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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - IRI THESys

Land use change and hydrosocial transformations – the socionatural production of water, risk and vulnerability in Jambi, Indonesia

Jennifer is a doctoral student at the Department of Geography at Göttingen University and is employed by the EFForTS collaborative research centre. At IRI THESys she is a member of the research group on Changing Rural-Urban Linkages. Her main research interests are the socionatural production of risk and vulnerability, political ecology and interdisciplinary approaches to land and water.

photo: Ethnographic jottings, Ruzana Liburkina
Photo: Jennifer Merten, Water source Tirta Wana Husada Bukit Duabelas. “Protect this water source as a source of livelihood for our community”

Land use transformation towards commercial tree crop plantations is rapidly transforming the waterscape of Jambi province in Sumatra, Indonesia. Alterations in the natural environment as well as rapidly changing socio-cultural and economic relations contribute to new contestations about natural resource governance. Local narratives suggest that land use transformation has contributed both, to an increase of flood occurrence in rainy season as well as an increasing problem of water scarcity in dry season. Local lines of arguments about causality and responsibility for these changes yet remain highly contested. Taking a problem-oriented research approach, this doctoral project aims to disentangle the complex causes, interactions and feedbacks between water, land use and a changing political economy.

Through the lens of the hydrosocial cycle (Linton & Budds 2014), Jennifer aims to identify major processes contributing to the production of new risks and vulnerabilities.

The project builds on extensive qualitative field research in two smaller watersheds in Jambi province. Through participative observation, qualitative interviews and expert interviews Jennifer aims to understand the perceptions of local people towards environmental change, newly arising challenges for their livelihoods as well as regional and social heterogeneities. Being embedded in an interdisciplinary research project, the PhD project further aims to explore possibilities of combining qualitative social research with natural scientist methods to understand locally-specific complex interactions in the socionatural system.

Jennifer graduated in Geography at Göttingen University (M.Sc.) and Erlangen-Nürnberg University (B.A.) and spent semesters abroad in Costa Rica and Bolivia. She pursues her PhD at the Geography Department at Göttingen University and is employed as a doctoral researcher in the Collaborative Research Centre EFForTS. Already in 2012, Jennifer started to work in EFForTS as a research assistant during her Master studies. She is a member of the IRI THESys graduate program since 2018.


photo: Janine Hauer
Photo: Jennifer Merten


Jennifer Merten, Doctoral Researcher
THESys Graduate Program
Phone: +49 30 2093 66347
E-mail: Jennifer.Merten@geo.uni-goettingen.de