We aim to describe the interaction between social and natural systems, which we see as co-evolutionary, in scientifically sound theoretical and methodological terms.

The two concepts of social metabolism and the colonization of natural systems constitute the core of our socio-ecological theory. These concepts draw from quite differing scientific traditions - biology, sociology, economics, technical sciences, history, geography and cultural anthropology - and offer a coherent perspective on the society-nature relationship.

This perspective guides us conceptually and practically in developing information systems for the environmental consequences of human activity ("pressures upon the environment"). It also orients us in our research on ecological and socio-economic aspects of sustainable development at the local, national and global levels.

Our methodological spectrum includes material and energy flow analysis (MFA and EFA), geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing methods, systemic actor-oriented and organizational analyses, and the use of historical sources. We make increasing use of modelling techniques for data simulation, a synthetic presentation of results and as a basis for scenarios. Our culture of stable interdisciplinary cooperation and intensive teamwork make this spectrum possible.

Thematic Areas

  • Social Metabolism
  • Land Use and Colonizations of Ecosystems
  • Long-term socio-ecological research and environmental history
  • Social-Ecological Transformations
  • Integrated Socio-Ecological Modelling

Latest Projects

Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2023-11-01 - 2024-04-30

The University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Institute of Social Ecology is cooperating with Kunst Haus Wien GmbH on the exhibition "Into the Woods: Approaches to the Forest Ecosystem" from April to August 2024. The exhibition deals with the forest habitat, its processes and threats and has brought together around 15 contemporary artists. The aims of the cooperation are to provide scientific thematic support for the exhibition, to write educational texts ("fact boxes"), to write a specialist article for the exhibition publication on Climate & Forest and to engage in joint activities. This specialist contribution will deal with key issues relating to the topic of forests, including the most important gaps in knowledge, and their scientific presentation for a non-specialist audience. Events such as a Future Talk or excursions involving members of the Institute of Social Ecology are also planned. The aim of the collaboration is to raise awareness of the importance of forests and bring the topic of ecological change to a wider audience. This cooperation creates a unique space in which the expertise of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences and the artistic representations of Kunst Haus Wien come together. The aim is also to inspire visitors and open up new perspectives on the importance of forests.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2024-01-01 - 2024-12-31

A number of important initiatives at European, national and local level aim to mitigate climate change and set binding targets and measures. In order to prevent the climate crisis from turning into a climate catastrophe, it is necessary to understand the interplay between individual contributions and ambitious climate and sustainability policies and to recognise and stimulate opportunities for change at both levels. Based on work for APCC Special Reports (Haas et al. 2018, Görg et al. 2023), we have started to analyse the relationships between climate-friendly living in everyday life, time use and health-promoting activities. This analysis includes the calculation of emission intensities of time-use activities and the evaluation of time use and CO2 emissions per groups differentiated by gender and caring responsibilities.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2024-01-01 - 2026-06-30

Episodes of heat, sudden rises in temperature or increased exposure to allergens pose a particular threat to the health of older people. This particularly affects older people who are already a vulnerable group due to health impairments such as cardiovascular diseases (high blood pressure, heart failure, ischemic heart disease) or lung diseases (asthma, COPD). Pollen-triggered diseases such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and allergic bronchial asthma each affect around 5-11% of the population aged 65 and over. The consequences of asthma are also much more serious in older people and more often lead to death. The KliMate project therefore aims to design a system that uses weather and environmental data to provide individual recommendations for increasing active mobility, physical activity in general, social participation and general climate adaptation in older people. At the same time, individual and collective approaches are being developed to help promote climate-friendly physical activity. In addition to increasing active mobility, this also has the advantage of reducing loneliness and social isolation, the psychological and physical consequences of which can range from anxiety, depression, loss of sleep and cognitive decline to a deterioration in cardiovascular health.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations