Research Methods

© Adrien Lambrechts

Long term investigations

At the core of my methodological approach is my willingness to conduct long term research in various social-ecological study sites, mainly in Metropolitan France and overseas. In order to tighten collaborations, whether in science or with local actors, I seek to conceive research programs that extend through the years, which I consider essential to foster efficient modes of action with strong impacts, both scientifically and epistemologically, and socially and politically.  Entering through the door of territories, I try to follow in action, what are now called their sustainability trajectories. By analysing these trajectories, we seek to understand what factors enable or not the transformation of those territories towards sustainability. 

Interdisciplinary ethnographic surveys

The first stage of my investigations consists of interviews and ethnographic observations conducted in close collaboration with researchers in the social and natural sciences. Concretely, those investigations are carried out in political and administrative institutions, in professional and trade union organizations and among ecological engineering experts, naturalist activists and NGO representatives. All of several relevant places where knowledge in ecology and resilience thinking is produced. 

On-board ethnographic observation of naturalists. Ornithological excursion at sea. Ushant Naturalist Association (ANO). Ushant August 2011.
On-board ethnographic observation of naturalists. Ornithological excursion at sea. Ushant Naturalist Association (ANO). Ushant August 2011.

Social network analyses

The sociological analysis of networks method consists first of all in mapping the relationships between these actors and groups. This approach makes it possible, taking into account the interests of different actors, to identify the power relationships between the actors and groups involved in the governance of socio-ecosystems.  It is used in public policy analysis to describe the links between « public actors and interest groups ». This method renders possible to represent, in a dynamic manner the influence of several variables in the decision-making process. Thanks to this, it is possible to identify the variables that weigh in the public action process and to understand the power relations shaping the behavior of actors in the decision-making process. We can thus grasp the power games and the ways in which interests are defended and conveyed to public decision-makers. The sociological analysis of networks thus makes it possible to integrate greater complexity in the description of collective action, by providing a dynamic vision of multi-level, inter-media and multiplex inter-organizational networks and by uncovering groups and the interdependency relationships between them.

Social network model of the governance system of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands in 1978

Network coupling

Based on case studies of several socio-ecosystems, our objective is to highlight the nature and weight of (power) relationships between human and non-human actors in the decision-making process in environmental management. This should enable us to identify and measure the respective weight of scientific, ecological and social (symbolic and socio-economic) references and arguments. Rather than considering actors as the only protagonists of governance, we recognize that ecological components also participate as non-human actors capable of influencing or orienting the decision-making process (species, including marine animals and plants as well as habitats)

In particular, what is the weight of ecological compartments in decision-making? What does this tell us about taking into account the sustainability paradigm and the positioning of stakeholders according to their social positions, interests and values? By coupling data between human and non-human actors, our objective is to highlight who (human actor) values what (non-human) and how ecological components influence the decision-making process, while trying to quantify the power relations around this decision – manufacturing process. 

Dynamic SES modeling ​

The Multiscale Integrated Model of Ecosystem Services (MIMES) approach (Boumans et al., 2015) is recognized as one of the most promising approaches for modeling socio-ecosystems (CHANS = Coupled Human And Natural Systems) (Turner et al., 2015). It has been applied in different contexts to study traditional fishing systems around Lake Victoria, land-use planning and life-cycle analysis in Luxembourg (Othoniel et al., 2019) or the installation of wind farms off the US coast (Boumans et al., 2015). Based on the Simile modeling software (by Simulistics), the MIMES method aims to overcome several limitations of other dynamic and integrated socio-ecosystem modeling approaches. It allows spatial modeling, a relevant aspect for studying these complex systems. Supported by its spatial capabilities, MIMES promotes a multi-scalar approach. For example, it is possible to simultaneously simulate 1) within a coastal region, land and sea use at the scale of areas relevant to human activities and animal population movements according to a continuous grid, 2) exchanges (demographic, economic or ecological) of this region with its adjacent regions and 3) the effect of international dynamics (markets or climate) on the whole. The Simile software can be coupled with R thanks to the similR package, thus allowing access to the numerous functions of the latter to develop the model and guarantee its quality (statistical methods) and to communicate its results (uncertainty analysis, visualization, sharing on the internet). This last aspect is also useful for collaborative modeling.