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Tilman’s research deals with the question of to what extent the study of process ontologies can help us further understand social-ecological systems (SES). SES are a class of complex adaptive systems (CAS) and exhibit many properties, such as processes of emergence, diversity and individuality of components, non-linearity and self-organization that can well be accounted for in the framework of process ontologies. However, “grounding” CAS on process ontologies may have far-reaching epistemological and methodological consequences as to how we study CAS.
This may be very different compared to how we normally study CAS in the framework of classical substance ontologies. Tilman works with Maja Schlüter within the MuSES project (Towards middle-range theories of the co-evolutionary dynamics of multi-level social-ecological systems) to apply process thinking to emergent phenomena in the framework of case studies in Mexico (small-scale fisheries) and Uzbekistan (water management).
A further interest of Tilman lies in studying and developing approaches to disclosing and bridging the many different ontologies and epistemologies used in SES research in view of fostering transdisciplinary knowledge integration.
Tilman has studied Economic Sciences and Philosophy in Scotland and France and obtained his Doctoral Degree in Economic Sciences from the University of Paul Cézanne in Aix-en-Provence, which was supervised by Professor Alan Kirman focusing on common pool resources and evolutionary game theory.
In the framework of a variety of academic assignments he worked with the Department of Resource Economics at Humboldt-University of Berlin where he was a scientific coordinator for the project “Sustainable Hyderabad.”
He has also worked extensively with development cooperation (GIZ - Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH) in Indonesia and India, especially in the area of adaptation to climate change. In the framework of these assignments, he was particularly interested in how to integrate resilience thinking into vulnerability analyses to climate change and in designing the entire climate change adaptation cycle in a participatory and inclusive manner in order to deal with theory- and value orientation of scientific assessments.
Tilman is a member of IUCNs (International Union for Conservation of Nature) CEM (Commission of Ecosystem Services) thematic groups of Resilience and Climate Change Adaptation.