After some 10 weeks of Human Dimensions, we’ve now finally written the exam.
Course feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and I can now vouch personally that it is widely considered one of the very best courses offered in the masters’ or forestry programme for good reason.
The last core-course in the masters’ programme, Fish & Wildlife Management, has started rolling and will to an extent weave together many of the skills we’ve learnt in the previous courses. A key feature of our next course is the presence of many working professionals who come in to give lectures and ensure that we are provided with front-line management developments.
Many of us have been busy brushing up our birding skills for the last part (Ornithology / Herpetology) of the Forest Animals course, which has run as a part-time course during the semester with two evening lectures per week.
For this last part we need to know about 130 species of birds which can appear in Sweden, some of their calls and species-specific information, and 10 herptiles (snakes, lizards & frogs) to round it off.
A big part of the human dimensions course has looked on how and why people react differently to situations:
It might depend on their previous experiences, their ethic, level of interest or emotional investment; but centrally, you can through the systematic use of previous statements or by interview construct vertical and horizontal structures relating attitudes to core values to better understand your stakeholders.
One major assignment which we’ve had during the Human Dimensions course caters towards improving our analytical thinking and writing skills. Tasked with writing a qualitative report on a Human-Wildlife Conflict, we set out in completely different directions depending upon our interests – some examples of what we’ve done include:
Beaver Conflict in Sweden, Reintroduction of free-roaming bison in Lithuania, Wolf conflict in Sweden, Swedish commercial fishing subsidies in the Baltic sea, Wild Boar in Berlin, Crop raiding by wildlife from the Bwindi Impenetrable national park; but also exploring the role of sustainable aquaculture and its environmental impact and looking into the different aspects of seal poaching in the United Kingdom.
The major focus of the assignment was to enable us to apply the skills we’ve learnt in this course to analyze major stakeholders in an issue, highlight current problems, and suggest possible actions to resolve or regulate the conflict.
Last week we were guested by Anders Esselin, who’s a professional facilitator & communicator with a background in the natural sciences and journalism. He’s also been a long-time teacher in this course, giving us lectures about participatory processes and strategy.
Companies are always stressed about which direction they will take – how will this affect their operations? How well does this fit in with our companies values? There’s no way that you’re alone in this world if you’ve thought: Well, what do we do now?
All the more often, these decisions are not expected to be taken by a single individual – you might have a board of directors, major stock holders, close business partners, leaders and investigative analysts who expect to have their voices heard. In many cases external stakeholders also play a strong role. Quite often, we’re not exactly agreeing.
At this point, or preferably before, it’s critical to have (externals) come in and help rock the boat off the ice – which can only be done if people work together. We must help each other see beyond our disagreements, and find those outcrops from which we can build a bridge?
A clear strategy provides your organization with a “road-map” to your goal. Is it clear enough? Is it realistic? Do you have the right picture of where you are today? Does it harmonize with your goals and ambition? Success isn’t easy, but you can make it far harder than it has to be.
This week we’ve had the pleasure of having Professor Thomas A. Heberlein here, who’s come all the way over from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the U.S. to be here with us!
He’s also the author to part of our course literature, and the best course-book that I’ve had so far during my soon to be 4 years at university, Navigating Environmental Attitudes.
What it really does well is presenting concepts from social science relating to conflict, policy, attitudes, beliefs and values in a way which appeals well to students who have started off in the natural sciences! In that sense, I might as well have called this post “Introducing students from the natural sciences to social science”.
As one teacher stated: “Social sciences are the hard sciences”.
In his book, Heberlein explains why:
“..when I had to explain attitudes, I felt like I was trying to describe a ghost. Where were they born? How much do they weigh? How fast do they grow? What is their position?”
A colleague to him responded:
“Well, I don’t believe in ghosts either… but I am afraid of them.”
I studied Biology at Lund University (BSc). Before that I did the military service for one year and worked as a guardian in Malmö.
What’s your first memory involving an animal?
When I was 2,5 years old I sat on a horse for the first time in my life. I think my interest for animals and nature has grown ever since.
What made you good to go for fish and wildlife?
I took the decision to apply for the program while I was doing an internship in Ghana. I knew that I wanted to focus on nature conservation, and my interest for mammals made me turn my nose northwards.
Fun hobby or fact you would like to share with us?
I have a big interest in photographing and communication/graphic design!
Dream job to land straight after graduation?
There is so many, but maybe wildlife manager at the CAB?
This week we have been focused on a role-play based on the fictional island of “Ramandus”. The population on the island is solated from the rest of the world, and has undergone a strong population growth up until recently. Food is becoming more scarce and several citizens have expressed an increasing worry that we might be overexploiting the island. That’s where we come in – questions we have had to deal with include what policy instruments we could use to ensure that we don’t overuse our resources? How do we break the current population development trend? How do we ensure that by creating a government we are laying the cornerstones to a democracy and keeping several interest groups happy?
It’s been a week of turns and twists, but I think we’ve all come out of it with much more respect for the difficulties in creating effective and constructive policy, not to speak of trying to stem changing trends.
A major focus here at F/W is improving our general skills and making sure that we are continuously acquainted with real research data. In Applied Populations Ecology one of our major assignments included a research report in the form of a scientific article on melanism in the european adder (V. berus). This encompassed everything from getting up to date on research on melanism and dorsal coloration in snakes to analyzing our own data and discussing what the data might suggest!
For example, melanism may provide a thermoregulatory advantage to adult female snakes at high altitude (or latitude)! However, the loss of a cryptic coloration or one which signals that it is a venomous predator may also increase the risk of predation..
Direct experience is a wonderful way to be introduced to a certain topic, or start to ask questions – in this post Matej goes through some of his best pictures and shares with us how his interest in nature photography and his formal education has gone together, and resulted in a fair share of great pictures (and memories)!