- Dynamics and mechanisms of systemic change in Social-Ecological Systems (SES)
- Combining in-depth empirical analysis with social-ecological modelling
- Complex adaptive systems, complex causality
- Conceptual foundations and theory building in SES research
Maja Schlüter’s research focuses on developing complexity-aware methodologies and middle-range theories of social-ecological change
Maja Schlüter is a professor in Social-ecological Systems Science, with a focus on the co-evolutionary dynamics of social-ecological systems. Her main research interests are (i) theorizing the social-ecological dynamics that give rise to systemic change in fisheries and agricultural SES, such as regime shifts or governance transformations, (ii) clarifying and working with the diversity of causal reasoning in sustainability science, and (iii) developing methodologies that account for the complexity and social-ecological interdependence that characterize SES. She takes an interdisciplinary, pluralistic, and multi-methods approach, working with conceptualizations of SES as complex adaptive systems and process-relational worldviews. Her multi-methods approach focusses particularly on combining in depth empirical research with agent-based or dynamical systems modelling with the aim to explore or explain emerging social-ecological phenomena.
Her research is inherently collaborative and based in different teams that bring together a diversity of knowledges, expertise and skills. The SES-LINK team is a collaboration of, among others, SES researchers, philosophers, political scientists, political ecologists, computer scientists, ecologists, mathematicians and physicists. The CauSES team is an interdisciplinary research environment to study approaches to causation in the natural and social sciences that brings together SES researchers with philosophers of causation, process-relational philosophers, analytical sociologists, and ecological modellers. SES-LINK builds on an ERC starting and consolidator grant awarded to Schlüter as well as multiple projects awarded to team members. CauSES is funded as an interdisciplinary research environment by the Swedish Research Council (VR).
Schlüter has worked extensively, empirically and theoretically, on the social-ecological dynamics of water management and governance in the Amudarya river Basin in Central Asia, fisheries in the Baltic and in Mexico and agricultural poverty traps as well as natural resource governance transformations. Her conceptual work focuses on clarifying the conceptual foundations of SES research such as the concepts of emergence or intertwinedness and the application of process-relational perspectives to the study of social-ecological transformations. She is particularly interested in bringing insights, theories and methods from the social sciences and humanities into the study of social-ecological interactions. On the methodological side, she works on developing methodologies for analysing the dynamics of social-ecological interactions and advancing empirically grounded social-ecological modelling as tool for exploration and theorizing.
Schlüter has a background in marine ecology and a PhD in Applied System Science from Osnabrück University. Before her PhD she worked for 1.5 years at UNESCO’s regional office in Uzbekistan on a Regional Vision for the Aral Sea Basin. Her experiences in Central Asia 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. Before coming to SRC in 2012 she has been a visiting researcher at Princeton University (with Prof. Simon Levin) with a EU Marie Curie and a Branco Weiss Fellowship, and held researcher positions at the UFZ Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (Department of Ecological Modelling) and the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries.
Awards and achievements:
- Swedish Research Council (VR) Interdisciplinary Research Environment (2019-2023)
- European Research Council (ERC) consolidator grant MuSES (2017-2023)
- European Research Council (ERC) starting grant SES-LINK (2012-2017)
- Branco- Weiss Society in Science Fellowship (2008-2009)
- EU Marie Curie Outgoing International Fellowship (2006-2007)
- Best Paper Award - Environmental Modeling and Software (2006)
- Robert Bosch Fellowship in International Affairs (1998-1999)
Rodrigo Martinez Pena, PhD candidate
News articles with Schluter, Maja
General news | 2023-03-30
New ERC advanced grant boosts centre’s research on transformative change
Centre researcher Maja Schlüter receives an European Research Council (ERC) advanced grant of 2.5 million euros for a project that aims to build models of, with and for sustainability transformations
Research news | 2022-08-19
Six ways resilience science can help shift sustainable development practice
Currently a substantial gap between what resilience science suggests the focus and approach should be and what is implemented in practice
Research news | 2022-08-12
What it takes to make different approaches work together
Researchers invite readers “behind the scenes” to share their experiences combining agent-based modelling and controlled behavioural experiments
Research news | 2022-04-22
How to visualize cause and effect
Study examines the strengths and weaknesses of different visualizations that can be used to illustrate causality in social-ecological systems
Publications by Schluter, Maja
Visualization of causation in social-ecological systems
Journal / article | 2022
In social-ecological systems (SES), where social and ecological processes are intertwined, phenomena are usually complex and involve multiple interdependent causes. Figuring out causal relationships is thus challenging but needed to better understand and then affect or manage such systems. One important and widely used tool to identify and communicate causal relationships is visualization. Here, we present several common visua...
Combining approaches: Looking behind the scenes of integrating multiple types of evidence from controlled behavioural experiments through agent-based modelling
Journal / article | 2022
Understanding complex (social) phenomena benefits from combining different tools, perspectives, expertise, and experiences. Research designs that combine approaches are gaining in popularity. Carrying out research in interdisciplinary teams, however, is a challenging, high-investment activity. Unawareness of and reflecting on conflicting ways of seeing or studying the world may endanger project success. Agent-based modelling h...
Why care about theories? Innovative ways of theorizing in sustainability science
Journal / article | 2022
The complex nature of sustainability problems and the aim of sustainability science to support emergent processes of transformation require rethinking how we build and make use of theories. We highlight the diversity of ways in which theories, as assemblages of different elements that can serve a variety of purposes, can emerge within inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary processes. Such emerging theories are (i) contextu...
The contributions of resilience to reshaping sustainable development
Journal / article | 2022
We review the past decade’s widespread application of resilience science in sustainable development practice and examine whether and how resilience is reshaping this practice to better engage in complex contexts. We analyse six shifts in practice: from capitals to capacities, from objects to relations, from outcomes to processes, from closed to open systems, from generic interventions to context sensitivity, and from linear to...