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Katrin Wilhelm


Senior Researcher of Eco-Cultural Heritage and Wellbeing

  • Co-Lead: Oxford Resilient Buildings and Landscapes Lab (OxRBL)
  • Co-Lead: Oxford’s global hub for Sites at the Intersection of Natural and Cultural Heritage (SXNCH)

Research and Innovation at the Intersection of Eco-Culture and Heritage for Advancing Human and Environmental Health

Academic profile

I am a senior researcher and first-generation academic with a unique background, blending expertise in stonemasonry with a doctorate in Cultural Heritage Science, Physical, and Environmental Geography. My work integrates physical, engineering, social, environmental, digital, and health sciences, focusing on (historic) environment systems contributions and participatory (action) research. I am committed to addressing systemic inequalities and decolonising research practices.

My research pursues three uniquely interlinked themes:

Working with Nature – Nature-based solutions:

This theme fosters synergies between 'nature' and 'culture' to enhance resilience and sustainability. The Urban Bio-Labs project, involving interdisciplinary teams and non-academic partners, examines how plants can engage the public with urban heritage. Additionally, I co-lead the international SXNCH network, focusing on natural and cultural heritage synergetic intersections. We aim to synchronise knowledge, diversify participation, and building resilience, thereby nurturing sustainable growth for communities and heritage.

‘Collaborating with Communities’ – Human-based solutions:

Under the 'Smart Urban Culture' theme, I lead the Lab-In-Your-Pocket project, which transforms smartphones into tools for digital, emotional, and environmental literacy, promoting Citizen Science. In partnership with the Polar Academy, I support 'invisible' teens, using smartphones to improve education for disadvantaged students elevating smartphones from 'toys' to valuable scientific 'tools'.

Learning from the Past - Heritage-based solutions:

Here, the OPAQ project in Oxford uses the city's stone-built heritage as an indicator of historical air quality, turning urban heritage into a geochemical archive for past and present air pollution, including microplastics. This initiative links urban heritage with public health to promote the development of healthy, sustainable cities.

Beyond local, regional, and national networks, my international community and stakeholder engagement extends from Pompeii (Italy) to Petra (Jordan), and includes collaborations with colleagues and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Kakadu National Park (Australia).

Current project

I have recently started as Senior Researcher on the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre Flourishing and Wellbeing Theme. The project will investigate how gardens, woods, workplaces, and museums can serve as dynamic 'living laboratories' to rigorously test new initiatives, aiming to determine how non-clinical experiences and interventions relate to mental health and wellbeing outcomes. Here I am leading the PPIEP and collaborative community outreach, co-design and participatory research to deliver scientific, infrastructural and public health goals.