Skip to main content


Dr Carolyn Petersen

Research Fellow

Lazenby House G.01

Carolyn's active research interests are at the intersection between social science and environmental research, including governance of nature-based solutions / green infrastructure, sustainable tourism, environment-health and wellbeing links, natural capital and economic valuation, and governance of natural resources. Her research is also informed by consideration of issues of citizenship, participation, gender and the voluntary / community sector. See her research blog on: 

She is currently based at the Centre for Rural Policy Research, working on the EU-funded REGREEN project with Prof. Duncan Russel on the governance of urban nature-based solutions / green infrastructure. She was previously working on the Interreg-funded project Bio-Cultural Heritage Tourism ( ), investigating increasing environmental sustainability in tourism interventions, in partnership with four UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in England and France, and Pas-de-Calais Tourisme.

Carolyn also worked on a gender equality and food security project in 2021 with Prof. Toby Pennington (Geography) and the Instituto Ouro Verde entitled ‘Investigating the contributions of women’s agroforestry activities to renegotiating gender equality and food security in Brazil’.
In early 2021 she completed a project valuing the health and wellbeing benefits of the South West Coast Path in conjunction with the South West Coast Path Association, including an assessment of both physical and mental health benefits using the WHO's Health Economic Assessment Tool (HEAT) and the MOVES tool (see link to report below). 
She previously worked on the EU-funded project SIM4NEXUS (, carrying out policy and governance analysis on the nexus involving water, energy, food and agriculture in the South West.
Carolyn also completed a NERC-funded Valuing Nature Placement in 2018 in partnership with Clinton Devon Estates and the European Centre for Environment and Human Health on the links between environment and health and wellbeing. The project aimed to quantify the health and wellbeing value of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths and explore the potential of partnerships with private sector organisations to increase the associated benefits. It included an assessment of the economic value of this site using visitor data and economic valuation tools including travel cost, ORVal (now NEVO), the WHO HEAT tool and the MOVES tool, and also involved conducting interviews and a workshop with stakeholders. The project blog can be found on: 
Previously (2014-2018) Carolyn worked with Prof Oliver James in the Politics Department on a 4-country ESRC-funded project entitled the Structure and Organisation of Government (SOG-PRO), which investigated and developed innovative ways to describe and understand organisational dynamics at central government level. Prior to that she worked with Oliver James (2013-14) on the EU-funded research programme 'Coordinating for Cohesion in the Public Sector of the Future' (, a public management research consortium consisting of 11 universities in 10 countries, investigating blame attribution / blame shifting as a result of contracting out of public services, using survey experiment methodology.
She holds a PhD in the Social Sciences from the University of Edinburgh, which focused on citizenship and civil society struggles over livelihoods and adult educational access in coastal communities in South Africa. Prior to joining Exeter University she carried out research for Plymouth University, DFID and UNESCO, and taught in the Politics department at Newcastle University. She has also worked in the voluntary sector in the UK (social care; community development and community renewable energy in Scotland).
Recent publications 
Petersen, C. (2021). The South West Coast Path Health and Wellbeing Assessment Report 2020. Available here
Wilkinson, T., C. Petersen and I. Merrell. (2022). 'Tourism between the Moors'. Ch.14 in Winter, M. and T. Wilkinson (eds.) The Land between the Moors (pp.339-364). South Molton: Beaford.
James, O. and C. Petersen. (2017). International rankings of government performance and source credibility for citizens: experiments about e-government rankings in the UK and the Netherlands. Public Management Review 20(4): 469-484. doi: 10.1080/14719037.2017.1296965
James, O., S. Jilke, C. Petersen and S. Van de Walle. (2016). Citizens’ Blame of Politicians for Public Service Failure: Experimental Evidence about Blame Reduction through Delegation and Contracting. Public Administration Review 17(1): 83-93. doi: 10.1111/puar.12471
Gray, C., R. Turner, C. Sutton, C. Petersen, S. Stevens, J. Swain, B. Esmond, C. Schofield and D. Thackeray. (2015). Research methods teaching in vocational environments: developing critical engagement with knowledge? Journal of Vocational Education and Training 67(3): 274-293. doi: 10.1080/13636820.2015.1050443.
Other research reports and conference papers:
Merrell, I., Petersen, C. J., & Wilkinson, T. (2019). Opportunity study of Voluntary Tourism Revenue Reinvestment Schemes. Published online. Available on: 
M.J Griffey, N. Hole , C. Petersen, L. Vamvakeridou-Lyroudia, B. Ward , F. A. Memon and D.A. Savic 2019. The Nexus approach for water utilities: A case study from South West UK. Conference paper, 17th International Computing & Control for the Water Industry Conference 1-4 September 2019, Exeter, United Kingdom. Available on: 
Smith, J., C. Petersen, N. Hole, M. Griffey, C. Mitchell, B. Ward and L. McKnight (2018). SIM4NEXUS South West England: Policy Analysis. Research report (see ).
Petersen, C. (2018). Understanding and quantifying the health and wellbeing value of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths and exploring the potential of partnership working involving private sector organisations. Valuing Nature Research Report (available here). 

 Edit profile