At IRI THESys, science communication aims not only to disseminate, but to connect and integrate stakeholders from society, academia, policy and beyond. Through various methods such as events, exhibitions, press work, IRI THESys works to increase awareness, engagement and participation with transformation research. IRI THESys also collaborates with the university-wide communication initiative Open Humboldt which connects Humboldt University researchers to a wider audience with projects such as the new sustainability portal Humboldts17. To check out some examples of past outreach events from IRI THESys, see THESys Public Lectures and  Member Lectures below.

Public Lectures

At THESys Public Lectures, internationally renowned guest speakers are invited to share their research both to the IRI THESys community and the general public. Experts discuss key components of transforming human-environment systems towards sustainability. Many of our public lectures are available on our YouTube Channel.

Member Lectures

THESys Member Lectures give THESys Members the opportunity to present their work in the context of IRI THESys. The lecture series acts as an internal stage where Members present their research interests and questions, methodological tools and data, conceptual framework and theories to their colleagues.

Robert Arlinghaus

Transdisciplinarity and science communication with fisheries stakeholders: personal reflections of 15 years of stakeholder-inclusive research projects

Peer-reviewed papers are great, social impact is even better. Ever since Robert Arlinghaus started his career as a fisheries researcher in 2000, he was obsessed by wanting our science output be used in practice. Peer-reviewed papers are necessary, but were found insufficient. Therefore, Robert strategically reoriented his research program in the year 2010 to transdisciplinary, stakeholder-inclusive approaches where he works with anglers or fishers in their systems. During his lecture, he has a few personal insights to share about what worked and what did not, and how to keep yourself in balance (or not).

Dagmar Mithöfer

Agrifood Chains and Sustainable Development

With increasing urbanization, the commercialization potential for underutilized food resources grows and business opportunities along value chains arise. Parallel we observe low diversity in diets and further manifests of the triple burden of malnutrition. In the larger context of the sustainable development goals the talk takes a food systems perspective and traces how food chains evolve at the example of underutilized food resources in East Africa. The talk identifies business opportunities for women in emerging food value chains and factors shaping integration of emerging food crops into diets. The talk concludes by questioning the implications of value chain emergence for conservation of the underlying resource base.

Sandra Jasper

Wastelands as experimental fields: a journey through Berlin

This talk traces the histories, contemporary forms, and prospective future of wasteland spaces in Berlin. To counter a utilitarian or financial speculative perspective that renders ostensibly empty sites ahistorical and devoid of human and nonhuman life, the talk recovers a range of artistic, activist and scientific experiments that have valorised wastelands as lived and inhabited spaces. Wastelands are vital cultural and ecological zones that have sparked a counter-aesthetic of urban space and concomitant political efforts to protect these sites as public space, often against corporate and municipal interests. With intensifying financial interests in Berlin, the protection of wasteland spaces for public life is becoming increasingly difficult. The talk concludes by questioning the efficacy of current nature conservation policies and other political tools to counter the rapid loss of wasteland spaces in Berlin.

Henning Nuissl

Berlin – Historic Development and Housing Market Challenges

The lecture consists of two parts. The first part provides a general overview on the development of the city of Berlin from the perspective of urban geography. The second part highlights current challenges of the Berlin housing market with a particular focus on the issue of displacement. It will include material from a recent empirical study on displacement, conducted at the Applied Geography lab. Building on the latter, the importance of housing market issues for urban sustainability and/or ‘governance options’ to prevent displacement of tenants could be interesting topics for the following discussion.

Dagmar Haase

Resilient cities under climate change – Facts, concepts, models and reflections

The lecture illuminated some key aspects of cities under climate change and the effects of green infrastructure and other nature-based solutions implemented to face heat and drought. There was also shed light on the vulnerability of both urban residents and the ecosystem that should serve them, as both are living systems. This complex mutual social-ecological relationship is the core of the resilience of cities in the urban era of the 21st century. In the lecture, facts based on models were set against prevailing urban ecological concepts and resulting novel theoretical considerations of urban ecosystems of the future were brought to stage.

Tobias Krüger

Water security – for whom?

In this lecture, Tobias sketched how he came to work with the notion of water security (or should we rather say insecurity?). He began by discussing the normative commitments of contemporary water security definitions based on unpublished work with Johannes
Himmelreich when he was at IRI THESys. A risk-based definition will be singled out as particularly problematic drawing on work with Mark Zeitoun and others. This part links to his long-standing interest in uncertainty models. He then explained how Karen Lebek turned him onto water insecurity through her work with marginalised rural communities in South Africa. This gave him the opportunity to showcase how they brought ethnographic field work and statistical modelling into innovative dialogue. Finally, Tobias outlined how they brought all these insights, and wider experiences with interdisciplinary education at IRI THESys, together in the design of our new ‘Water Security for Whom’ project funded by the Volkswagen
Foundation. Together with Rossella Alba, Laura Betancour Alarcon, Joerg Niewoehner, Patrick Hostert and partners in Colombia and Brazil he will be researching inequalities around three multi-purpose dams in Colombia over the next 3-4 years.

Ignacio Farías

Urban vibrations: how physical waves come to matter in contemporary urbanism

Cities have turned into critical zones of the contemporary: arenas where the interdependence of environmental processes, infrastructural arrangements and human lives is increasingly apparent and disputed. Research in anthropology, science and technology studies (STS) and other fields on health hazards and environmental disasters in urban areas has been crucial in unearthing invisible forms of environmental injustice and slow violence. In this presentation, Ignacio Farías focuses on a mostly overlooked type of environmental issue, airborne waves, and explore how solar heat and environmental noise ‘come to matter’ in contemporary urbanism. This involves understanding how physical waves become associated with specific materials, bodies and devices through which they are felt, known or manipulated, as well as how they become matters of public concern and urbanistic intervention. The theoretical and governmental challenge waves pose relates to their ontological indeterminacy, as waves are not entities, but intensities that propagate through things. Addressing this challenge is crucial for reassessing the material politics of the Anthropocene as entailing contested practices of materializing abstract or imperceptible environmental disturbances.

Bettina König

Sustainability innovations – a case for science to contribute to regenerating agrofood systems and regional development

Sustainability innovations were discussed by Bettina König as important contributions which are needed for a great transformation not only within policies and the economy but for all societal spheres. Their complex nature beyond technology is a challenge to navigate innovation processes across disciplines, sectors, regions, etc. At the start of the pandemic, sustainability scholars discussed whether the COVID-19 pandemic could be a window of opportunity for a ‘deep transformation towards sustainability’ (Schot, 2020). In the light of this, this presentation introduced three strands of thought in Bettina’s current research that could contribute to this discussion: 1) Studying the pandemic from a sustainability perspective and reflecting this, 2) understanding and describing different formats of linking science to society and 3) implications from these two aspects for sustainability innovation research in linking agrofood systems to regional development. Throughout the lecture, Bettina highlighted her different projects including the ginkoo project and the Logbook of Change, as well as her collaboration with the Theatre of the Anthropocene.

Prof. Dr. Jonas Ø. Nielsen (HU Berlin/ IRI THESys)

Integrated geography and human environment research

Globalisation, complexity, and environmental problems challenge traditional boundaries between disciplines, methods, activism and science, humans and nature. In this talk I will highlight the relevance of integrative geography in a world defined by connectivity and problems that scientists need to help solve.

Dr. Ina Säumel (HU Berlin/ IRI THESys)

Co-creation of multifunctional landscapes?
Lessons learnt from edible cities and beyond

This lecture presented the main areas of interest, projects and experiences of the research group Multifunctional Landscapes including the goal to support the development of healthy, biodiversity-friendly and sustainable productive (urban and rural) landscapes. This includes positioning in the debates on multifunctionality of landscapes, holistic visions of landscape sciences, popular topics such as ecosystem services and so-called nature-based solutions. Based on extensive fieldwork and large datasets, the lecture tries to derive some lessons learnt using almost no complicated diagrams. We scientists are not the “experts” who explain to others “non-experts” how the world looks like and how to change the world. On the contrary, we learn from other knowledge regimes and are – hopefully – part of an inclusive community of knowledge, practice and cosmologies. People drive transitions.


Photo Credit: Elisabeth Eichler, Santtu Laine and Karolina Spolniewski, 2015