“Climate change demands collaboration across borders”
10 December 2021
“As a researcher, I thrive when I can work in an environment that combines social sciences and the humanities with natural science. It opens the way for a broader mindset.” So says Magdalena Kuchler, a senior lecturer who is conducting research in the Natural Resources and Sustainable Development programme at the Department of Earth Sciences. She strives to establish fruitful collaborations with other researchers from various research areas.
How can we integrate subterranean buildings into Stockholm’s future urban planning? How can researchers help policymakers to integrate ambitious carbon dioxide budgets into regional climate policy? How can people envisage alternative energy futures in a fossil fuel-dependent society? Over the past year, Magdalena Kuchler has been awarded grants of almost SEK 25 million for several major projects addressing various research questions. This is an exciting and innovative research area, something that research funders appear to agree on.
Something that permeates all of the projects is a focus on the future and understanding how we can create or shape visions that can guide and influence the decisions being made today. Kuchler’s coveted interdisciplinarity is another thing that the projects have in common.
“I was quick to realise the benefits of collaborating across disciplinary research areas. Social scientists, humanists. scientists and technicians should all be working interdisciplinarily to a greater extent, as this provides fresh perspectives and places one’s own research in new, often necessary contexts, something that enriches everybody’s research,” says Kuchler.
As a social scientist at a predominantly science-oriented department, she is keen to identify fruitful collaborations with other researchers working in various areas of research. Collaborators include geophysicists, geographers, ecologists, anthropologists, archaeologists and architects. Kuchler’s interest in sustainability and interdisciplinarity goes back to her days as a student in Warsaw, where she took a master’s degree in international relations.
“The international relations programme was fairly disciplinary and black and white. I have always had an interest in geography, geopolitics and environmental issues, so that naturally led to an increasing commitment to climate and energy issues and when I took an extra course in environmental policy it wetted my appetite for studying environmental issues.”
Still keen to further her education, Magdalena applied to an international master’s environmental science programme in Sweden, Water and Livelihood Security at Linköping University, and was admitted to study for her second master’s degree between 2005 and 2007.
“I remember that when I arrived in Linköping in August 2005 I was slightly surprised to find that it was much warmer than I expected and that the sun was so low in the sky. I also remember being overwhelmed by the number of bicycles parked around the Linköping University campus, something that is far from common in Poland.”
After completing her master’s degree, Magdalena studied for a PhD in Water and Environmental Studies from 2008 to 2012, after which she was appointed as a postdoctoral researcher at Linköping University.
“As a postdoc I worked on climate governance and studied the many roles and participation of civil society in climate change. However, when my postdoctoral appointment ended, I suddenly found myself out of work.”
Like many others, she found that the labour market for academics was tough and highly competitive, and that time was limited. She applied for many positions over the following eight months, while simultaneously applying for research grants.
“Never give up, never surrender, was the motto that kept me going. Then all at once things began to happen: I was appointed as a postdoc in global energy systems at the Department of Earth Sciences and was also awarded a research grant of SEK 3.7 million for a project on shale gas in the EU.”
Kuchler has been working in the Natural Resources and Sustainable Development programme since then and is now an associate professor and senior lecturer, as well as director of the Master’s Programme in Sustainable Development.
What are your hopes for the future with regard to your research?
“We know that the climate crisis and resource and energy challenges are a consequence of global social, economic and political structures. So, if we are to find solutions we need to combine science with social sciences and humanities. Interdisciplinary research collaborations take us so much further as they encompass a diversity of approaches and scientific methods. The goal is to develop a strong and attractive interdisciplinary research group focused on future energy transitions and resource management. Climate change demands that we begin working across borders; this is necessary if we are to identify solutions.”
Facts: Magdalena Kuchler
Title: Senior lecturer in the Natural Resources and Sustainable Development programme at the Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University.
Latest: Awarded grants of: SEK 10.4 million by the Swedish Research Council for the project Disassembling the Power of High-Carbon Imaginaries; SEK 6 Million by the Swedish Energy Agency for the project Integration of Regional Carbon Budgets into Regional Climate Policy; and SEK 8 Million by Formas for the project SubCity: Future imaginaries of the city subsurface.
Family: I live with my partner in Stockholm and commute to Uppsala (if the trains are running).
Leisure interests: I love hiking in the countryside and photographing natural phenomena. I also enjoy visiting museums, the cinema, opera and theatre.
Last book read: Underground Urbanism by Elizabeth Reynolds.
Makes me happy: Laughing. Good food, especially Polish pierogi and barszcz. My partner’s opera singing.
Makes me angry: Injustice and poor leadership. People who have power and abuse it.
Hidden talent: My sense of humour and that I’m good with my hands.
Attributes that I am proud of: Humility and stubbornness.
Driving force as a researcher: My creativity.