NEWS: Loving participatory mapping and digital storytelling

Today we had a project meeting with the project group of a new exciting project SVALUR starting up.
The labs task is to lead the participatory mapping and digital storytelling and compare with climate and environmental monitoring programs on Svalbard, as well as developing tools and analyzing
and synthesizing their respective outputs; contribute to the digital archiving of narrative-based understanding; contribute to project synthesis activities. We look very much forward to how this will turn out!
Want know more read here!


Do you value nature?

Nature is an important part of people’s wellbeing, and this has been very notorious during the last months when the access to nature has been limited in some countries. People increasingly seek nature, and even travel long distances to be in nature. This is because nature contributes to our wellbeing. It provides us with material goods, such as food and firewood, but nature also provides us with nonmaterial goods that contribute to our physical and mental well being, for example recreation opportunities or spiritual sites. And we appreciate and value those material and nonmaterial contributions, maybe differently depending on our culture, education or attachment to a place. Still, nature is important for all of us.

matej-drha-F_TmvOcHD8g-unsplash (3)

Lorena Monuz worked on this topic and defended her PhD this summer. The value of obtaining information about the importance of nature for people can be challenging and costly, especially regarding non-marketable benefits that are important for people. In the Arctic Sustainability Lab, she worked with assessing the applicability of different methods that capture the values people ascribe to nature in order to facilitate the incorporation of these benefits into policy-making.


The study and PhD used crowdsourced data to collect the values that visitors to protected areas ascribe to nature. Crowdsourced data refers to the data created by a large group of people, either to solve a problem or just to create content. For example, the content on social media can be classified as crowdsourced data, as there is a large proportion of society uploading data into these platforms. Also, when we check travel advisor webpages to find the best restaurants, the ranking of the places are based on crowdsourced data from people that have visited those venues.


The study is located in Southern Norway, in the beautiful location of Jotunheimen national park, Utladalen protected landscape and Breheimen national park. The landscape is diverse, with the highest mountains in Scandinavia, ancient glaciers, and a deep valley. Locals have used their surroundings for hundreds of years, and are very attached to this landscape, both for recreation and for their livelihoods. This area is experiencing a growing tourism, as part of the government’s strategy to increase revenue in remote areas and around nature based tourism. Therefore,  it was important to capture how different people visiting and using this area value nature in order to avoid potential conflicts in the future.

In the first study, an online mapping platform was used where participants were asked to drag and drop a list of values that they appreciate from nature. A sample of local residents were invited by letter. Recruitment of visitors at the  main entrances to the parks was done either by face-to-face contact or by leaflets on accommodation venues and parking lots. Here the mapping platform was presented in a link that participants could access from their home. It is based on Google maps, and in addition to the mapping exercise, there was also included general demographic questions. The results of this study show that while recreation and scenic landscapes were the most commonly mapped values, there are differences in the places that people value, and the types of values that people ascribe to nature. For example, domestic and international visitors are quite similar in the values and the places they tagged in the online mapping platform. Participants also differ in less popular values, for example domestic and international visitors value more clean water and biological diversity than locals did, whereas locals highlight hunting and fishing, and cultural values more than the other users. It is important to understand the differences in what people value and the places that are important for people if tourism continues to increase, so that park managers can identify potential conflicts and act before there are problems between user groups or identify areas that are prone to nature degradation.

Erik Nielsen

The second study, wanted to see whether one could obtain information on the values that people ascribe to nature in a passive manner, without the active participation of visitors in a survey. Social media brings the opportunity of obtaining the values that people ascribe to nature from a big group of people. For example, when many hike with friends they take a group picture on the top of the mountain. This is because one enjoys the company of ones friends when hiking, wants to preserve the memory and experience together. From the different social media platforms, Flickr was chosen. This is a photo-sharing platform where people upload images about the things, experiences and relationships that they like. It is a platform where people can upload their images to share with others or simply as a travel diary. The content of the pictures were analyzed to identify the values that they express. These pictures were then compared with the values that where mapped in the first study using the online mapping platform. By comparing both methods, the study was able to assess the differences in the values that each platform is able to capture.  It was identified that the variety of values that can be identified in pictures is less than the set of values used in the online mapping platform. This is because it is difficult to identify the underlying value of the picture, as for example if a picture of a landscape was taken because of the beauty of the landscape, because it is an inspirational landscape to create art, or because of the spiritual value of that particular place. Furthermore, Flickr images are located mainly outside the protected areas, nearby roads and infrastructure facilities. On the other hand, the values mapped using the online mapping platform were mainly located inside protected areas close to trails and major tourist attractions. This difference could be driven by automatic tagging of the images or by biased location of geotags. While both platforms are different, both can inform about the general values for which these places are important for people, but with different opportunities and limitations. While images from Flickr can be obtained for free and with no recruitment of visitors, the types of values that can be identified in pictures is limited. In the online mapping platform, the manager/researcher can decide which values are interesting for the given area, but a recruitment campaign is necessary in order to find people willing to answer the survey.


The last study, tried to find a solution for some of the limitations mentioned above. For that a dedicated mobile app was developed to capture the values that people ascribe to nature. The mobile app functioned as it follows: after downloading the app the visitor would find a set of demographic questions; after that the visitor was invited to track an activity in nature in real time, so that they could tag places that they liked/disliked on the way and select from a list what was interesting about that particular place; finally, when the activity was finished, we asked a few questions about the trip, such as the activities that they did (for example if they were fishing or hiking). The mobile app intended to reduce location problems encountered by the other two platforms, as the integrated GPS of the smartphones allows to accurately geotag places. Visitors were recruited to participate in the study using social media, a newspaper article, and leaflets and posters at points of interest. Additionally a  guideline on the advantages, limitations and ways forward when applying a mobile app for capturing visitors’ values in protected areas, was developed.


What were the conclusions?

The three crowdsourcing methods can be successful at capturing people’s values in protected areas, however, we identified opportunities and limitations of each of the methods, that needs to be considered when managing a protected area.

Flickr is a good platform to collect data with no recruitment effort over a long period of time, as the data is already uploaded by visitors, and is continually being updated. Moreover, the data has been publicly available, so there is no cost on obtaining the data. However, the platform cannot be customized to get specific information from visitors, and this limits the type of values that can be assessed. Also, the accuracy of geotagged photos might be lower than that obtained with other methods, such as a mobile app.

Online mapping platforms can be customized to combine questions and mapping activities, so that the relevant information can be gathered. The accuracy of mapped features has been shown to be good, which allows local scale assessments to be conducted. However, a good recruitment strategy is needed in order to capture a representative sample of respondents. Also, online mapping has mainly been implemented as a one‐time survey, so long‐term data is not usually collected.

Dedicated mobile apps are the most powerful tools to customize the data collection process. Thanks to built‐in functionalities in smartphones it is possible to use the GPS to georeference tags, the camera to photograph features, or the accelerometer to measure the speed at which the user moves in the park, just to mention a few. This provides a high accuracy of the spatial data, up to a sub‐meter resolution. The downsides are that a good recruitment strategy is needed, and the initial cost of developing such a platform can be high. However, once developed, the app can be open over a long time, allowing for long‐term data collection in order to identify changes in nature’s contributions and people’s values.

View the PhD thesis of Lorena Munoz


Exploring the importance of incorporating herders’ knowledge and ecosystem-based adaptation strategies in local decision-making


Ecosystem-based adaptation relies  upon  the  capacity  of  ecosystems  to buffer Arctic communities against the adverse impacts of climate change. Maintaining ecosystems that deliver critical services  to  communities  can  also  provide co-benefits beyond adaptation, such as climate mitigation and protection of biological diversity and livelihoods.

Nevertheless, ecosystem-based adaptation has, to a limited extent, drawn upon indigenous and local knowledge for defining critical services and for implementing Ecosystem-based adaptation in decision-making. This is a paradox given that the  primary focus of ecosystem-based adaptation is to enable communities to adapt to climate change.


Are these tools sufficiently representing pastoralists’ knowledge of  seasonal  pasture  and  services  in  land  use  planning  and decision-making?

Reindeer herders’ knowledge about ecosystems and services has evolved through their continuous adaptation to shifting environments. These socio-ecological dynamics rely on a tight connection between herders, reindeers and their ecosystems, and on flexible strategies for adapting to changing food supplies and environments. Herd mobility and access to diverse habitats is crucial for dealing with a variable environment, including climate risks and extreme events, but these adaptation options have gradually been constrained by competing land uses. Halting loss of pastures and the services they deliver is a key for enabling reindeer herders to adapt to and cope with climate change impacts. Thus, this perspective must be integrated in any ecosystem-based adaptation strategies.

What are the main reasons for loss of critical services?

Unlike most other indigenous pastoralist systems, Sámi knowledge of seasonal pastures is incorporated in local decision-making through Norwegian legislation. Reindeer herders create their own maps based on their knowledge of seasonal pastures, and report their use, disturbances and threats in local plans. These plans document their need for space and resources at different times of the year and are a tool to protect their pastures against other land uses. Despite these ambitions, it is unclear whether the participatory tools actually represent herders’  knowledge sufficiently and whether this knowledge is used in decision making to avoid loss of services. Furthermore, the tools have not been designed to consider flexibility and adaptation to climate change, nor do they capture the dynamics and changing character of migration routes and pastures over time albeit an online version of maps is currently under development that potentially can serve this purpose.


How can we draw on pastoralists’ knowledge to implement management strategies that support ecosystem-based adaptation?

The project IndGov s’ publication Incorporating herders’ knowledge and ecosystem-based adaptation strategies in local decision-making” explores how participatory tools integrate herders’ knowledge in decision-making and to what extent these tools can avoid loss of ecosystem services. It accentuates that pastoralists’ knowledge needs to be incorporated through participatory tools to protect the ecosystems and services crucial for pastoralists. Nevertheless, multiple competing land uses result in incremental loss of pastures regardless.




Kysbarometeret has invited people from all the coastal municipalities in northern Norway to map locally important places and assess changes along the coast. In the survey, the participants get to contribute with their knowledge and perspectives on coastal development. This will be an important contribution to the management of the coast.

In total, approx. 17,000 are invited to participate via a postcard in the mail. This corresponds to approx. 5% of the local population in the coastal municipalities in northern Norway. These are recruited at random from the National Register.

Others who wish will also be able to participate later in the autumn. The link to the survey can be found later on Kystbarometerets website. In the longer term, the goal is to regularly carry out such a survey in order to follow developments over time.

Postcard 1



Kystbarometeret is up and going! And right now we are along the coast of Northern Norway, as in order to develop good goals for sustainability, we need input from a wide range of interests. We are on a cruise with Hurtigruten along the coast of Northern Norway to discuss good goals for sustainability from a local perspective.

Follow our travel and our observations along the way HERE.




If our future global population ate more seafood from aquatic farming, or aquaculture, to meet their protein needs, we may be able to substantially reduce one of the biggest environmental impacts of meat production – land use – without giving up meat entirely.

Our Arctic Sustainability Lab researcher Claire A. Runge together with others have published a new paper in PNAS.

For me, this paper is about land use and the future of the species and ecosystems which share our planet. The decisions that we, as a society, take over the next few years will shape the future of the planet around us, says Claire Runge

This research is the first land-use analysis of future food systems that focuses on aquaculture, the world’s fastest growing food sector, and helps reveal its potential role in conservation and food security. The study shows the amount of cropland that would be required to support a future world with more farmed aquatic animals would be significantly smaller than what we would need to support terrestrial livestock production.

Aquaculture could meet growing protein demands while lessening future food production’s footprint

Want to learn more click here.




In relation to Kystbarometeret we have been teaming up with ICE-9 and Hello X.

In a changing Arctic, society is facing multidisciplinary challenges, that requires new education strategies, to build a co-productive understanding and knowledge, as well as a co-responsibility of the future. As a group of artists, writers, storytellers, filmmakers, and researchers, ICE-9 present a project that builds experimental spaces for productive play with research and stories, meeting a multidisciplinary approach combining knowledge from different disciplines and penetrating though all levels of society. These spaces are online, on the street, in classrooms and museums. Our strategy is improvisational, collaborative, and networked. Collaborating with researches and using their research-based facts, found the basis of these spaces, where we communicate issues of contemporary concern adapted to the age of youth, and discuss and reflect issues and possible solutions. Fazing between formal and informal education in Arctic topics and themes on different levels, we present an alternative way in outreach activities related to Arctic studies, not only for researchers, but the wider public, making knowledge sustainable. Not at least, we present processes that create positive feedback loops between science, art, and education, supporting a transition towards a knowledge-based circular economy in an inclusive, just, and democratic global society.


Doing research communication, they also collected data of 400 youths and their perceptions of the future coasts of Norway.

Why the youth?

The youth seem to by an always missing part of this puzzle even though they are the most important piece, as they are going to live this future that is being framed on behalf of them.


Keep posted as we analyze and present the data in the future!



In connection with the research days at UIT we began our participatory mapping for our new proejct member of the lab; Kystbarometeret.


Engelsk plakat.jpg



CultEs just published a fantastic app! Go tracking in Jotunheimen and check the survey and app out!




The Arctic Sustainabiltiy Lab participated at the International Symposium on Society and Resource Management (ISSRM), June 19-22 in Umeå, Sweden. We had 3 speakers, where Sigrid Engen was one presenting:

Public participation in Norwegian protected area governance – the role of advisory councils



Genuine participation of stakeholders is essential for attaining ideals of local ownership, place attachment and identity, the backbone of stewardship practices (Lokocz et al., 2011). In today’s Norwegian protected area policy, attaining these ideals is largely left to representative democracy. Local boards with elected politicians have decision making authority, while local stakeholders are appointed to advisory councils and should be consulted, but the functioning and involvement of these councils vary a lot. Navigating social-ecological systems to arrive at sustainable solutions is a complex undertaking and it is increasingly acknowledged that complexity should be addressed, not by governments alone, but through governance – interactions and decision-making among multiple actors. Well-designed participatory processes are vital in this respect. They can encourage sustainability and enhance the adaptive capacity of social-ecological systems by increasing the legitimacy of a decision, enhance trust, provide higher quality decisions, improving implementation due to less opposition and increased civic competence (von Korff et al., 2010). In this study, we examined the role of the advisory councils through an extensive questionnaire that involved 11 councils. We asked about their background, knowledge, values, preferences, the functioning of the councils and their relation with the different environmental authorities and each other. Results show that the stakeholders are highly knowledgeable and experienced. They see advisory councils as the preferred approach to participation, but wish to be more involved than at present. Advisory councils can become a great asset and efforts should be made to make participation mutually beneficial for all parties in order to advance towards achieving benefits like knowledge co-production and social learning.




One of our Ph.D. students of the science lab and part of CultEs just got an article accepted for publication in Conservation Letters!

Impact of local empowerment on conservation practices in a highly developed

Community-based conservation, where local decision makers are responsible for balancing conservation and development, is often preferred to exclusionary conservation that prioritizes use-limitation through strict regulation. Unraveling the evidence for conservation impact of different governance regimes is challenging. Focusing on conservation practices before and after a reform can provide an early indication of behavioral changes acting as a precursor to changes in social and ecological outcomes, which generally need more time to materialize. A recent reform in Norway provides a unique opportunity to evaluate the impact of local empowerment on conservation practices in protected areas. We analyzed 1,466 decisions in 31 protected areas before and after the reform while accounting for differences between private and public property ownership. We found that the conservation practices were liberal both before and after the reform. The impact of local empowerment on conservation practices was contingent on land tenure: more use was allowed after the reform on private land. We conclude that conservation impact evaluations could benefit from a before-and-after spatial approach taking into account land tenure for analyzing the impacts of local decision making.

Congratulations to Sigrid Engen and read more here:




Publication in ScienceAdvances and the project CONNECT is in the media!

Climate change is creating greener tundra, which may sound like good news for caribou, bu on the contrary,  there is found a strong bottom-up effect in which a warmer climate related to diminishing sea ice has increased the plant biomass on the summer pastures resulting in declining caribou populations. This can be an early signal of a climate-driven shift in the caribou-plant interaction dominated by non-edible shrubs with diminishing herds of migratory caribou (Fauchald et al. 2017).

The question now is not only how this “greening” of the Arctic might affect Arctic ecosystems but also how this affects the Indigenous communities relying on the hunt of caribou and eventually also other animals and plants within the food chain.

This publication and important topic has been picked up by Motherboard & New Deeply (Arctic Deeply), spreading the word.





One more MSc student opportunity !

Are you a student and interested in ecosystem services research in the Arctic Norway? We are looking for students to join our team in EsArctic to work with ecosystem services on the Varanger peninsula.

 We are developing new tools and technologies for adaptive monitoring of ecosystem services in Arctic and alpine areas. In collaboration with Utah State, Oregon State University and the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, we are developing spatial models for the distribution of ecosystem services at the landscape scale. We are therefore looking for a MSc student who is interested in developing a tool for analyzing ecosystem services using the Sample Point approach. Become a part of our team and innovatively contribute to the development of our tools!

 Follow the link to learn more!

MSc Adaptive monitoring of ecosystem services using a sample point approach

Do you want to become a future Master Student on a Arctic Sustainability project? –IndGov gives you the upportunity!

Master stipends: The IndGov project issues master stipends of NOK 30.000 to conduct specific tasks related to mapping of reindeer husbandry land use in collaboration with Vera Hausner and Per Sandström (the TriArc project). The stipend may be allocated to a student enrolled at an appropriate master program from the fall of 2017 or a graduate. Contact Camilla Brattland at or Vera Hausner at  for more information.

This is a great opportunity to enter Arctic and Sustainability Sciences, with a positive and innovative research team!




– Research is also about outreach and making ones work sustainable in communities. Talks about Technology and subsistence was made during the fieldwork of CONNECT, with a lot of enthusiasm and engagement of the students of 6th graders.

– Jen Schmidt, CONNECT,  conducting interviews and q-sorts of 10-12 people in 3 Arctic communities in Alaska: Noorvik, Noatak, and Brevig Mission.  Noorvik and Noatak are in the Northwest Arctic Borough which obtains revenue from the Red Dog Mine which is one of the largest zinc mines in the world.  Noatak is closer to Red Dog and residents of Noatak a larger portion of residents are employed by the mine than in Noorvik.  Noorvik, however, has started a rock crushing operation that does provide some employment opportunities.  Meanwhile, Brevig Mission is in the Nome census area and there is minimal resource extraction activity and economic benefits from resource extraction activities. These three communities have slightly different geography and socio-economic conditions and which might influence use and access to technology. The interviews are about technology, subsistence, and climate change.  The goal is to examine how technology use has changed, especially over the last 10 years.  Also weather changes in technology have influenced subsistence dynamics such as participation, use areas, harvest, success, etc.  Lastly, we would like to know what role technology plays in addressing climate related changes in the environment.

untitled_png new
Participatory mapping in Noorvik (Photo: Jen Schmidt).

– The Arctic Sustainability Lab has been initiated !