Socio-Environmental Immersion Program

The recognition that all environmental problems are social problems, and that people are a central component of environmental systems, has led to growth in research under the rubric of socio-environmental (S-E) science. This research emerged from many scholarly traditions including economics, sociology, ecology, and anthropology. Each of these traditions has distinct theories and epistemologies that influence the frameworks, methods, and approaches that are integral to conducting and contributing to research on S-E problems and issues.

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)'s Immersion Program is organized to study the following questions:

  • How do the theories, epistemologies, frameworks, methods, and approaches of disciplines in S-E science relate to one another?
  • What level of knowledge of these different traditions is desirable for researchers from one discipline to work productively in transdisciplinary groups?

The Immersion Program is based on the principle that diving into new ideas in the context of problems familiar from one’s own disciplinary tradition will support learning and later application of these ideas. Participants are encouraged to work with one another and other scholars to produce synthetic papers or products that integrate theory and methods across disciplines to understand the dynamics of coupled S-E systems.


The Immersion Program centers around a series of collaborative workshops led by Immersion Distinguished Scholars. These workshops are designed to immerse participants in theories and methods foundational to understanding current environmental challenges and their underlying S-E systems. This year (2016-2017), five collaborative workshops, each lasting two or three days, will be led by eminent scholars in environmental history, geography and political economy, behavioral economics, ecological networks and modeling, and science policy.

Each workshop consists of lectures and plenary discussions, small group discussions, and informal conversations. Workshops are facilitated by SESYNC research staff and leadership, as well as by Immersion Program mentors who attend each workshop. Last year’s five successful workshops focused on ecology, sociology, economics, anthropology, and the science of change.

Program Mentors

Mentors of the Immersion Program facilitate workshop discussions and after the workshops, help to distill and integrate key ideas, and catalyze the production of manuscripts by participants for submission to high-impact peer-reviewed journals.

The Immersion Program Mentor lead for 2016-2017 is Morgan Grove.

The Immersion Program Mentors for 2015-2016 were Olaf Jensen and Simone Pulver. Click here for more information.

Program Participants

Each workshop is attended by current SESYNC Postdoctoral Fellows, as well as Immersion Program Fellows who are early career scholars at other institutions. The disciplinary make-up of the group is varied, with roughly half falling into the natural sciences and half into the social sciences. Many of the participants have extensive interdisciplinary backgrounds, and all are currently working on research and policy projects related to S-E problems.

For more information about the 2016-17 participants, click here.

For more information about the 2015-16 participants, click here.

Remote Participation & Resources

All reading and video material for the 2015-2016 workshops are available through the links below. This year's lectures will be streamed live through the SESYNC website and on YouTube.; connection details can be found in the links below.

Mar 28, 2017
Immersion Distinguished Scholar Workshop: Network Science and Ecology
The distinguished scholar for the Network Science and Ecology Immersion Workshop is Dr. Jennifer Dunne, Professor and Vice President for Science at the Santa Fe Institute.
Jan 30, 2017 to Jan 31, 2017
Immersion Distinguished Scholar Workshop: Behavioral Economics
The distinguished scholar for the Behavioral Economics Immersion Workshop is Dr. Paul Ferraro, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Business and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
Dec 14, 2016 to Dec 16, 2016
Environmental Policy Immersion Program
SESYNC is hosting a 3-day Environmental Policy Immersion Program for post-doctoral researchers in fields pertinent to socio-environmental research.
Nov 17, 2016 to Nov 18, 2016
Immersion Distinguished Scholar Workshop: Political Ecology
The distinguished scholar for the Political Ecology Immersion Workshop is Dr. Jesse Ribot, Professor of Geography and Geographic Information Science at the University of Illinois.
Oct 24, 2016
Immersion Distinguished Scholar Workshop: Environmental History
The distinguished scholar for the Environmental History Immersion Workshop is Dr. Sam White, Associate Professor of Environmental History, Ohio State University
Apr 12, 2016 to Apr 15, 2016
Immersion Distinguished Scholar Workshop: Change in Socio-Environmental Systems
The distinguished scholars for the Change in Socio-Environmental Systems Immersion Workshop are Stephen Carpenter, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Simon Levin, Princeton University; Barbara Cosens, University of Idaho; Karen Seto, Yale University; and Oran Young, UC Santa Barbara.
Feb 29, 2016 to Mar 03, 2016
Immersion Distinguished Scholar Workshop: Anthropology
The distinguished scholars for the Anthropology Immersion Workshop are Eduardo S. Brondizio, Indiana University Bloomington; Paige West, Barnard College and Columbia University; Michael Paolisso, University of Maryland; Monique Borgerhoff Mulder, University of California Davis; and Bonnie McCay, Rutgers University.
Jan 11, 2016 to Jan 14, 2016
Immersion Distinguished Scholar Workshop: Sociology
The distinguished scholars for the Sociology Immersion Workshop were Andrew Jorgenson, Boston College; Lori Peek, Colorado State University; Riley Dunlap, Oklahoma State University; Thomas Rudel, Rutgers University; and Dana Fisher, University of Maryland.
Nov 02, 2015 to Nov 05, 2015
Immersion Distinguished Scholar Workshop: Economics
The distinguished scholars for the Economics Immersion Workshop were Dr. Peter Schuhmann, University of North Carolina-Wilmington; Dr. Sheila Olmstead, University of Texas-Austin; and Dr. Jim Boyd, Resources for the Future and SESYNC. 
Aug 31, 2015 to Sep 03, 2015
Immersion Distinguished Scholar Workshop: Ecology
The distinguished scholars for the Ecology Immersion Workshop were Dr. Dan Simberloff, University of Tennessee; Dr. Brian McGill, University of Maine; Dr. Whendee Silver, University of California-Berkeley; and Dr. Bill Fagan, University of Maryland.