Mollie Chapman

Mollie Chapman, Dr.

Senior scientist

Space, Nature and Society

Tel.: 044 63 55247

Room number: Y25 L 42

Presence times: Tu Th 9:30 - 17:00


Research Interests

My research is centered on understanding environmental values. In my work, I focus on agriculture and food systems. Agriculture accounts for 34% of the earth’s ice-free land and plays a central role in global challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss. But agricultural landscapes are also cultural landscapes and express a suite of cultural and social values. 

I examine the cultural values that underpin relationships between people and nature. Both researchers and conservation practitioners have traditionally approached environmental values as either intrinsic (protecting nature for its own sake) or instrumental (protecting nature for people’s sake). Yet these two approaches fail to characterize many if not most of the reasons people care about the environment. In response, a multi-disciplinary group of scholars and I recently proposed a more inclusive approach to environmental values that includes relational values (Chan et al., 2016, PNAS). We argue that values based on relationships between people and nature are central to motivations for (and against) environmental protection. These include: values such as stewardship and care, kinship and connection towards nature, concepts such as ‘eudaemonia’ which refers to living a good life in harmony with nature, as well as values around responsibility towards nature.

Beyond my academic contributions, I have worked closely with policy-makers and NGOs. I have advised regional organizations (including Farmland Advantage and the Canadian Wildlife Service Pacific Region) on the design of voluntary and incentive-based agri-environmental programs.

Current Research

Developing a relational values approach to align environmental values in conservation policy


Research Team

Mollie Chapman

Anna Deplazes Zemp

Norman Backhaus

Environmental conservation efforts are often based on either the intrinsic value of nature or of its instrumental use to humans. Yet neither of these approaches effectively captures a wide range of values that motivate many people to care for land, ecosystems and species. For many people, relationships with nature and with other people via nature better characterize how they value and view their biophysical environment. This research project seeks to elaborate a relational values approach to conservation. Interviews with farmers in the vicinity of the Swiss National Park along with philosophical analysis will serve to elaborate a typology of relational values and develop the conceptual foundations of this emerging research area.

This research is part of the interdisciplinary project, "People’s Place in Nature". The project started in August 2018. The project aims at developing a better understanding of the role of relations in people’s evaluation of nature and to develop an ethical argumentation for environmental responsibilities based on the relationship between people and nature around them.This research is made possible by the NOMIS Foundation, URPP GCB, and UZH Forschungskredit.  



2018     Ph.D., Resource Management and Environmental Studies, University of British Columbia

2012     M.S., Sustainable Development, University of Basel

2006     B.A., with Distinction, Anthropological Sciences, Stanford University



2018     Chapman, M.,Satterfield, T., Chan, K.M.A. (accepted). When value conflicts are barriers: Can relational values help explain farmer participation in conservation incentive programs? Land Use Policy.  

2018     Rodina, L., Shah, S.S., Burt, J.M., McDowell, G., Chapman, M.,Gregr, E.J., Henry, A., Williams, S., Wilson, N.J., (accepted). Social-Ecological Transformations: Conceptual, Ethical, and Methodological Insights. The Anthropocene Review.  

2017     Chapman, M., Klassen, S., Kreitzman, M., Semmelink, A., Sharp, K., Singh, G., & Chan, K. M. A. (2017). 5 Key Challenges and Solutions for Governing Complex Adaptive (Food) Systems. Sustainability, 9(9), 1594.

2017     Chan, K. M. A., Anderson, E., Chapman, M.,Jespersen, K., & Olmsted, P. (2017). Payments for Ecosystem Services: Rife With Problems and Potential—For Transformation Towards Sustainability. Ecological Economics, 140, 110–122.

2017     Chapman, M.,LaValle, A., Furey, G., Chan, K.M.A. (2017). Sustainability beyond city limits: Can “greener” beef lighten a city’s Ecological Footprint? Sustainability Science., 9, 1146.

2017     Gee, K., Kannen, A., Adlam, R., Brooks, C.,Chapman, M.,Cormier, R., et al. (2017). Identifying culturally significant areas for marine spatial planning. Ocean & Coastal Management, 136, 139–147.

2016     Chan, K. M. A., Balvanera, P., Benessaiah, K., Chapman, M.,Díaz, S., Gómez-Baggethun, E., et al. (2016). Opinion: Why protect nature? Rethinking values and the environment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(6), 1462–1465.

2005     Chapman, M.(2005). Once Upon a Time in Volcán, Costa Rica: Integrating Values into Watershed Management and Poverty Alleviation. Review of Policy Research 22 (6), 859-880.

Online Talks


2017     “Of Farms and Fish,”  UBC Public Scholars Initiative PhD’s Go Public 2017 Research Talk Series: Human(e) Interactions with the Environment, Vancouver, Canada, March 15, 2017. 


7 minutes

Public Talk


2017    “Of Farms and Fish,” Institute for Resources, Environment and, Sustainability Seminar Series, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, March 16, 2017.  


28 minutes

Research Talk

Reports available online

2015     Kai Chan, Mollie Chapman, Cheryl Chen, Noah Enelow, Taylor Hesselgrave, Sarah Klain, (2015).“The Values of Place: Recreation and Cultural Ecosystem Services in Puget Sound,” Report to the Puget Sound Institute, 115 pages,

2013     Gee K, Kannen A, Adlam R, Brooks C, Chapman M, Cormier R, Fischer C, Fletcher S, Gubbins M, Shucksmith R, "Report of the Joint HZG/LOICZ/ICES Workshop: Mapping Cultural Dimensions of Marine Ecosystem Services (WKCES)", International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, 70 pages, August 2013