Dr Alec Thornton

Research Analyst
Thornton

Dr Alec Thornton is a Climate-Migration-Conflict Research Analyst in the B-EPICC Project at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He conducts research and networking efforts in Brazil and Ethiopia, with a focus on land and forest change and their impact upon migration movements, as well as potential conflict.

Alec has a PhD in Development Studies from the University of Sussex, UK. Before joining PIK, Alec was an academic in Australia with nearly 15 years of experience in research, tertiary teaching and doctoral supervision. Most recently, he was a Senior Lecturer in Geography at the University of New South Wales, UNSW Canberra. At UNSW, he was Academic Co-Lead for Africa in its Institute for Global Development. For many years, he served as Vice-President of the African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific.

In his research, Alec typically takes Participatory and Sustainable Livelihoods approaches to monitoring and evaluations of food security, rural-urban migration and agriculture. He has widely published on these topics in empirical case studies located in Uganda, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Zambia, as well as in Australia, Germany and the USA. He remains Honorary Senior Lecturer in Geography at UNSW Canberra and Research and Practice Associate at the Institute for Global Development (IGD) at UNSW Sydney. Alec is also Senior Research Associate at the University of Johannesburg, in the School of Humanities, Department of Anthropology and Development Studies.

Alec is originally from Massachusetts, USA, near Boston. He has recently relocated to Germany. In his free time, he enjoys hiking with his family and rhodesian ridgeback dog. Alec is also a personal trainer.

Specialties: participatory research, informal sector analysis, rural-urban migration, sustainable livelihoods, food security, food systems governance, urban and rural agriculture

Recent Publications

Nop, S., Thornton, A., and Tranter, P. (2022) Toward effective stakeholder collaboration in building urban resilience in Phnom Penh: Opportunities and Obstacles. Environment, Development and Sustainability (accepted for publication 11 December 2021)

Cochrane, L. and Thornton, A. (2022) Individual and Institutional Drivers of Inequality in Rural Agricultural Contexts. Northeast African Studies 21(1): 19-44.

Nop, S., Thornton, A. (2020) Community participation in modern urban development planning: A case of Phnom Penh city, Cambodia. Cities Vol. 103 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2020.102770

Cochrane, L., Lewis, S., Mastawesha, ME., Thornton, A., and Welbourne, D. (2019) Using farmer-based metrics to analyse the amount, seasonality, variability and spatial patterns of rainfall amidst climate change in southern Ethiopia. Journal of Arid Environments Vol. 175 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2019.104084

Nop, S. and Thornton A. (2019) Urban resilience building in modern development: A case of Phnom Penh city, Cambodia. Ecology and Society 24(2): 23.

Books
Thornton, A. (ed) (2020) Urban Food Democracy and Governance in North and South Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 978-3-030-17186-5

Thornton, A. (2018) Space and Food in the City: Cultivating social justice and urban governance through urban agriculture. Palgrave MacMillan

Edited Book Chapters

Gbanie S.P., Thornton A. (2021) Agro-Industrial Mega-Land Deals in Sierra Leone: Beyond the Rhetoric of Beneficiation, Employment and Economic Development. In: Cochrane L., Andrews N. (eds) The Transnational Land Rush in Africa. International Political Economy Series. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-60789-0_7

Dela Cruz, I., Thornton, A. and Haase, D. (2020) Smart food cities on the menu? Integrating urban food systems into smart city policy making. In Urban Food Democracy and Governance in North and South Palgrave MacMillan ISBN 978-3-030-17186-5.

Thornton, A. (2018) Food security in African Cities. In Binns, T., Lynch, K and Nel, E (eds) The Routledge Handbook of African Development Routledge: London. ISBN 9781138890299

Contact

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
T +49 (0)331 288 2031
Alec.Thornton[at]pik-potsdam.de
P.O. Box 60 12 03
14412 Potsdam

ORCID

Affiliations

Honorary Senior Lecturer
Geography UNSW Canberra Australia
a.thornton@unsw.edu.au

Research to Practice Associate
International Global Development (IGD)
UNSW Sydney Australia
a.thornton@unsw.edu.au

Senior Research Associate
School of Anthropology and Development Studies
University of Johannesburg South Africa


Academic Background

2007 PhD - Development Studies
University of Sussex
Centre for the Study of Development and Environment
Brighton, United Kingdom

2003 MA - Rural Development
University of Sussex
Brighton, United Kingdom

2000
BA - Political Science/International Relations
University of Massachusetts
Boston, MA, United States of America

Past Positions

2011-2020: Senior Lecturer/Level C
Geography
School of Science UNSW Canberra Australia

2017-2019: Geography Discipline Coordinator
School of Science UNSW Canberra

2008-2011: Lecturer/Level B
Geography 
School of Science UNSW Canberra

2018-Present: Senior Research Associate, School of Anthropology and Development Studies
University of Johannesburg South Africa.

2020-Present: Research to Practice Associate
Institute for Global Development UNSW Sydney

2018-2020: Academic Co-Lead for Africa
Institute for Global Development UNSW Sydney

I have a PhD in Development Studies from the University of Sussex (UK).

My research has focused on sustainable livelihoods in developing countries. I have investigated links between rural and urban agriculture, environmental change, and livelihoods change, including through the practice of migration.

Population and livelihoods pressures due to influxes of migrants and environmental degradation from increased demands on land and water resources combine to present unique development challenges in such contexts. I have conducted this research using various methods, including participatory rural appraisals (PRA and associated participatory methods, such as resource mapping seasonal calendars, focus groups and key informant interviews in Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, Sierra Leone and South Africa, as well as in South Pacific countries—Fiji and Samoa.

Currently, I am co-producing research with partners in Brazil and Ethiopia to identify links between climate impacts, migration and conflict.

Please visit my Google Scholar page, to view my publications

Dr Alec Thornton is a Climate-Migration-Conflict Research Analyst in the B-EPICC Project at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He conducts research and networking efforts in Brazil and Ethiopia, with a focus on land and forest change and their impact upon migration movements, as well as potential conflict.