Human Dimensions Course Ends

Whooper Swan // Cygnus Cygnus // Sångsvan

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.

Forest Animals Course

Havsörn // White-tailed Eagle

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.

Attitude construction

Great Grey Owl // Strix nebulosa

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.

Attitude

Evaluative Belief

Beliefs

Value

 

Exploring Human-Wildlife Conflict

Beavers like leaves and fresh branches of deciduous trees

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.

 

 

Strategy Development

Suddenly, someone might look towards you to provide guidance for strategic decisions.

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.

 

Strategy development helps a company realize their future goals

Navigating Environmental Attitudes

A shimmering mist of attitudes, or a brewing storm of opinions?

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.”

Meet Jenny!

Foto supplied by Jenny 

What have you done before your masters programme?

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?

Fish, birds or wildlife?

1. Wildlife

2. Birds

3. fish

Ramandus role-play

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.

Viper Assignment

European Adder (Vipera berus) by Matej Dom

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..

Experience fosters curiosity – Matej and nature photography

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)!

While exploring the paths in Muddus National Park, I got caught totally of guard by an northern hawk owl (Surnia ulula) directly in front of me. I started taking pictures like crazy, when I heard some noises to my left. Another hawk owl! I tried my luck by turning to the right, and yes, another one. I was surrounded by a family of owls, all looking at me with their “astonished” expressions. It was a good day!
A curious common buzzard (Buteo buteo) kept soaring the skies above me while I was trying to find a path through a maze of pastures surrounded by thorny bushes. At one point I got stuck passing such a bush and started taking pictures of the buzzard. Shortly after, he left. I guess he got enough laughter at my expense.
This unfortunate dragonfly (Anisoptera sp.) got caught in a spider web and was pulling it down due to its weight. I managed to snap a few photos, before the dragonfly became a tasty meal for the lucky spider. Cycle of life goes on.
As a large carnivore enthusiast, this is probably the favorite picture of mine. This wild mama bear brought her yearling cub right in front of a photo blind set up for wildlife photography. This was very early in my photography career, but I had an experienced wildlife photographer sitting next to me with his camera. I ended up using the same camera settings as him on my own, and I was really proud. In the six hours we spend totally silent in that small hunt, we had the privilege to observe the bears for maybe half an hour. Still totally worth it and one of my most treasured memories as a photographer and a biologist.
I’ve never been this close to a white tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) before and I doubt I ever will again. This juvenile did a really close fly by, I guess we were interesting enough. A bunch of international students enjoying a sunny day on the Stora Fjäderägg. Maybe that’s the trick: loud laughter, flashy colors and an awesome day behind us.
Ringed seals (Pusa hispida) are a favorite food of the polar bears. When they are not around though, like on Stora Fjäderägg, these fat professional sunbathers can just relax and enjoy their days in peace. The only distractions are arctic terns yapping at each other and a casual photographer trying to sneak closer. As I was trying to do just that, crawling among the rocks and keeping a low profile, I noticed two things: a snake skin next to my face and that my phone has fallen into salt water.
After I saw this kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) flying around and hunting for voles I knew that biking down to Umeälvens delta that day was a good idea. I patiently waited until she caught something and proudly presented her prey in the shade of a telephone pole. After she had her fill of pride, I saw her disappear in a nearby forest, most likely to feed the kids.
During a research trip to Costa Rica, we took many night trips from an Austrian research station La Gamba that was hosting us. The danger of stepping on a one of the highly venomous snakes in the dark was great, but so were the rewards of the tropical jungle in the night. We, most likely, woke up this red eyed tree frog who was taking a well earned rest. Sorry buddy!
Together with my classmates of management of fish and wildlife population master program at SLU, I had the privilege to observe modern Sami reindeer herding in practice. After they spent the winter on Holmön, the reindeer were ready to be transported off the island and to the mountains. This took some expert coordination on the Sami side, but they successfully managed to load most of them on the trucks and off the island. The smell and the fur however, stayed on two ferries for quite a while.
Students of biology at the University of Ljubljana organize a traditional week long research camp every year somewhere in the Balkans. That year it was Montenegro, where we spotted this small tortoise (either Testudo hermani or Testudo graeca) that, judging by the size and scale aging, was enjoying its second summer.
While in Costa Rica, I was fortunate enough to be permitted a visit to the herpetology department of Clodomiro Picado Research Institute in San Jose. They house several species of highly venomous snakes and use them to produce antivenom for most of the Americas and for some species, worldwide. They showed us a whole bunch of really scary looking snakes, and I can’t remember the exact species of this beauty, tree viper of some sort. Outside in the terrace, there are also some very photogenic trees for the beauty shots that the staff was very helpful to accommodate.
Slovenian Marine Mammal Society – Morigenos, conducts research on marine mammals in Slovenian sea and nearby areas. During my bachelors in biology, I was involved with some of the research activities. One summer day, with the dolphins spotted from a church tower in Piran, we ran in full gear across the town square, making our way through a bunch of tourists towards the research boat. I really felt like a wildlife researcher on a mission, while people were giving us weird looks. It was awesome! Soon after sailing out, we were greeted by a pod of around 15 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), that were comfortable staying very close to the boat. The society has been doing research for 10+ years so the dolphins are quite familiar with the crew, the boat and its sound. The best sign of this is the comfort of the dolphin mother letting her calf to explore the boat and us alone. Here they are however pictured together, frolicking in the sun and the sea.
Like most of the big guns of the photography, the old school badasses, I started with an analog camera with a standard 35 mm film. On one of the regular herpetology fieldwork excursions we were hosting Swiss colleagues interested in the small population of asp vipers (Vipera aspis) close to the eastern border of Slovenia. This female was one of the several snakes we caught that day and was, judging by the murky eye, planing to shed skin soon. I snapped this photo and only after I got the film developed found that it came out great. Analog camera was hard for beginners. Now you can just fire along on a memory stick and learn by mistakes. Back then such lessons cost time and money.
While on a trip in the Skuleskogen National Park with my friends, we stopped by one of the cottages to rest and replenish. After I got my energy back I went exploring with my camera and managed to snap this photo of a dragonfly (Anisoptera sp.) resting on said cottage. The light that day was quite shitty, so I had to edit the photo in post-production to accentuate the fine details of this beautiful specimen.