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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - IRI THESys

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | IRI THESys | IRI THESys | People | Jonas Østergaard Nielsen

Jonas Østergaard Nielsen

Board Member, Member, Research Group Leader
Changing rural-urban relations in an increasingly interconnected world


  • Human-environmental systems and Human aspects of climate change
  • Global-Local entanglements and the issue of scale
  • Global Land-Use Change
  • Causality
  • Interdisciplinary research


"My work at IRI THESys focus on how to break down the established scientific, normative and commonly held barriers between domains such as global-local, North-South, social-natural science. Understanding current challenges in research requires this. No single discipline or understanding alone can answer questions revolving around issues of global climate change, land-use change, sustainability, and/or how the global interact in the local and vice-versa. More modestly, I hope my group and I will produce some great papers, teach some inspiring courses and be good colleagues." Jonas Ø. Nielsen

Jonas Ø. Nielsen is Junior Professor at Humboldt-Universität´s Department of Geography. He studied social anthropology at Auckland University, New Zealand, and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and obtained his doctorate in Human Geography in 2010 at University of Copenhagen with a dissertation entitled "Despite the Rain. Living and dealing with climate change in a small West African village." From 2010 to 2013, he worked as a Post-Doctoral fellow in the European Research Council (ERC) funded project Waterworlds, Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, headed by Prof. Kirsten Hastrup.

Jonas' research is concerned with human dimensions of global climate change, land-use change and how these issues open up for explorations around global-local interactions in an increasing connected world. Jonas has conducted extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Burkina Faso since 2007. His group is currently working in diverse settings around the world and the comparative aspect of research is a central part of Jonas’ work. Another central theme throughout his work is causality and how to understand the impact of different global drivers on local lives, and vice versa.

At IRI THESys, Jonas is Research Group Leader since November 2013. Together with Post-Doctoral fellow Cecilie Friss and PhD student Janine Hauer, he is investigating the emerging framework of tele-couplings in land use science considering how distal environmental, social, political and economic drivers of change influence land-use changes in northern Laos and Burkina Faso. PhD student Özge Dogmus is also working on land-use changes, but focuses mainly on water conflicts and how different drivers intermingle in a Bosnia-Herzegovina national park. PhD student Änais Dresse is also concerned with how the environment becomes part of conflicts but also offer potential solutions in her project on environmental peacebuilding. Finally PhD student Frederick Dapilah is working with Jonas on climate change in West Africa. As a teacher, Jonas is currently offering courses on qualitative research methodologies, climate change adaptation, and urbanization in sub-Saharan Africa.

personal page

THESys Project


Full list of Publications

Selected Publications

Friis, C., Nielsen, J.O. (2017): On the System. Boundary Choices, Implications, and Solutions in Telecoupling Land Use Change Research, Sustainability, 9, 1-20.

Friis, C., Nielsen, J.O. (2016): Small-scale land acquisitions, large-scale implications: Exploring the case of Chinese banana investments in Northern Laos, Land Use Policy, 57, 117-129.

Niewöhner, J., Nielsen, J.Ø., Gasparri, I., Gou, Y., Hauge, M.,Joshi, N., Schaffartzik, A., Sejersen, F., Seto, K., Shughrue, C. (2016): Conceptualizing distal drivers in land use competition, Springer International Publishing, Land Use Competition: Ecological, economic and social perspectives, 21-40.

Rasmussen, K., D’haen, S., Fensholt, R., Fog, B., Horion, S., Nielsen, J.Ø., Rasmussen, L., Reenberg, A (2015): Environmental change in the Sahel: reconciling contrasting evidence and interpretations, Regional Environmental Change.