How do people understand the world around them, and how can these be represented and negotiated between different actors? I have long been interested in analysing how people understand social ecological systems, their dynamics and the roles they play in them. My research explores some of the innovative methods we can use to engage with resource managers and users to capture these conceptualisations. So I was really happy when Tim Lynam from CSIRO in Australia asked me to collaborate in editing a special issue of the journal Ecology and Society on Mental Models. Happily the issue is now complete and published and can be viewed here, and contains an editorial by myself and Tim.
This special issue of Ecology and Society explores the application of methods to elicit and analyze mental models or social representations, that is, representations of the world that are shared by social groups. Mental models are the internal representation of the external system. In a series of seven papers, theoretical and methodological dimensions are discussed and the application of mental models to different areas of environmental management explored in a series of fascinating empirical studies in river basin and water management in South Africa, USA and France. The collection arose from activities of a working group of the Resilience Alliance and a wonderful set of case studies which were initiated at an RA Workshop.