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Covid-19 as a major global disruption to examine socio-ecological resilience theory


Merav Cohen, Daniel Orenstein Technion

Israel Institute of Technology (IIT)



Session Description

What characteristics prepared some communities for the Covid-19 pandemic more than others? Our research explores resilience through the lens of social ecology (SE), a discipline that studies the interconnections between society and its natural environment. The complex global impacts of Covid-19, resulting from direct and indirect interactions between the social and biophysical world, provide a rare opportunity to explore how such interactions affect societal resilience, or society’s capacity to endure external shocks/stress like pandemics or climate change. We compare several regions in Europe to examine whether the generalized principles of SE resilience contributed to their capacity to endure and manage the Covid-19 crisis. To this end we utilize the European Long-Term Ecosystem, Critical Zone, and Socio-Ecological Research Infrastructure (eLTER RI), collaborating with scientists who manage regional platforms for conducting holistic, comparative SE research (eLTSER platforms). Combining quantitative data with qualitative public participation processes, we will use fuzzy cognitive mapping (FCM) methods to identify possible correlations between the characteristics of the different SE systems, and the impact they endured from Covid-19. This study will expand resilience theory, providing a nuanced understanding of societal resilience factors to inform future research and governance, as well as inform standard observations for long term socio-ecological data collection in the newly established eLTER RI.

This interactive session will combine a presentation of our research and its preliminary results, with a live demonstration of the participatory process we have developed, including the use of FCM in the context of this research. Participants will be guided through a hands-on experience of FCM as a tool for SE research, using the openly available online tool ‘Mental Modeler’. This session will be conducted according to our participatory process protocol and will therefore produce results which could then be analyzed and explored as part of the wider research project. As such, this innovative session will be not only informative, but will also provide a learning opportunity while contributing to the actual research.


Session Justification

Our research, and this session, speak directly to the third topical theme of the conference: ‘Social Ecological Resilience against external shocks from pandemics to climate change’. It will present participants with the foundation of resilience science in social ecology, and the use case of our cross-eLTSER platforms research, inspiring them to initiate similar collaborative projects  using a systems-thinking approach. This will highlight the very goal of the ILTER network, connect researchers who are interested in this work through experiential learning, and propel future collaborations.

Furthermore, this dynamic session will not only build much needed connections among the social-ecologists who participate in the OSM. Designed for a broad audience of researchers, this session could also build a valuable bridge between the field of social-ecology and ILTER scientists who are less familiar with it, highlighting the importance of a ‘whole system approach for in-situ & long-term environmental system research on life supporting systems’ (WAILS). The session will enable peer learning, a conversation about the tool and the qualitative essence of the method, in addition to the research topic itself. This enriching group activity will provide a deeper understanding of the qualities and benefits of socio-ecological research in the context of ILTER.


One Sentence Session Summary

We compare eLTSER platforms to examine whether the generalized principles of socio-ecological resilience contributed to their capacity to endure and manage Covid-19. In this session we will introduce our research by engaging participants to experience it. Utilizing participatory Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping methods, participants will simultaneously learn and contribute to research.


Special Session

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