First recipients Birgit Elands Thesis Award

December 22, 2022

The first Birgit Elands Thesis Award was given to Rianne Kat at a simple ceremony on December 21.

The award commemorates inspiring BSc or MSc theses on human-nature relationship, which include topics such as biocultural diversity, stewardship and active citizenship, nature education, nature and spirituality, or values of nature.

The Birgit Elands Thesis Award has been introduced to honor the legacy of the late Dr. Birgit Elands. In her last 20 years at FNP, Birgit introduced the topic of human-nature relationships in the chair group. This theme has developed into one of the major themes at FNP, and has inspired numerous students from the Master in Forest and Nature Conservation Policy as well as students from other master’s tracks.

Rianne’s award-winning thesis is titled Land ethics as innovative force. A study into the ethics of relating with the land in Dutch transformational initiatives for sustainability, with Dr. Koen Arts (FNP) as her supervisor. In her thesis, Rianne revisits Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethics (from 1949), with values, ideas and principles about how to relate to natural landscapes. Rianne investigated how this land ethic inspires innovative nature conservation practices in The Netherlands, such as foraging and food forests and she shows how these initiatives try to find a balance between preaching ethics and practicing ethics and using ethics as a way to physically and mentally relate to the land.

Rianne Kat with the tree she planted
Rianne Kat with the tree she planted

Roxane Bradaczek was given an award for the most policy relevant contribution, with her thesis We are no heroes- The reasons farmers in the Mediterranean maintain traditional agricultural landscapes and how policy-making can support them, supervised by Luuk Fleskens (SLM). In her thesis, she investigated how these relate to the land of Italian farmers, and how they inspire farmers to protect and conserve traditional agricultural landscapes.

Both winners received a certificate. But the real prize was planting two trees in de Droevendaal Food Forest. The two winners have been selected out of eleven excellent theses on human-nature relations, coming from five different chair groups in Wageningen. The topics were very rich and diverse, ranging from stimulating landscape diversity in cultural bocage landscapes through landscape design, greening school yards in cities and eco-emotions experienced by young people in social climate movements. In 2023, the award will be organized again for theses finalised in 2022-2023.