Connecting Human and Natural Systems Lab (CHANS Lab)

We envision a world where consideration of social and ecological risks and consequences is fundamental to decision-making.

Our mission is to conduct cutting-edge analysis and modelling of social-ecological systems, for both fundamental insight and application to real-world practice and transformation–to enable the just treatment of current and future people and the natural world.

CoSphere #UnleashValues:

Conservation and sustainability depend fundamentally on leveraging the widespread desire for sustainable futures into tangible value awareness and system change. This novel initiative hacks the science of success while empowering concerned young people to act strategically and based on science. Through a series of workshops, we seek to normalize pro-sustainability values/visions by enabling people to demand the science-based system change that would enable widespread action in accordance with those values/visions.

Rewilding, both People and Nature:

To meet global goals for nature and bend the curve for biodiversity, humanity must address the social and biological challenge of restoring top predators, ecosystem engineers, ecological interactions, and whole functioning systems. In social-ecological research ranging from grizzly bears in the Cascades (western North America) to the Caatinga biome (Brazil) and even cities (Vancouver), we seek to characterize how rewilding nature might succeed in part also by rewilding people.

Transformative Social Change for Sustainability:

While the ecological-and-climate crisis demands an integrated understanding of how large-scale social change might be engendered for sustainability, academic understandings are generally either individual-scale and incremental or coarse-scale and descriptive. This interdisciplinary social research examines what motivates and empowers individuals to act in ways that change social norms and systems for the sake of effective climate action and ecological sustainability.

The Great Homogenizer? Waste Food as a Possible Epicentre of Ecological Simplification:

With human-settled land increasingly occupying a substantial fraction of biodiverse lowland and coastal geographies, we need a rapid escalation of our understanding of how to help humans and non-human animals flourish in cities. This research responds to the fact that many scavengers on human waste food (e.g., crows, gulls, rats) are also opportunistic predators of young animals (including eggs). We inquire what changes might be experienced by wildlife when people rein in the massive food subsidies that fuel these scavengers, and how these changes in waste management might affect people’s relationships with wildlife.


* Why should a research group have a mission? Because contrary to the myth of the objective scientist, no researcher is without overarching values. We believe it is important to be explicit about our agenda, for transparency and effectiveness.

** What do we mean by enabling just treatment? We recognize that such notions vary across cultures; but we argue that justice cannot be served without at least considering explicitly the risks and expected consequences to those who cannot speak for themselves (future people and non-human entities).