Skip to main content



STAYin(g)Rural Project Team - Background

The STAYin(g)Rural Study team includes three Principal Investigators (one within each of the study areas), a full-time post-doctoral research assistant based in Northern Ireland, and four PhD students distributed across each of the study areas.

Principal Investigators

Professor Tialda Haartsen

Professor Tialda Haartsen

Prof Haartsen is based in the Department of Cultural Geography at the University of Groningen (UoG)

Tialda's research expertise lie in the fields of cultural geography concepts of place meanings, attachment and belonging in relation to migration and mobility. She has a particualr interest in rural in-, out-, and return migration, especially at the young adult and union/ family formation life stages. Tialda has undertaken research into rural staying, rural representations and place meanings, the effects of depopulation on rural services, facilities and residents’ quality of life, and community participation and citizen initiatives.


  • Rural land use/landownership changes and consequences
  • Rural representations and identities
  • Place attachment
  • Spatial Behaviours

For more information, click here


Prof. Aileen Stockdale

Professor Aileen Stockdale

Prof. Stockdale is based in the School of Natural and Built Environment at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB).

Aileen's research expertise focuses on the changing demography of rural areas. Within this there is a particular interest on the topics of rural mobility (in- and out-migration) and immobility (staying) and, in particular, the decision-making processes (including partner negotiations by couples) and economic and social consequences for rural destination and origin areas. Her research also includes a strong life course perspective.


  • Rural Populations and Population Ageing
  • Migration and Economic Regeneration
  • Sustainable Development
  • National Parks
  • Rural Planning

For more information, click here

Dr Annett Steinführer

Dr Annett Steinführer

Dr Steinführer is based in the Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute, the German Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries in Braunschweig (TI), and has research expertise on l

Annett's research focuses on socio-spatial impacts of population decline and ageing in rural settlements. Her main interest is individual adaptation especially of the elderly and community coping strategies. Annett has analysed residential location decisions by considering moving and staying as equivalent household decisions.


  • Impacts of socio-demographioc change on small towns
  • Socio-spatial processes in rural areas and regional disparities
  • Socio-ecological studies
  • Research methodologies and transdisciplinarity 
  • Post-socialist transition in eastern Germany and Ease Central Europe 

For more information, click here

STAYin(g)Rural Researcher

Dr Sara Ferguson

Dr Sara Ferguson

Dr Ferguson is the postdoctoral research fellow employed on the project and is based at the School of Natural and Built Environment at Queen's University Belfast.

Sara has engaged with a wide range of rural research throughout her years of study, including exploring how built, social and policy environments influence the behaviours, opportunities and decision-making processes of rural populations. Prior to her PhD, she undertook a reserach project entitled 'Escape the Country', which investigated young adults experiences of living in rural Northern Ireland, and the subsequent consequences this had on migration decision-making processes. 

Reflective of her personal interest in rural health and well-being, she then undertook the 'PASTORAL Study' in her PhD studies. This specifically explored physical actvity, settlement typologies and opportunities for rural active living.   

Research Interests: 

  • Rural Planning Policy
  • Environmental influences on rural population behaviours
  • Rural health and well-being

STAYin(g)Rural PhD Candidates

tourism ni-4V-18011621

Johnathan Hanna

PhD Candidate - Northern Ireland

Johnathan is based in Tyrone and will be undertaking research on...

tourism ni-4V-1801167

Hieke van der Kloet

PhD Candidate - Netherlands

Hieke is based in Groningen and will be undertaking research on...


Henk Hofstede

PhD Candidate - Netherlands

Henk is based at Groningen and will be undertaking research on...

tourism ni-4V-1801168

Franziska Lengerer

PhD Candidate - Germany

Franziska is based in Lower Saxony and will be undertaking research on...