Accessibility statement

Sarah Knight
PhD Student



Sarah is a PhD student with an interest in GIS, conservation, ecosystem services and human well-being and is currently researching the impact of the environment on subjective well-being.  Prior to this she worked in the environmental conservation sector for nearly 10 years in organisations such as UNEP-WCMC, FERA and ZSL.  

She has a background in using GIS and spatial analysis to conduct research into environmental issues, such as ecosystem service mapping, cultural values of trees, species distribution modelling under climate change and detection of agricultural plant diseases.  She has an interest in employing quantitative, qualitative and participatory methods in research. 


2014-present PhD Student Department of Environment and Geography, University of York  
2007-2008 MRes Ecology and Environmental Management Department of Environment and Geography, University of York
2001-2004 BSc Geogrpahy University of Sheffield



Description of PhD

Title:  The impact of natural capital on subjective well-being

Supervisors:  Dr. Peter Howley and Dr. Colin McClean

Funding:  ESRC

Description of thesis: 

My PhD project examines the relative contribution of the physical environment on self-reported quality of life. The World Health Organisation defines health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease”.   The relationship between human well-being and other forms of capital such as social and economic capital is relatively well understood (e.g. well-being increases with income, employment status and interaction with friends). The relationship with natural capital is poorly defined. Nature, natural environments and green spaces have always been considered restorative for people but evidence to support this has only recently started to grow. 

The research questions this project seeks to address include: 

a) To what extent are the espoused relationships between the physical environment and well-being causally linked?

b) How does the effect of natural capital on well-being compare with the impact of economic and social capital?

c) Are there regions that are particularly disadvantaged when it comes to environmental endowments?

d) Are there certain categories of respondents (e.g. young or old) where access towards environmental amenities matters more? 

My aim is to spatially link the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) and Understanding Society datasets with environmental data to explore the impact of natural capital on subjective well-being.  


Full publications list

Pearson, R. G., Phillips, S. J., Loranty, M. M., Beck, P. S. A., Damoulas, T., Knight, S. J., and Goetz, S. J. (2013) Shifts in Arctic vegetation and associated feedbacks under climate change.  Nature Climate Change, 3, 673-677. 

Carroll, M. J., Anderson, B. J., Brereton, T. M., Knight, S. J., Kudrna, O. and Thomas, C. D (2009). Climate change and translocations: The potential to re-establish two regionally-extinct butterfly species in Britain. Biological Conservation, 142, 2114–2121.

Knight, Sarah

Contact details

Sarah Knight
PhD Student
Department of Environment and Geography
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904 324780