Meet the Department of Economy and Society at the University of Gothenburg
Marie Stenseke, Professor in Human Geography at the Department of Economy and Society. Can you tell us a bit about some biodiversity research that is going on in your department?
The department hosts three disciplines, but we have a joint research group, Landscape and Planning, with researchers broadly concerned with the interactions between human activities and the environment, seen from a landscape perspective. Per Hallén, Economic history, is doing research on the green areas of Gothenburg, their history and use. Per is also studying the role of fish and fishery in the human society and how that has developed over time. Several of us are human geographers, and at present we are working in projects concerned with: parks and green areas, blue-green infrastructure and nature’s contributions to people in cities (Mattias Sandberg, Shelley Kotze); Sustainable reacreational use of land and water in Mistra Sport&Outdoors (Andreas Skriver Hansen, Marie Stenseke, Oskar Abrahamsson); integrated framework for assessing the consequences of human activities for water quality and biodiversity, EU-funded (Andreas Skriver Hansen, Marie Stenseke). Over the years, we have also had a number of projects on semi-natural pastures, landscape management, marine spatial planning, children and nature). At the same time as we work with mainly qualitative methods, of our research is interdisciplinary and the projects carried out together with scholars in natural sciences.
Your department is the first one from outside of the Faculty of Science at GU to join the GGBC. You are a huge proponent of the benefits of working in an interdisciplinary way. What do you see as the biggest potential benefit of bringing together the natural sciences with the humanities and social sciences?
Since the contemporary global challenges are complex and interrelated, interdisciplinary cooperations are fundamental for the academia in order to provide knowledge about sustainable ways forward. We need to pair knowledge on the character and magnitude of environmental problems, status and trends with knowledge of socioeconomic drivers, governance, trade, business, how various groups are affected, justice, behaviour, values, norms etc. to come up with robust solutions. This does not mean that all research has to be interdisciplinary. It is crucially important to recognize and make transparent the difficulties with interdisciplinary work that has to be handled. A couple of key issue are lack of understandings of the differences between various scientific strands and lack of insights in what research is ongoing in other faculties. Bringing together scholars from different disciplines, can cure these deficits and build stronger sustainability research together more thoroughly based in previous research.
You are also the Co-chair, Multidisciplinary Expert Panel of Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services (IPBES). How has your time within IPBES influenced your own approach to biodiversity research?
My time in IPBES has certainly increased my interest in how to improve interdisciplinary work in biodiversity research. The issues and challenges I have encountered on this global arena are very similar to the ones I had previously experienced in a more narrow Swedish context. I have developed my insights and strengthened my arguments when it comes to why, when and how to include competences from social science and humanities in biodiversity research, naturally recognizing that scholars from social science and humanities, like myself, also fits to the label ‘biodiversity researchers’.