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Department of Geography


Elspeth Mathau, Hon. BSc, MSc

PhD student

Emerging agriculture and shifting landscapes in Northern Canada: impacts of environmental and climate change on biodiversity conservation, regional and indigenous food systems, and biocultural adaption


Elspeth is a biologist, ethnobotanist and social justice activist. Her graduate work lies at the intersections of ethnobiology, agrarian studies, conservation biology, ecology, and geography.


  • 2020-22: Associate Biologist, Sol Ecology Inc. (Environmental Consulting company, California)
  • 2018-20: Fundraising & Communications Officer, in2scienceUK, London
  • 2017-18: MSc Researcher in partnership with the Global Diversity Foundation
  • 2016-17: California Academy of Sciences, Guest Experience Associate (Museum Guide), San Francisco
  • 2015-16: Campus Agriculture Coordinator and Food Policy Council Lead, DigIn Campus Agriculture Network, University of Toronto & Hart House
  • 2015-16: UTERN Director of Technology, University of Toronto Environmental Resource Network
  • 2012: NatureBridge, National Office Intern, San Francisco
  • 2009-11: NatureBridge, Teen Environmental Action/Education Mentorship Programme Intern, TEEM/TEAM, Northern California

For more career information visit my LinkedIn profile


  • PhD Candidate, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Jesus College (2021-present)
  • MSc Ethnobotany (Distinction) University of Kent, School of Anthropology and Conservation, Canterbury (2017-18)
    • Adaptation to changing fodder plant accessibility in two Moroccan High Atlas Mountain Indigenous Communities
  • Hons. BSc, Environmental Studies ma, Biology, and Psychology, University of Toronto, School for the Environment, Victoria College (2011-16)
    • Green Roofs in Toronto, Policy and Development: ecological, health, economic, and social benefits and barriers of green roof implementation
  • Plant Conservation Training (in MSc), Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, partnership with the University of Kent (2017-18)

Selected honours/awards

  • 2023: Canadian Centennial Scholarship Fund (CCSF) Scholar Award
  • 2023: Vice-Chancellor’s Social Impact Award Nominee, Cambridge Hub, University of Cambridge
  • 2023: Philip Lake II Fund Award, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
  • 2022: Sir Robbie Jennings Fund, Jesus College, University of Cambridge
  • 2022: GESA Fellowship, Global Diversity Foundation (in part with University of Oxford ECI)
  • 2019: Julia F. Morton Award- Society for Ethnobotany International Conference
  • 2018: Global Diversity Foundation Graduate Student Research Grant
  • 2016: Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award, University of Toronto
  • 2016: Varsity T-Holder’s Academic Excellence Award, Varsity Blues, University of Toronto
  • 2016: Selected Student Strategist for the Using Science for Change Programme, University of Toronto
  • 2016: Clara Benson Award Nominee, Varsity Blues, University of Toronto
  • 2015: Bronze T-Holder Award, Varsity Blues, University of Toronto


What are the implications of environmental and climate change for development and conservation in the subarctic? And how do agricultural development, biodiversity conservation, and local foodway adaptations intersect in this region?

My research aims to understand how climate change is impacting current agricultural projects and potential expansion in subarctic Canada, and the implications of agricultural development for biodiversity conservation, local and indigenous food security, and biocultural adaptation in a rapidly changing world. Using farming regions within the boreal biome and boreal-tundra ecotone in the Yukon and Northwest Territories, this research takes a multidisciplinary methodological approach by incorporating ecological, ethnobotanical, and social research methods to understand change in the subarctic. In studying subarctic regions, I hope to provide insight on how climate change is shaping emergent agriculture and the potential to evolve more stable agrobiodiverse landscapes and livelihoods that could model climate-adaptive practice and planning for other forest agroecosystems and remote communities.


Conference presentations and invited lectures

  • ‘Adaptation to changing fodder plant accessibility in two Moroccan High Atlas Mountain Indigenous Communities’. Poster presented at the Society for Ethnobotany International Conference (June 2019), Cincinnati, Ohio. Julia F. Morten Award Winner
  • ‘Everything is Touga: Adaptation to changing fodder plant accessibility in two Moroccan High Atlas Mountain Indigenous Communities’. Paper presented at the Society for Ethnobotany International Conference (June 2019), Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • ‘Building community through urban farming’. Invited Lecturer on Sustainable Agriculture and the Rise of the Food Movement. University of Toronto, The Global Food System Course GGR329. (June 2015).


Public scholarship


  • University of Cambridge, Department of Geography
    • Supervisor, Part II, Political Appetites: Geographies of Food and Power
    • Supervisor, Part II, Political Ecology of the Global South

External activities

  • Global Environments Network member, Global Diversity Foundation (GDF) (2022-present)
  • Global Environments Summer Academy Fellowship (GESA). Global Diversity Foundation (GDF), hosted in part with the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute (2022)
  • Cambridge Zero Postgraduate Steering Committee- Treasurer & Events Lead (2022-present)
  • Cambridge Zero Postgraduate Academy- Student Symposium Conference, lead organiser 2022
  • Graphic Design for Climate Research training series, lead organiser, Cambridge Zero Postgraduate Academy 2022
  • Difficult Geographies Discussion Group, University of Cambridge, (2021-present)
  • Black in Geography Discussion Group, University of Cambridge, (2021-present)
  • Co-founder of the Mill Valley Force for Racial Equity and Empowerment (MV FREE), Community Activist Group (2021-present)
  • Co-Chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Government Task Force, City of Mill Valley, 2020
  • Permaculture Design Certification- Permakultur Institut of Germany & Permaculture Institute of North America (2019)
  • Member- Society for Ethnobotany (2018-present)
  • US Figure Skating and St. Moritz ISC coach member
  • Professional Figure Skating Coach, Oakland Ice Center & San Jose Sharks (2016-present)