Social-ecological systems methods training resources

Social-ecological systems (SES) research is emerging as a major sub-field within the broader emerging discipline of Sustainability Science, aimed at informing pressing sustainability challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. Researchers, including postgraduate students and practitioners, working in the SES field, can use a wide variety of methods to investigate PECS themes including SES dynamics underlying the Anthropocene, fostering SES stewardship, supporting transformations to sustainable futures, and mainstreaming knowledge co-production. A SES perspective explicitly acknowledges a multi- and mixed method approach to inter- and transdisciplinary research (Preiser et al. 2018). However, researchers are typically trained in only a very limited number of the methods needed to investigate complex SES topics. Many people come into the SES field from either a social or natural science undergraduate training and are often unfamiliar with the wider spectrum of methods that can be employed in SES research, and the assumptions underlying these methods.

The Routledge Handbook of Research Methods for Social-Ecological Systems was developed to provide a synthetic product that provides an introductory guide to the range of methods that can be employed in SES research, and to identify key gaps and frontiers for advancing SES research methods. This working group aims to build on and complement this handbook by developing a set of training materials targeted to practitioners, teachers and researchers, including short video summaries describing particular methods, case studies describing how different methods are used in different contexts, and training exercises or labs. The working group will also critically investigate the use of approaches to teach methods from an SES perspective, and in time, the material collected will also serve to highlight adaptations and changes in methods, and how to teach them, over time. 

Key objective:

  • The objective of this working group is to improve open-access training resources on SES methods, aimed at supporting lecturers, students, researchers, and practitioners using SES methods.

Working Group Coordinators:

  • Dr Alta de Vos – Department of Environmental Sciences, Rhodes University, South Africa
  • Dr Julia van Velden – Centre for Sustainability Transitions, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

Working Group Participants:

  • Prof. Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs – Centre for Sustainability Transitions, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
  • Prof. Garry Peterson – Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden
  • Dr Miriam Huitric – Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden
  • Dr Allyson Quinlan – Resilience Alliance, Ottawa, Canada
  • Prof Patty Balvanera – Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico


Preiser, R., Biggs, R., De Vos, A. and Folke, C., 2018. Social-ecological systems as complex adaptive systems. Ecology and Society, 23(4).

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