Roland Smith

Roland Smith


I am driven by a desire to play a tangible role in our collective response to the climate crisis. I aim to draw together my extensive interdisciplinary skills and experience, to contribute to developing international policy responses that will support the needs of vulnerable populations across the globe. In pursuit of this, my research focuses on exploring and understanding the impact of sea-level rise on patterns of migration and population displacement.

I developed my interest in the climate-migration nexus during my MSc in Climate Change, Development and Policy University of Sussex / Institute of Development Studies (2020), for which I was awarded a distinction. My thesis, undertaken in collaboration with the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), derived systems dynamic model identifying non-material influences on mobility-decision making across the Pacific Small Island Developing States.

Following this, I worked with GFA consulting and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to develop a model that will forecast potential human mobility triggered by slow-onset environmental change across the Horn of Africa region.

Prior to studying for my masters, I built up over two decades experience of working in the arts and cultural sector. Most notably, I was Founder and co-Artistic Director of Theatre Deli, a leading arts charity that pioneered new approaches to embedding support for arts and culture – particularly emerging artists and theatre-makers – in commercial business. I was also a writer, theatre director, script editor, and cultural festival curator, and was Visiting Lecturer at the National Centre for Circus Arts and Rose Bruford College of Theatre Performance.

Roland Smith

PhD title: Understanding Migration Due To Sea-Level Rise

Climate-induced sea-level rise is a major threat to coastal societies threatening forced migration on an unprecedented scale over the 21st century. Despite these real risks for human settlements and human security, our understanding of the scale of the issue and, relatedly the policy and legal frameworks and protections remain weak. Hence, it is essential to rigorously assess the scale of coastal migration using empirical and modelled data and assess appropriate responses.

This study will employ a mixed methods approach to understanding migration due to sea-level rise. It will employ quantitative methodologies to analyse data detailing population mobility in exposed populations, and corresponding qualitative surveys to develop a systems-level understanding of the impact of sea-level rise – and perceived threat of sea-level rise – will have on patterns of mobility. In doing so, the research will identify the conditions under which ‘tipping points’ are reached and fundamental changes in patterns of migration occur.

The aim is to use this model to determine policy recommendations in terms of mitigating, and responding to, non-linear shifts in migration triggered by the impact of climate change. This is particularly vital in steering government policy around the potential need for relocation of communities and fostering multilateral agreements around shared responsibility for supporting those people displaced by the impact of climate change induced sea-level rise.


  • Critical Decade for Climate Change Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship

Other information

Hikapee – Board Member

(2016 – ongoing)

Mentor and founding board member for circus company creating new work for family audiences


National Centre for Circus Arts – Visiting Lecturer: Directing and Devising

(September 2017 – March 2019)

Taught modules exploring role of the director, performance as semiotics, critical viewing, interpretation and adaptation, rehearsal techniques, management, and collaboration.


Rose Bruford College of Performance – Visiting Lecturer: Site Specific Design

September 2016 – March 2018

Tutored students through development of ideas and concepts for designing site-specific performance, particularly in drawing out inspiration from non-theatre spaces and how to overcome practical challenges.


Nola Project / Bees Knees Productions – Volunteer workshop leader:  New Orleans

February 2010

Worked with a team of volunteers in a ‘recovery school’ in New Orleans, helping young survivors Hurricane Katrina access and explore their emotional responses through drama workshops