About Me

About to hike up Clachnaben, Aberdeenshire.

My name is Louise Senior and I’m an anthropologist. I’m enrolled at the University of Aberdeen where I’m working towards a PhD in Social Anthropology. I’ll be doing a year of fieldwork in Caithness to help inform my research – more about that shortly.

I grew up in West Yorkshire, with my parents, younger sister and (for most of my life) a yellow budgie called Angel. I’ve always enjoyed reading, eating food and being outside – and I hope to continue spending a lot of time out of doors under the never-ending skies and in the persistent winds of Caithness.

I qualified as a youth and community worker in 2006 and spent several years working in adult community drug and alcohol treatment services. In 2010, I decided I needed a change and moved to Durham where I worked for the Youth Offending Service and studied for an MSc in Development Anthropology. My research focused on diversity within Transition Durham, a local grassroots group working on responses to the combined challenges of peak oil, climate change and economic instability. (You can read my dissertation here.)  This led to an interest in how different people develop different relationships with and understandings of their shared environment.

I worked hard and was lucky enough to win funding from the University of Aberdeen and the Economic and Social Research Council that allowed me to pursue these developing research interests.

About my Research

Caithness is an ideal place to explore people’s relationship with their environment. It is such a unique part of Scotland, and yet few anthropologists have spent any significant time here and I’m keen to rectify that omission. The rugged coastline, the friendly people and the vast canvas of these northern skies all add up to something quite exceptional. Caithness has a very different character to the rest of Highland Scotland and I think that this should be recognised. With your help, I’ll be spending the year documenting and recording how this rich environment influences life here – and vice versa.

Whilst I am broadly interested in local ways of life, changes in relationships with the Caithness environment are the focus of my research. Land use in Scotland has always been a hot topic for debate, and Caithness is no stranger to this: conversations about crofting, the Clearances, energy production, the location of public art, the best use of Flow Country, how to live in such a windy place and a history of economic boom and bust, concepts that all draw on understandings of how best to utilise the land, have all mingled together in my research so far. I anticipate that my PhD thesis will focus specifically on the role that power plays in shaping people’s perception of their environment and in how people respond and adapt to that power.

I’m involved in a broad range of activities to help me underpin my ideas about how power shapes environmental relationships, from volunteering at Dunnet Forest (the most northerly community-managed forest on the British mainland) and the RSPB at Forsinard Flows, to attending community council meetings; from interviewing local people, joining in with public events such as consultations and guided walks, to delivering an education project alongside Caithness Horizons and artist Sue Jane Taylor.

In particular, I am very excited to be living in Caithness as it undergoes its latest transition: with the decommissioning of Dounreay in sight, and the emergence of a renewables industry, I feel privileged to be in the perfect position to observe how local people and organisations are reacting to and influencing the impacts that these changes have on their lives, livelihoods and landscapes.