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Social-Ecological Systems: Challenges and Approaches

This course introduces students to the Anthropocene, the new geological era in which we live, in which humanity has become the dominant force structuring the biosphere.

The course will address what this means for critical subsystems in the earth system, for humanity, and for the development of earth system governance. This course will define the research challenges that the Master's programme "Social-Ecological Resilience for Sustainable Development" addresses. It will explore alternative approaches to coupled social-ecological systems from multiple disciplinary backgrounds, for example, economics, geography and ecology. The course will also introduce current approaches to measuring and monitoring how ecosystems support human well-being.

  • Course structure

    Students will be introduced to theoretical concepts and methods for analysis, and will conduct group and individual research projects that utilize these concepts and methods.

    Modules

    The course is comprised of the following three modules:

    Module 1: Challenges of the Anthropocene (4 hp)

    Module 2: Linking theory to research questions and design (4 hp)

    Module 3: Ecosystem support of humanity (7hp)

    Teaching format

    Teaching consists of lectures, self-studies and group work lead by teachers from different scientific fields. Module 3 also includes fieldwork and data collection and analysis exercises. Students will work in groups to assess and discuss each other’s work. This component will provide a set of alternative approaches to addressing related questions, and will allow students to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches, to develop skills in critical analysis and providing scholarly feedback.

    Learning outcomes

    It is expected that the student, after taking the course, will be able to: 1) explain what key research areas for sustainability science are, 2) understand and explain how humanity has changed the functioning of the Earth system, 3) compare and contrast different disciplinary approaches to social-ecological systems, and explain in what contexts they are more or less useful, and 4) critique and apply methods for estimating human support from ecosystems, such as ecosystem services and ecological footprinting.

    Assessment

    Assessment is based on individual assignments and group projects.

    Examiner

    Sarah Cornell

    E-mail: sarah.cornell@su.se

    Tel: +46 8 16 7706

    Amanda Jiménez Aceituno

    E-mail: amanda.jimenez@su.se

    Tel: +46 8 674 7816

  • Schedule

    The schedule will be available no later than one month before the start of the course. We do not recommend print-outs as changes can occur. At the start of the course, your department will advise where you can find your schedule during the course.
  • Course literature

    Note that the course literature can be changed up to two months before the start of the course.

    No mandatory course book.

    Recommended reading

    What is Resilience? Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University. Click here for a link.

    Walker B. et al. 2002. Resilience management in social-ecological systems: a working hypothesis for a participatory approach.Conservation Ecology 6 (1) 14 http://www.consecol.org/vol6/iss1/art14

    Folke, C. 2016. Resilience (Republished). Ecology and Society 21(4):44. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-09088-210444

  • Course reports

  • Contact

    Student office
    Study counsellor (advanced level)