere in the world

Glass, J., Bryce, R., Combe, M., Hutchison, N.E., Price, M.F., Schulz, L. and Valero, D. 2018. Research on interventions to manage land markets and limit the concentration of land ownership elsewhere in the world. Scottish Land Commission, Commissioned Report No 001.