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Grantees Profile

Jessica Thorn

Country (Nationality)


Grantee Title

Project: Future Landscape Optimization for Peri Urban Resilience and ecosystem Health in Africa (FLOURISH)

Grantee Description

Research area

Nature based solutions to climate change

Host Organisation & country:

University of Namibia, Namibia


Recent large scale climate shocks in Africa and other continents have highlighted how biodiversity loss, climate change, urbanization, and structural inequality are converging to threaten planetary health. Dr Thorn’s research will investigate how green infrastructure together with novel planning and governance processes can reduce exposure to flooding, heat, and pollution in some of the most marginal populations and ecosystems in Africa.

Grantee Description

Dr Jessica Thorn is Fellow at University of Namibia and Lecturer in Sustainable Development at the School of Geography at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, prior to which she was a research fellow at the universities of York, Cape Town, Colorado State, and ETH Zurich. Her work broadly concentrates on climate change adaptation, social-ecological systems, biodiversity conservation, the sustainability of mega infrastructure and green transitions in peri urban, smallholder and mountain systems. This work involves participatory scenario planning, ecosystem service assessments, systematic reviews running surveys to compare local perceptions and observed changes.

She obtained her PhD in Zoology from the Biodiversity Institute and Long-Term Ecology and Resource Stewardship Lab at the University of Oxford in 2016, and her doctoral work identified changes in biodiversity, and the use of ecosystem services along climatic gradients in smallholder agroecosystems, Nepal, and Ghana.

Dr Thorn’s long-term aspiration to continue to reimagine innovations in climate resilience for human and non-human species; challenge existing paradigms on peri-urban systems dynamics and future transformations; support capacity building of young African scientists for timely, effective, and scalable delivery; and generate insights to inform settlement upgrading, risk reduction and covid recovery efforts across Africa.

Project: Future Landscape Optimization for Peri Urban Resilience and ecosystem Health in Africa (FLOURISH)

This project aims to evaluate the effectiveness urban green infrastructure innovations by harnessing novel scenario planning, digital satellite technology, and a living lab. FLOURISH will develop a more comprehensive understanding of 1) past and present drivers of change, urban-rural linkages, and desired futures; 2) how different types of urban green infrastructure reduce the severity of multi-hazard exposure to flooding, heat, and pollution; 3) the impact of regenerating urban green infrastructure and how this supports the diffusion of innovations and health; and 4) create systemic solutions that enhance social-ecological benefits with city and private actors through knowledge exchange. This critical and timely study will focus on three cities which constitute the empirical, comparative foundation: Sierra Leone, Namibia, and Madagascar with synthetic archetypal analyses for global impact. Types of urban green infrastructure will include street trees, trees that retain stormwater, parks (public, private), highway verges, swales, channelised rivers, urban agriculture, and gardening (home, communal, roof-top, rain) due to their potential to reduce flood and heat stress. This application represents a clear conceptual advance of understanding regenerative peri-urban systems at scale; moving beyond learning how to study wicked problems to systems-level transformation in three African landscapes.