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School of Social and Political Science: Staff profiles


Kate Symons

Kate Symons
Dr Kate Symons
Career Development Fellow - International Development
4.13 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
Research Interests
International development, Political ecology, Extractive industries and resource governance, Conservation and development, blockchain

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • Please email me for an appointment.

Overview and research interests

My research focusses on the politics of natural resources in Africa, particularly conservation areas and the extractive industries. I take a political ecology approach which seeks to understand ecological issues through in-depth engagement with people, places and ideas. My PhD research focussed on the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve (PPMR), part of the Lubombo trans-frontier conservation area in southern Mozambique. I explored what the PPMR reveals about neoliberal developments in conservation and development, how the area is governed, contested and held together as a coherent project, and the uneven interventions into the lives of people and animals that are permitted by TFCA discourse and policy. As part of this research I also engaged with community organisations contesting extractive projects in Mozambique, especially concerning recent large gas finds in the north of the country.

I studied MSc Africa and International development at the Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh, and PhD in Human Geography in the School of Geosciences, also at the University of Edinburgh. I hold a BA (Hons) in Philosophy from the University of Nottingham.


I currently teach three courses: Key Skills in Development Practice (online and on campus), Research Methods in International Development (online) and co-convene Politics and Theories of International Development (online), as well as guest lecturing on Introduction to Conservation Medicine (online) through the Vet School.

I have also taught in political ecology, human geography, marine systems and policies and geographies of development online, in person and in the field whilst based in the Institute of Geography. 

Current research

My current research focusses on blockchain and international development. I am interested in what new forms of digital exchange and value (especially blockchains, cryptocurrencies and smart contracts) mean for international development. I have been involved with two research projects in this area, OxChain (a major interdisciplinary project between the Universities of Edinburgh, Lancaster and Northumbria and Oxfam) as a Research Fellow, and Blockchain and the Global South, supported by the Edinburgh Futures Institute as Principal Investigator. 

I research the changing political topographies of major conservation areas and extractive projects in Mozambique and southern Africa more broadly, with a focus on marine and coastal aspects (marine reserves, blue and green growth discourses, extractive projects, and contested and illicit marine resources). 

I am also Principal Investigator on a Principal's Teaching Award Scheme (PTAS) project investigating more creative and exciting ways to provide digital lectures to online students. 


Symons, K. (2018) The tangled politics of conservation and resource extraction in Mozambique's green economy. Journal of Political EcologyVol 25, No 1 (2018)

Symons, K. (2019). Land rights and justice in neoliberal Mozambique: The case of Afungi community relocations. In Apostolopoulou, E. and Cortes-Vazquez Eds. (2019). Conservation and Transformation: ‘Rights to Nature: Tracing alternative political ecologies against the neoliberal environmental agenda’. Routledge-Earthscan

Nissen, B., Symons, K., Tallyn, E., Speed, C., Maxwell, D., & Vines, J. (2017, June). New Value Transactions: Understanding and Designing for Distributed Autonomous Organisations. In Proceedings of the 2016 ACM Conference Companion Publication on Designing Interactive Systems (pp. 352-355). ACM.

Symons, K. (2017, April). Trans-frontier Conservation and the Neoliberalisation of Nature: The Case of the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve, Mozambique. PhD thesis awarded April 2017. Available at the University of Edinburgh online repository.

Symons, K. (2016). Transnational spaces, hybrid governance and civil society contestation in Mozambique’s gas boom. The Extractive Industries and Society, 3(1), 149-159.  

Symons, K. (2014). Anti-politics, Apocalypse and Adaptation in Kenya's National Climate Change Response Strategy. Scottish Geographical Journal, 130(4), 266-278. 

Topics interested in supervising

Politics of conservation areas (marine and land) The extractive sector in Africa Blockchain innovations in international development

If you are interested in being supervised by Kate Symons, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in International Development