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Department of Geography

Nature and you

What's your relationship with nature? Why is it important to you? Mollie Chapman interviews people in such distinct places as the Swiss National Park, the Tibetan plateau or in Malaysia.


Mollie, you joined GIUZ just recently as a Postdoc. How did it happen that you ended up here?

That's a long story… But if you'd try to visualize the different stages of my education and my career on a map, then you can see that I have hopped across the ocean several times.

Tell me more!

I have 3 degrees from 3 countries. My Bachelor's I got in the United States, my Master's in Switzerland and my PhD in Canada. Thus, I have experience in many different institutional cultures.

So, you already lived for several years in Switzerland?

Yes, I was at the University of Basel for my Master's studies in Sustainable Development. One of the reasons for this decision was, that when I was in Patagonia for a sea kayaking tour, I met a nice Swiss man. But that's not so unusual, wherever you have beautiful mountains you will meet Swiss people!

Now you are also affiliated with the URPP Global Change and Biodiversity.

Yes, being part of the URPP is really a great opportunity. For instance, the URPP has set up several research sites where people address research questions from different angles. It's a perfect environment for discussion across disciplines.

What is your research about?

I want to understand the different kinds of relationships people have with nature. Most people's motivation is neither to protect nature for its own sake, nor for nature's instrumental values, such as providing us with clean water. Instead, it is about the relationships they have with places, landscapes, plants or animals. In my research, I will be interviewing different types of people as for example urbanites, fishers, farmers, or tourists living in such distinct places as the Swiss National Park, Lake Zürich, the Tibetan plateau, or in Malaysia. These are all research sites of the URPP Global Change and Biodiversity.

And what is that knowledge for?

Often, nature conservation movement proposes policies or projects in ways that unnecessarily alienate different groups of people. If we understand why nature is important to the people, we can design conservation programs that work with, rather than against the relational values of those impacted.

What are your plans for the future?

I have lots of ideas, but staying in academia is definitely my plan A. I can imagine that Switzerland could become a nice home base for my further career. In particular, as I became a Swiss citizen last fall.

And what do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to be in the mountains. And I do Capoeira. This is a Brazilian martial art combining elements of dance, acrobatics and music.