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

Dr. Shannon O’Lear is a political geographer with interests in environmental geopolitics, critical geopolitics, the South Caucasus, and Science and Technology Studies (STS). An overarching objective of her work is to apply a critical, spatial awareness to bring new insights to bear on dominant understandings of human-environment relationships. She offers details of this approach in her 2018 book, Environmental Geopolitics. She has also published work on climate science, geography and STS, geopolitics in Azerbaijan and Armenia, genocide and other forms of violence. She is finishing work on an edited book project for Edward Elgar’s Research Agenda series focused on geographies of slow violence. She is currently the interim Director of the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Kansas. Dr. O’Lear is 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. She is also serving as the Councilor for the Great Plains Rocky Mountain Region of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) through 2023 and is serving her second year on the AAG’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. As a response to the unusual circumstances this academic year, Dr. O’Lear is 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. Dr. O’Lear holds 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

Pickett, Nate, Sam Henkin and Shannon O’Lear (2019).”Science, Technology, and Society Approaches to Fieldwork in Geography”, The Professional Geographer; published online 8 August;

O’Lear, Shannon, editor. February 2020.Environmental Geopolitics: A Research Agenda. Edward Elgar Publishing. Invited.

O’Lear, Shannon, editor. Forthcoming in 2021. A Research Agenda for Geographies of Slow Violence. Edward Elgar Publishing. Under contract. Invited.

O'Lear, S. (2018). Environmental Geopolitics. Rowman & Littlefield.

O'Lear, S. (2018). Review of the book Concrete Revolution: Large Dams, Cold War Geopolitics, and the US Bureau of Reclamation, Christopher Sneddon. The AAG Review of Books, 6(1), 41-49. DOI:10.1080/2325548X.2018.1402286

O'Lear, S. (2018). Environmental Politics. In M. Hulme, N. Castree, & J. Proctor (Eds.), The Companion to Environmental Studies.

O'Lear, S. (2016). Climate Science and Slow Violence: A view from political geography and STS on mobilizing technoscientific ontologies of climate change . Political Geography, 52, 4-13. DOI://

Reiz, N. & O'Lear, S. (2016). 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 . Territory, Politics and Governance, published online 20 Jan 2016. DOI://

O'Lear, S. Heilke, T. Hanley, E. & Omelicheva, M. (2016). This isn’t your usual obstacle course: Critical pedagogy with Special Operations Forces. Geoforum, 75, 159-167.

O'Lear, S. (2016). Unconventional Classroom: Critical Work with Special Operations Forces Officers . Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 106(3), 536-542.

Trimbach, D. J., & Shannon, O. (2015). Russians in Estonia: Is Narva the Next Crimea? Eurasian Geography and Economics, 56(5), 1-12.

O'Lear, S. (2015). Geopolitics and Climate Science: The Case of the Missing Embodied Carbon. In . (Ed.), Reframing Climate Change: Constructing Ecological Geopolitics (Shannon O'Lear and Simon Dalby, eds. Routledge) (pp. 100-115).

O'Lear, S. & Dalby, S. (2015). Reframing Climate Change: Toward Ecological Geopolitics. Routledge .

Biersack, J. A., & O'Lear, S. (2014). The Geopolitics of Russia’s Annexation of Crimea: Narratives, Identity, Silences and Energy. Eurasian Geography and Economics, 55(3), 247-269.

O'Lear, S. Pickett, N. R., Biersack, J. & Trimbach, D. J. (2014). Book review: The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate. Progress in Human Geography, 38(4), 629-631.

O'Lear, S. (2013). Critical Geopolitics of the Environment. In K. Dodds, M. Kuus, & J. Sharp (Eds.), Ashgate Companion to Critical Geopolitics (pp. 305-322). Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company.

O'Lear, S. Briggs, C. M., & Denning, G. M. (2013). Environmental Security, Military Planning, and Civilian Research: The Case of Water. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 55(5), 3-13.

O'Lear, S. & Tuten, A. (2013). Environment and Conflict: Security, Climate Change, and Commodity Resources. The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, 14(1), 97-109.

O'Lear, S. (2012). [Review of the book The Ashgate Research Companion to Border Studies, Doris Wastl-Walter]. The AAG Review of Books , 1(2), 63-64. DOI:10.1080/2325548X.2013.827029

O'Lear, S. (2012). [Review of the book The Return of Private Property: Rural Life after Agrarian Reform in the Republic of Azerbaijan, Lale Yalçin-Heckmann]. Anthropos, 107, 319-320. Germany.

O'Lear, S. (2012). Response to my critics Dialogues in Human Geography, 2(3), 362-364.

O'Lear, S. (2011). Borders in the South Caucasus: Meaning and Power. Defense and Security Analysis, 27(3), 267-276.

O'Lear, S. & Diehl, P. F. (2011). The Scope of Resource Conflict: A Model of Scale. Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, 12(1), 27-37.

O'Lear, S. (2010). Environmental Politics: Scale and Power, Cambridge University Press.

O'Lear, S. (2009). Oil Wealth, Environment and Equity in Azerbaijan. In J. Agyeman & Y. Ogneva-Himmelberger (Eds.), Environmental Justice in the Former Soviet Union (pp. 97-118). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

O'Lear, S. & Egbert, S. (Eds.). (2009). Geography of Genocide. Space & Polity, 13(1).

O'Lear, S. (2008). Azerbaijan (G. Herb & D. H. Kaplan). Nations and Nationalism: A Global Historical Overview, 1713-1721. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

O'Lear, S. & Whiting, R. (2008). Which Comes First, The Nation or The State? An analysis of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict in the Caucasus. National Identities , 10(2), 185-206.

O'Lear, S. & Diehl, P. F. (2007). Not Drawn to Scale: Research on Resource and Environmental Conflict. Geopolitics, 12(1), 166-182.

O'Lear, S. (2007). Azerbaijan’s Resource Wealth: Political Legitimacy and Public Opinion. The Geographical Journal , 173(3), 207-223. DOI:10.1111/j.1475-4959.2007.00242.x

O'Lear, S. & Gray, A. (2006). Asking the Right Questions: Environmental Conflict in the Case of Azerbaijan. Area, 38(4), 390-401.

O'Lear, S., Diehl, P. F., Frazier, D. V., & Allee, T. L. (Eds.). (2006). Dimensions of Territorial Conflict and Resolution: Tangible and Intangible Values of Territory. GeoJournal, 64(4), 259-261.

Diehl, P. F., Allee, T. Frasier, D. & O'Lear, S. (2006). Introduction. Conflict Management and Peace Science , 23(4), 263-266.

O'Lear, S. (2006). Resources, conflict and approaches to peace [Review of Profiting from Peace: Managing the resource dimension of civil war and Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum]. GeoJournal, 64(4), 333-337. DOI:10.1007/S10708-005-5813-1

O'Lear, S. (2006). Resource Concerns for Territorial Conflict. GeoJournal , 64(4), 297-306.

O'Lear, S. (2005). Resources and Conflict in the Caspian. In P. Lebillon (Ed.), The Geopolitics of Resource Wars (pp. 161-186). London: Frank Cass.

O'Lear, S. (2004). Energy, Territory and Conflict: Research in the Caucasus. In B. Warf (Ed.), WorldMinds: 100 Geographic Solutions to Saving Planet Earth (pp. 31-35). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Selected Presentations

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. (3/24/2017). Geography, Power, Knowledge, and the Possibility of ‘Otherwise’. Environmental Geopolitics in the Anthropocene. University of North Carolina and Greensboro, Greensboro, NC

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

Department of Geography and Atmospheric Science Events
2019 GPRM-AAG Annual Meeting