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Rowan Ellis

Staff picture: Rowan Ellis
Hydronation International Centre
Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences
Hydro Nation Policy Officer
+44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)

The James Hutton Institute
Aberdeen AB15 8QH
Scotland UK


Rowan Ellis is a Policy Officer for the newly launched Hydronation International Centre at the James Hutton Institute. She is also a social scientist working within the Social, Economic, and Geographical Sciences research group. She joined the Hutton from University of Edinburgh where she held a lectureship in the Institute of Geography. Her educational background is in Geography, Urban Studies, and Sustainable International Development. Rowan earned her PhD in Geography in 2010 from the University of Washington in Seattle.

Rowan has over 12 years experiencing working with a diversity of stakeholders in the water environment around issues of environmental justice, water governance, and gender and development. She is passionate about the sustainable and equitable use of water resources, and employs a range of qualitative and participatory approaches to deepen understandings of the socio-environmental relationships that surround water.

Rowan currently supervises two PhD students:

  • Grace Remmington (2017-2021)-CASE studentship, "Co-producing Rural Wastewater Services"
  • Elliot Hurst (2018-2022)-Hydronation Scholar, "The Multiple Benefits of Constructed Wetlands"

Current research interests

As policy officer for the Hydronation International Centre, Rowan works with key water industry and government stakeholders, as well as international stakeholders to identify emerging water governance challenges and opportunities for collaborative learning. 

Rowan is also currently leading the social science work for a Scottish Government-Hydronation funded project, "Decentralised Wasterwater Treatment-global innovation for sustainable communities".  In this project, Rowan explores the intersections between age, gender, and sanitation access. This work not only sheds new light on the strategies and inequties that plague sanitation provision, but also on the factors that shape how and if people engage with programmatic responses to SDG6 (Water and Sanitation for All)

Key research interests include:

  • Water Governance
  • Environmental Justice
  • Gender and Developent
  • Children's Geographies
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Participatory and Creative Methods

Past research

Rowan's PhD and postdoctoral work focused on the governing arrangements that have emerged to try and negotiate the challenges of planning for urban environmental resilience in coastal South Asia. This work asked: what objectives underpin contemporary urban environmental planning? Who are the key stakeholders in urban environmental planning, how and why do they engage the planning process? What are the outcomes of the new emphasis on urban environmental resilience, particularly in the context of flood management?

Her work explored these questions through a focus on several key urban environmental initiatives and projects that centred on urban wetland restoration and flood management. These projects were significant because they lead to the relocation of several tracks of informal housing. Thus the research highlighted the intersections between urban environmental governance, socio-economic inequality, and the challenges of urban housing in the developing world. The research utilised primarily qualitative methods to conduct research with participants from public governing bodies, private industry, local activist networks, and residents of informal settlements.

In her first role as a social researcher at the James Hutton Institute, Rowan was involved in several projects focusing on the agri-environment and sustainable food security (RESAS 2.3.8; H2020 SALSA). 


  • Roberts, D.; Torrance, L.; Stirton, G.; Britton, A.J.; Craig, C.; Kyle, C-A.; Abel, C.; Macaulay, C.; Fielding, D.; Watson, H.; Pohle, I.; Robertson, J.; Maxwell, J.; Irvine, K.; Sutherland, L-A.; Dawson, L.A.; Shepherd, L.; Miller, P.; Ellis, R.; Richards, S.; Blok, V.; Hackett, C.; Kettle, H. (2018) Women in Science., The James Hutton Institute, 25pp.

  • Roberts, D.; Torrance, L.; Stirton, G.; Britton, A.J.; Craig, C.; Kyle, C-A.; Abel, C.; Macaulay, C.; Fielding, D.; Watson, H.; Pohle, I.; Robertson, J.; Maxwell, J.; Irvine, K.; Sutherland, L-A.; Dawson, L.A.; Shepherd, L.; Miller, P.; Ellis, R.; Richards, S.; Blok, V.; Hackett, C.; Kettle, H. (2018) Women in Science., The James Hutton Institute, 25pp.

Peer Reviewed publications: 

  • Fischer, A., Dinnie, L. Ellis, R., Eastwood, A. (under review) Exploring the potential of citizen social science for environmental and sustainability research – experiences of and with community-based researchers. Qualitative Research.
  • Van Hulst, F. Ellis, R. Prager, L, Msika J (under review) Using Co-constructed Mental Models to Understand Stakeholder Perspectives on Agro-Ecology. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability.
  • Ellis, R. and Galvis, J.P (under review) Troubled Waters in the World-Class City: Urban environmental visions in Chennai and Bogotá. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space.
  • Ellis, R. (2014). Urban metabolism: a framework for examining the mobile materialities of urban water. The Routledge Handbook of Mobilities, 269.
  • Ellis, R. (2013) “Public Performances: enacting citizenship in Chennai’s Second Master Plan Consultation” In, Coelho, Karen, Lalitha Kamath and M.Vijaybaskar (eds.) Participolis: Consent and Contention in Neoliberal Urban India. Series "Cities and the Urban Imperative" Series Editor: Sujata Patel. New Delhi: Routledge
  • Ellis, R. (2012) "A World Class City of Your Own!": civic governmentality in Chennai, India Antipode 44(4) 1143–1160.
  • Ellis, R. (2011) Whose Participation? Whose Sustainability?: India’s urban eco-parks Scottish Geographical Journal 127(3): 193-208. 
  • Ellis, R. (2011) The Politics of the Middle: Re-centering Class in the Postcolonial. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies. 10(1): 69-81. 
  • Ellis, R. (2010) Who Participates? Rethinking Civil Society in the Context of Competing Definitions of Urban Sustainability. World Bank, Washington, D.C.

Other Publications:

  • Ellis, R. (2014). Book review: The Illegal City: Space, Law and Gender in a Delhi Squatter Settlement. Urban Studies, 51(4), 848-850.
  • Edwards, K. J., Ellis, R., & Philip, L. J. (2013). An Appreciation: Neil Smith (1954–2012). Scottish Geographical Journal, 129(1), 54-56.

Grants and awards:

  • 2018 Hydro Nation PhD studentship: The Multiple Benefits of Decentralised Water Treatment in Rural India
  • 2017 “Decentralised Wastewater Treatment-Global Innovations for Sustainable Communities”(Co-Investigator), Scottish Government, Hydro Nation Initiative.
  • 2010 Finalist "Examining 'The Places We Live'" Call for Papers, sponsored by USAID, the International Housing Coalition, The World Bank, Woodrow Wilson Center Comparative Urban Studies Project, and Cities Alliance.
  • 2008-2009 Metropolis and Micropolitics conference series; awarded $18,000.00 from University of Washington Simpson Center
  • 2007-2008 Postcolonial Urbanism research cluster; awarded $4,800.00 from American Institute of Indian Studies

Printed from /staff/rowan-ellis on 20/11/19 12:54:56 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.