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Profile summary

  • Agri-food systems
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Rural development
  • Agroecology
  • Livelihoods and wellbeing
  • Sustainability transformations
  • Environmental governance and institutions

Nathan Clay studies human-environment interactions, focusing on transformations to more equitable, sustainable, and resilient agri-food systems

Clay’s research centers on rural development and environmental sustainability in agriculture and forest contexts. It considers how people differentially experience and adapt to climate change alongside other social-environmental changes. A central objective is to ensure that food system sustainability initiatives can also transform inequitable social-ecological systems.

His research revolves around community-based fieldwork. Since 2012, he has studied climate change, agroecological knowledge systems, and rural development in Rwanda, including more than three years living in the region. Since 2019, he has studied food system transformation, agroecology, and rural livelihoods in Spain. He has conducted shorter field projects in Cameroon, Nicaragua, Ghana, and France.

Prior to joining the centre, Clay was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford (2017-2020) and a postdoctoral fellow at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (2020-2021). His interdisciplinary training includes a PhD in geography (Pennsylvania State University, 2017), dual bachelor’s degrees in zoology and English (Michigan State University), and an MSc in environment and sustainability from the University of Michigan.

Clay currently leads a project (AFTER: Agri-Food Transformations for Equitable Resilience) that considers how European Union efforts to stimulate agroecological food production can also support the needs of small and medium-sized farms, which are often disenfranchised in existing systems and vulnerable to climate change. Focussing on Spain’s almond sector, this study merges a sustainability transitions perspective (which offers a systems-focus on processes of change) with a sustainable livelihoods framework (which offers an agency-focus on the cultural, political, economic, and ecological factors that shape farmers’ capacities and desires within changing systems).

He has a keen interest in teaching about social-environmental issues, sustainability, and mixed methods. He has designed and led undergraduate and graduate courses on sustainability, climate justice, food systems, and political ecology at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Oxford.