I am a Senior Research Associate in the Ecosystems Group at the Environmental Change Institute, where I work within the new Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery. I am also a Senior Associate with the Nature-based Solutions Initiative in the Department of Biology.

My first degree was in Natural Sciences (University of Cambridge) followed by an MSc in Exploration Geophysics. I worked for 15 years as a senior environmental consultant, specializing in climate change, transport, energy and waste management policy. I was then a freelance consultant and writer for a few years, and wrote The Climate Bonus: co-benefits of climate policy, which explores the additional benefits that society can gain through tackling climate change, including cleaner air, biodiversity protection, a more resource-efficient economy and healthier lifestyles. I joined the University of Oxford in 2014.

Since joining ECI in 2014, I have worked on a wide range of research projects. As part of the European Commission's OPENNESS project, I carried out a major review of the links between natural capital attributes and ecosystem services. I also worked with stakeholders in Essex and Warwickshire to explore methods for mapping ecosystem services, including hard-to-measure cultural services such as aesthetic value, recreation and a 'sense of place'. On the European Commission's IMPRESSIONS project, we explored the potential for integrated climate mitigation and adaptation pathways to tackle high levels of climate change.

Since then, I have been working closely with local and national government organisations, nature groups and other stakeholders, building links between research and practice. I have tested and applied a range of tools for mapping and assessing the value of urban green infrastructure, starting with a project in Bicester for Cherwell District Council, and then helping to develop Ecosystems Knowledge Network's Tool Assessor service. I built on this knowledge to develop natural capital maps for strategic planning in Oxfordshire and the wider Oxford-Cambridge growth arc. Working closely with Natural England, I led development of the Environmental Benefits from Nature (EBN) Tool (formerly known as the 'Eco-metric'), which is currently being Beta-tested. This tool goes alongside the Biodiversity Metric, and aims to help improve the design of new urban developments by indicating their impacts on 18 ecosystem services. I have also been working with Natural England on the design of their new Green Infrastructure Standards. I have a strong interest in land-use trade-offs, and worked on development of the UK FABLE (Food, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Land use and Energy) model, which shows how dietary change and reductions in food waste are needed to free up land for nature recovery and carbon storage in the UK.

I am currently working as part of the HERO project (Healthy Ecosystem Restoration in Oxfordshire), and also with the Nature-based Solutions Initiative, where she will be leading a 'sprint' on scaling up Nature-based Solutions in the UK.

Nature-based solutions (including green infrastructure) hold huge potential to tackle multiple environmental, economic and social problems, including climate change, biodiversity loss, food and water security, air and water quality and human health and wellbeing. However, these benefits can only be delivered successfully if interventions are designed and implemented correctly: involving all stakeholders, managing trade-offs and monitoring outcomes. I work in partnership with stakeholders to develop, test and apply evidence-based tools and guidance to support more effective nature recovery and land use strategies that can deliver genuine and long lasting benefits for biodiversity and people. The tools and guidance can help to deliver the right interventions in the right places to meet community needs, by considering the ecological and socio-economic outcomes of interventions involving a range of different interventions (protection or restoration of grassland, scrub, woodland, wetland, coastal and marine ecosystems; agro-ecological approaches to food production; and high quality urban green and blue infrastructure).

My work includes developing methods of mapping and assessing land cover and natural capital, exploring land-use trade-offs and identifying evidence-based policy options that can meet climate, biodiversity and socio-economic goals. I use a range of methods including Geographical Information Systems (GIS), spreadsheet models such as FABLE, and systematic literature reviews.


Pathways to a Zero Carbon Oxfordshire: report

Sam Hampton, Lewis Knight, Hannah Scott, Hannah Budnitz, Gavin Killip, Scot Wheeler, Alison Smith and Nick Eyre

June 2021

Oxfordshire has made good progress on achieving its climate goals, with success in decarbonising electricity and reducing energy demand over the last. This report addresses how Oxfordshire can sustain the momentum of the last decade to achieve net-zero emissions. There remains significant work to do to decarbonise transport, reduce reliance on fossil fuels for heating, and protect and enhance carbon stored in the natural environment.


Hampton, S., Killip, G., Smith, A., Eyre, N., Knight, L., Scott, H., Budnitz, H. and Wheeler, S. (2021) “Pathways to a zero carbon Oxfordshire”, in eceee 2021 Summer Study on energy efficiency: A New Reality?. European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, pp. 565–574.
SMITH, A. and CHAUSSON, A. (2021) Nature-based solutions in UK climate adaptation policy. WWF-UK, pp. 1–1.
SMITH, A. (2021) Natural capital mapping in Oxfordshire: Short report. Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, pp. 1–1.
SMITH, A. (2021) “Environmental Benefits from Nature Tool”. Natural England.
Hampton, S., Knight, L., Scott, H., Budnitz, H., Killip, G., Wheeler, S., Smith, A. and Eyre, N. (2021) Pathways to a zero carbon Oxfordshire. Environmental Change Institute.