She has a PhD in Natural Research Management (Systems Ecology), Stockholm University and did a post doc at Geography Department at McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
Her research concerns emergent and self-organized governance of local ecosystems in human dominated landscapes, and the implications for social-ecological resilience and transformation. She is currently involved in two research projects, see more below, as well as research-policy project on connecting knowledge systems for ecosystem governance, in collaboration with the SwedBio Programme.
1. Governance of Ecosystem Services under Scenarios of Change in Southern and Eastern Africa
The research programme on the "Governance of Ecosystem Services under Scenarios of Change in Southern and Eastern Africa" is a collaboration between the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa, and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) in The Netherlands.
The programme is funded by the Swedish international development cooperation agency (Sida), and has the following main objectives:
- to generate innovative tools to assess and map multiple ecosystem services in data poor situations;
- to identify trade-offs and synergies among ecosystem services and human well-being, especially in the context of non-linear ecosystem changes; and
- to gain an understanding of potential pathways for transformation towards improved governance of ecosystem services, including the escape and avoidance of social-ecological poverty traps.
Maria is particularly involved in the conceptual work on the links between ecosystem services and poverty alleviation, in particular the role of cultural ecosystem services, and village level research, investigating the role of culture in mediating the generation and appreciation of ecosystem services in the context of circular urban labour migration, in collaboration with the PhD-student Vanessa Masterson and Marja Spierenburg at VU.
The research is further concerned with the importance of human-nature interactions, including 'sense of place' for both coping with and adapting to change (resilience) and developing into the future (transformation). Read more.
2. Bridging the science-policy gap for governance of ecosystem services – lessons learned from sacred ecosystems
The project is a collaboration with SRC and ATREE (Ashoka Trust for Research on Ecology and the Environment), India, and focuses on the role of sacred sites in particular and civic involvement in general for improving governance of ecosystems services and ecosystems in human dominated landscapes.
The research involved synthesis evidence of the role of sacred sites for generating ecosystem services and governing ecosystem, as well as case study research of the role of sacred trees and civic involvement in ecosystem governance in Bangalore, India.
The project has a strong component of influencing policy and e.g. contributed to a recent report on urbanization and biodiversity in India presented in association with the Cities and Biodiversity Outlook (CBO) at the COP 11 meeting of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) in Hyderbad, in October 2012.