The renowned Consolidator Grants from the European Research Council (ERC) are awarded to top researchers who are pursuing ground-breaking projects in basic research.  THESys Members Tobias Kuemmerle and Ignacio Farías are both receiving grants for projects which explore paradigm shifts in conservation science and urban anthropology.

Tobias Kuemmerle received the Consolidator Grant for the project SYSTEMSHIFT (Shifting to a Land Systems Paradigm in Conservation) which investigates how land-use impacts biodiversity. The project focuses on the development of a novel socio-ecological approach to conservation assessments, as well as planning which centres around land-use actors. This will allow for a better understanding of the complex relationships between land users and their environment – and how this translates into threats to biodiversity. Professor Kuemmerle and his team will also develop methods to uncover the interactions between threats to biodiversity which have previously only been studied in isolation. This includes for instance, habitat destruction and poaching.

SYSTEMSHIFT focuses on the distinctive dry forests of South America, as they are among the fastest disappearing ecosystems on Earth. Although agribusiness agriculture continues to expand rapidly into the last forest areas in these regions, very little is known, about how these land-use changes impact on biodiversity and how the ongoing loss of biodiversity can be effectively confronted. Thus, SYSTEMSHIFT aims to provide the foundation for developing new conservation strategies that reconcile land use and conservation goals within this unique region.

THESys Member Ignacio Farías was awarded the Consolidator Grants for the WAVEMATTERS project (Urban Vibrations: How Physical Waves Come to Matter in Contemporary Urbanism) which studies cities as critical zones where environmental processes, infrastructures and human life are intertwined and deeply interwoven.

WAVEMATTERS focuses on physical waves, such as thermal radiation, sound waves and radio frequencies, that expand through our urban environments, traversing human and non-human bodies. Although the effects of bodily exposure to waves are well known, waves are recurrently subject to major knowledge controversies and social conflicts.
In his project, Professor Farías explores the question of how sound waves, radio frequencies or thermal radiation come to matter: what leads to certain waves being associated with certain bodies and environmental processes? How do they become the subject of public interest? Under what conditions waves lead to urbanistic interventions such as noise mitigation? How do political and social controversies such as that surrounding the construction of the 5G mobile network arise?

The researchers working on the project will supplement conventional ethnographic methods by engaging in a multimodal collaboration with actors in the field to actively participate in practices of knowledge production. The project is thus dedicated to a fundamental political challenge of our time: how can the mostly abstract, gradual and invisible environmental transformations of the Anthropocene be addressed, problematised and politicised by different actors?