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 a core part of the postdoctoral experience at SESYNC. In addition to pursuing their own synthesis research projects, postdoctoral fellows participate in many SESYNC activities including the Immersion Program which 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 (2019-2020), four collaborative workshops, each lasting two days, will be led by eminent scholars in ecology, public health, science communications, and public 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 policy sciences and geography, interdisciplinary team science, economics, and actionable science.

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 Mentors for 2019-2020 are David Hawthorne and Christine Maietta, assisted by Dana Graef.

The Immersion Program Mentors for 2018-2019 are Julie Silva and Christine Maietta, assisted by Simone Pulver.

The Immersion Program Mentors for 2017-2018 are Morgan Grove and Cynthia Wei, assisted by Chris Trisos.

The Immersion Program Mentor lead for 2016-2017 was 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 2019-20 participants, click here.

For more information about the 2018-19 participants, click here.

For more information about the 2017-18 participants, click here.

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 workshops are available through the links below. Lectures will be streamed live through the SESYNC website and on YouTube.; connection details can be found in the links below.

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.