Maja’s research focusses on social-ecological interactions and mechanisms that may explain SES phenomena, such as the collapse of the Baltic Sea cod, the trapped situation of water management in Uzbekistan, the diversity of self-governance forms in Mexican small-scale fisheries, or cooperation in common pool resource management. In collaboration with members of the SES-LINK team and empirical colleagues, she uses mathematical and agent-based modeling to test hypotheses about micro-level causes of observed SES phenomena and to explore consequences of selected human-nature interactions. The aim is to identify patterns of interactions and outcomes across cases.
On the methodological side, she works on advancing social-ecological modeling at local and global scales that incorporates human adaptive behavior. On the conceptual side, she is interested in ontologies and approaches that bridge the dichotomy between social and ecological to study SES as truly interdependent systems of humans in nature. She leads the MuSES project (Towards middle-range theories of the co-evolutionary dynamics of multi-level social-ecological systems - funded by a consolidator grant of the European Research Council), coordinates the modeling activities in GRAID and is involved in the Aquacross (EU) and Marea (NSF) projects.
Maja also co-leads the complex adaptive systems and resilience thinking stream at the centre.
Maja has a background in marine ecology and a PhD in applied system science. She has studied economic and social science approaches to natural resource management for many years. After her diploma, she worked for 1.5 years at UNESCO on a Regional Vision for the Aral Sea Basin and participated in the Complex Systems Summer School of the Santa Fe Institute. Both activities have greatly shaped her interests in applying complexity science approaches to understand the interplay of social and ecological dynamics and developing policy-relevant insights into real-world problems. She worked for many years on water management and governance issues in the Amudarya river basin in Central Asia using empirical and model-based approaches.
Recently she has focussed more on marine systems, particularly small-scale fisheries in Mexico, Germany and the Baltic Sea. Before joining SRC she was a researcher at the Institute of Environmental Systems Analysis at the University of Osnabrück, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research Leipzig/Halle, Princeton University, and the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin.
Maja is a member of the editorial board of Ecology and Society, has acted as a reviewer for funding proposals for several funding agencies in Europe and the USA, reviewed for journals from the natural and social sciences, and participates in several scientific networks. She has been leading or working in several projects with strong stakeholder participation or action research components involving water management and fisheries practitioners and stakeholders in Uzbekistan, Germany and Sweden with the aim to co-develop solutions to pressing management issues.
Awards and achievements:
Research news | 2018-05-17
Applying Elinor Ostrom’s principles on common pool resources management demonstrates how forest management in the Pamir Mountains may not be so tragic after all. But Soviet era legacy lingers, new research shows
Research news | 2018-01-29
Review study of poverty traps examines the concept’s use across disciplines, and how it is defined and applied in a rural context
General news | 2018-01-15
Executive director Johan Rockström will discuss the "carbon law" and researcher Maja Schlüter will discuss “amplifying feedbacks” that make it more difficult for people to change their behaviour
Research news | 2017-10-11
How pro-environmental interest groups were able to push for reforms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy
2018 - Journal / article
In the Pamir Mountains of Eastern Tajikistan, the clearance of mountain forests to provide fuelwood for an increasing population is a major source of environmental degradation. International development organisations have implemented joint forestry management institutions to help restore once-forested mountainous regions, but the success of these institutions has been highly variable. This study uses a multi-method approach, d...
2017 - Journal / article
Today, humans have a critical impact on the Earth system and vice versa, which can generate complex feedback processes between social and ecological dynamics. Integrating human behavior into formal Earth system models (ESMs), however, requires crucial modeling assumptions about actors and their goals, behavioral options, and decision rules, as well as modeling decisions regarding human social interactions and the aggregation o...
2017 - Journal / article
The poverty trap concept strongly influences current research and policy on poverty alleviation. Financial or technological inputs intended to “push” the rural poor out of a poverty trap have had many successes but have also failed unexpectedly with serious ecological and social consequences that can reinforce poverty. Resilience thinking can help to (i) understand how these failures emerge from the complex relationships betwe...
2017 - Journal / article
The concept of a poverty trap—commonly understood as a self-reinforcing situation beneath an asset threshold—has been very influential in describing the persistence of poverty and the relationship between poverty and sustainability. Although traps, and the dynamics that lead to traps, are defined and used differently in different disciplines, the concept of a poverty trap has been most powerfully shaped by work in development ...