Prof. Shannon O'Lear, Ph.D.

Natural Sciences and Mathematics - Geography and Atmospheric Science, Environmental Studies Program, Geography
Director, Environmental Studies Program
Primary office:
Lindley Hall
Room 219
University of Kansas
1475 Jayhawk Boulevard
Lawrence, KS 66045-7613


I am a political geographer with interests in environmental geopolitics, critical geopolitics, the South Caucasus, and Science and Technology Studies (STS). An overarching objective of my work is to apply a critical, spatial awareness to bring new insights to bear on dominant understandings of human-environment relationships. I demonstrate this approach in my 2018 book, Environmental Geopolitics. I have also published work on climate science, geography and STS, geopolitics in Azerbaijan and Armenia, genocide and other forms of violence. I am finishing work on an edited book project for Edward Elgar’s Research Agenda series focused on geographies of slow violence. Currently, I am the interim Director of the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Kansas. I am also serving as an Expert on the Environmental Science and Human Security Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education (AC-ERE) of the National Science Foundation. I am serving as the Councilor for the Great Plains Rocky Mountain Region of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) through 2023 and am serving my second year on the AAG’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. As a response to the unusual circumstances this academic year, I am co-organizing a webinar series for the AAG with one track focused on early career concerns and another track focused on issues for leadership within the discipline. I hold a BA in Geography and Russian and a Master’s degree in Geography from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a Ph.D. from Syracuse University.


Teaching Interests

  • Human geography
  • Political geography
  • Geography of genocide
  • Environmental policy
  • Environmental geopolitics
  • Critical geopolitics

Research Interests

  • Political geography of environmental issues
  • Environmental security and vulnerability
  • Political geography of former Soviet republics
  • Human dimensions of global change
  • South Caucasus region
  • Climate science
  • Violence
  • Environmental geopolitics
  • Azerbaijan
  • Caspian Sea

Selected Publications

O’Lear, Shannon, ed. A Research Agenda for Environmental Geopolitics. Books. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020.
Pickett, Nate, Sam Henkin, and Shannon O’Lear. “Science, Technology, and Society Approaches to Fieldwork in Geography.” Journal Articles. The Professional Geographer, July 8, 2019.
O’Lear, Shannon. Environmental Geopolitics. Books. Rowman and Littlefield, 2018.
O’Lear, Shannon. “Environmental Politics.” Book Chapters. In The Companion to Environmental Studies, Edited by Noel Castree, Mike Hulme, and James D. Proctor, 321–24. Routeledge, 2018.
Reiz, Nicole, Dory Tuininga, and Shannon O’Lear. “Exploring a Critical Legal Cartography: Law, Practice, and Complexities.” Journal Articles. Geography Compass 12, no. 5 (2018): e12368.
O’Lear, Shannon. “Review of the Book Concrete Revolution: Large Dams, Cold War Geopolitics, and the US Bureau of Reclamation by Christopher Sneddon.” Book Reviews. The AAG Review of Books, January 12, 2018.
O’Lear, Shannon. “Climate Science and Slow Violence:  A View from Political Geography and STS on Mobilizing Technoscientific Ontologies of Climate Change.” Journal Articles. Political Geography 52 (2016): 4–13.
Reiz, Nicole, and Shannon O’Lear. “Spaces of Violence and (In)Justice in Haiti:  A Critical Legal Geography Perspective on Rape, UN Peacekeeping, and the United Nations Status of Forces Agreement.” Journal Articles. Territory, Politics and Governance, 2016, published online 20 Jan 2016.
O’Lear, Shannon, Thomas Heilke, Eric Hanley, and Mariya Omelicheva. “This Isn’t Your Usual Obstacle Course: Critical Pedagogy with Special Operations Forces.” Journal Articles. Geoforum 75 (2016): 159–67.
O’Lear, Shannon. “Unconventional Classroom:  Critical Work with Special Operations Forces Officers.” Journal Articles. Theme Issue on Geography and Militarism 106, no. 3 (2016): 536–42.
O’Lear, Shannon. “Geopolitics and Climate Science: The Case of the Missing Embodied Carbon.” Book Chapters. In Reframing Climate Change: Constructing Ecological Geopolitics (Shannon O’Lear and Simon Dalby, Eds. Routledge), 100–115, 2015.
O’Lear, Shannon, and Simon Dalby. Reframing Climate Change: Toward Ecological Geopolitics. Books. Routledge , 2015.
O’Lear, Shannon, and Simon Dalby. Reframing Climate Change: Toward Ecological Geopolitics. Books. Routledge , 2015.
Trimbach, David J., and O’Lear Shannon. “Russians in Estonia: Is Narva the Next Crimea?” Journal Articles. Eurasian Geography and Economics 56, no. 5 (2015): 1–12.
O’Lear, Shannon, Nathaniel R. Pickett, John Biersack, and David J. Trimbach. “Book Review: The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate.” Reviews. Progress in Human Geography, 2014.
Biersack, John A., and Shannon O’Lear. “The Geopolitics of Russia’s Annexation of Crimea: Narratives, Identity, Silences and Energy.” Journal Articles. Eurasian Geography and Economics 55, no. 3 (2014): 247–69.
O’Lear, Shannon, and Adalric Tuten. “Environment and Conflict: Security, Climate Change, and Commodity Resources.” Journal Articles. The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations 14, no. 1 (March 2013): 97–109.
O’Lear, Shannon. “Critical Geopolitics of the Environment.” Book Chapters. In Ashgate Companion to Critical Geopolitics, edited by Klaus Dodds, Merje Kuus, and Joanne Sharp, 305–22. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2013.
O’Lear, Shannon, Chad M. Briggs, and G. Michael Denning. “Environmental Security, Military Planning, and Civilian Research: The Case of Water.” Journal Articles. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development 55, no. 5 (2013): 3–13.
O’Lear, Shannon. “Response to My Critics.” Book Reviews. Dialogues in Human Geography, 2012.
O’Lear, Shannon. “Review of the Book  The Ashgate Research Companion to Border Studies by Doris Wastl-Walter.” Book Reviews. The AAG Review of Books , 2012.
O’Lear, Shannon. “Review of the Book The Return of Private Property: Rural Life after Agrarian Reform in the Republic of Azerbaijan by Lale Yalçin-Heckmann.” Book Reviews. Anthropos. Germany, 2012.
O’Lear, Shannon. “Borders in the South Caucasus: Meaning and Power.” Journal Articles. Defense and Security Analysis 27, no. 3 (2011): 267–76.
O’Lear, Shannon, and Paul F. Diehl. “The Scope of Resource Conflict: A Model of Scale.” Journal Articles. Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations 12, no. 1 (2011): 27–37.
O’Lear, Shannon. Environmental Politics: Scale and Power. Books. Cambridge University Press, 2010.
O’Lear, Shannon, and Steven Egbert, eds. “Geography of Genocide.” Journal Articles. Space & Polity 13, no. 1 (April 2009).
O’Lear, Shannon. “Oil Wealth, Environment and Equity in Azerbaijan.” Book Chapters. In Environmental Justice in the Former Soviet Union , edited by Julian Agyeman and Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger, 97–118. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.
O’Lear, Shannon. “Azerbaijan.” Other. Edited by Guntram Herb and David H. Kaplan. Nations and Nationalism: A Global Historical Overview. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2008.
O’Lear, Shannon, and Robert Whiting. “Which Comes First, The Nation or The State? An Analysis of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict in the Caucasus.” Journal Articles. National Identities 10, no. 2 (2008): 185–206.
O’Lear, Shannon. “Azerbaijan’s Resource Wealth: Political Legitimacy and Public Opinion.” Journal Articles. The Geographical Journal  173, no. 3 (August 2007): 207–23.
O’Lear, Shannon, and Paul F. Diehl. “Not Drawn to Scale: Research on Resource and Environmental Conflict.” Journal Articles. Geopolitics 12, no. 1 (2007): 166–82.
O’Lear, Shannon. “Resource Concerns for Territorial Conflict.” Journal Articles. Edited by Shannon O’Lear, Paul F. Diehl, Derrick V. Frazier, and Todd L. Allee. GeoJournal 64, no. 4 (July 2006): 297–306.
O’Lear, Shannon. “Resources, Conflict and Approaches to Peace.” Book Reviews. GeoJournal, July 2006.
O’Lear, Shannon, and Angela Gray. “Asking the Right Questions: Environmental Conflict in the Case of Azerbaijan.” Journal Articles. Area 38, no. 4 (2006): 390–401.
O’Lear, Shannon, Paul F. Diehl, Derrick V. Frazier, and Todd L. Allee, eds. “Dimensions of Territorial Conflict and Resolution: Tangible and Intangible Values of Territory.” Journal Articles. GeoJournal 64, no. 4 (2006): 259–61.
Diehl, Paul F., Todd Allee, Derrick Frasier, and Shannon O’Lear. “Introduction.” Journal Articles. Conflict Management and Peace Science 23, no. 4 (2006): 263–66.
O’Lear, Shannon. “Resources and Conflict in the Caspian.” Book Chapters. In The Geopolitics of Resource Wars, edited by Philippe Lebillon, 161–86. London: Frank Cass, 2005.
O’Lear, Shannon. “Energy, Territory and Conflict: Research in the Caucasus.” Book Chapters. In WorldMinds: 100 Geographic Solutions to Saving Planet Earth , edited by Barney Warf, 31–35. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2004.
O’Lear, Shannon, ed. A Research Agenda for Geographies of Slow Violence. Books. Edward Elgar Publishing, Accepted/In Press.

Selected Presentations

O'Lear, S. (10/2/2019 - 10/2/2019). Environmental Geopolitics at BIOSEC Research Group. Politics Department at the University of Sheffield, UK. Sheffield, UK
O'Lear, S. (10/7/2019 - 10/7/2019). Environmental Geopolitics at the Centre for Climate Justice. Glasgow Caldonian University
O'Lear, S., & Foote, K. (4/2/2019 - 4/7/2019). 2019 AAG Leadership Symposium I and II Promoting Diversity in Geography: Strategies to Improve Inclusion, Broaden Participation, and Assess Progress. Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers. Washington, DC
O'Lear, S., & McCubbin, S. (4/2/2019 - 4/7/2019). Critical Approaches to Wildlife Conservation. Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers. Washington, DC
O'Lear, S. (3/19/2019 - 3/22/2019). Environmental Geopolitics: An inquiry into geographical knowledge in conservation. WildCRU Conservation Geopolitics Forum. Worcester College, University of Oxford, Oxford UK
O'Lear, S., & Klare, M. (4/4/2018 - 4/7/2018). Climate Change and American National Security: Assessing the Risks and Weighing the Options. International Studies Association Annual Meeting. San Francisco, CA
O'Lear, S., & Johnson, C. (4/10/2018). Environmental Geopolitics in the Anthropocene: Emerging Research Directions. The American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting. New Orleans, LA
O'Lear, S. (4/5/2018). US Wild Card, Carbon Emissions, and COP 21: Disrupting Policy and Practice on Climate Security. International Studies Association Annual Meeting. San Francisco, CA
O'Lear, S. (4/5/2017 - 4/9/2017). Climate Science and Slow Violence: Technoscientific narratives. American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting. Boston, MA
O'Lear, S. (3/24/2017). Geography, Power, Knowledge, and the Possibility of ‘Otherwise’. Environmental Geopolitics in the Anthropocene. University of North Carolina and Greensboro, Greensboro, NC
O'Lear, S. (9/13/2016 - 9/14/2016). A Competition for Resources. Human Geography Futures Seminar. Johns Hopkins University/Applies Physics Laboratory
O'Lear, S. Critical Geopolitics of Wildlife Conservation. Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers. Washington, DC

Selected Grants

Communicating Climate: Science, Art, and Society. The Commons JumpStart Funds. Submitted 11/1/2017 (3/1/2018). University (KU or KUMC). Status: Funded

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