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Participatory planning for urban nature: students and academics share tales of a CIVIS course

3 July 2023
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In June 2023, 45 students affiliated to six universities in the CIVIS Alliance travelled to Salzburg to take part in the CIVIS Blended Intensive Program (BIP) Participatory tools for urban nature planning and management. Like all BIPs, the programme mixed online and face-to-face learning, and the five-day on-site activity in Salzburg, Austria, marked the end of the course. We spoke with students and professors to get their impressions!

The activities in Austria proposed a programme which aimed to consolidate the skills acquired during the online meetings, as well as to develop practical competences related to the use of advanced methods relevant to urban nature research, advanced understanding of the characteristics of the territory and the development of multidisciplinary and multicultural teamwork abilities. Representatives of Salzburg City Hall (GIS Department), of Berchtesgaden National Park (rangers and staff of the information-documentation center Haus der Berge), of Society for Urban Ecology (president of the professional society prof. Jurgen Breuste, PhD) and of local non-governmental organizations attended the face-to-face activities.

Among others, students from University of Bucharest shared their impressions about the CIVIS BIP experience. "The contact with professors and students from other universities helped us to better evaluate our level, to understand what we are very good at and what we need to improve, to practice teamwork in a multicultural context, but above all to discover that inside our university we have incredible resources that we have to learn to take advantage of”, emphasized Raluca Slave, PhD student.

“This is already my fifth practical experience of this academic year, after two in Romania and two other CIVIS mobilities to Brussels. What more could a student want than to be given the framework to discover their talent and improve their skills?”, said Ana Maria Todoran, student of Bucharest's MA in Integrated Assessment of the State of Environment.

The BIP Participatory tools for urban nature planning and management offered CIVIS students an international experience, but also gave the universities involved an opportunity to strengthen their collaborations, as pointed out by Prof. Cristian Iojă, director of the Department of Geography and Environmentof the University of Bucharest, and scientific researcher at the Center for Environmental Research and Impact Studies.

The CIVIS BIP Participatory tools for urban nature planning and management was implemented by the University of Bucharest, as coordinator, in partnership with the Paris Lodron University of Salzburg and Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, the course was developped under CIVIS Hub 4 – Cities, spaces and territories. We started we with four online roundtables, each consisting of three stages: a lecture given by the participating professors, a student discussion panel and a homework assignment. These were followed by the five-day on-site activity in Salzburg, Austria.

The CIVIS BIP "Participatory tools for urban nature planning and management" aimed to discuss, in an interactive and open framework, concepts, methodologies and best practices related to participatory tools usable in urban nature planning and management. The course was addressed to all students interested in understanding the challenges related to public participation in the life of cities, regardless of the level of studies (bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD) or field of studies (environmental science, geography, social sciences, GIS, law). At the end of the face-to-face activities in Salzburg, each team of students, from the fields of study Geography and Environmental Science, presented different perspectives for the planning and management of urban nature in Salzburg, the students being evaluated based on their involvement in this topic.

The teaching activities were supported by staff from the Faculty of Geography of the University of Bucharest (prof. Cristian Iojă, PhD, prof. Mihai Răzvan Niță, PhD, lect. Diana Onose, PhD, lect. Athanasios Gavrilidis, PhD, lect. Andreea Niță, PhD), from Paris Lodron University of Salzburg (prof. Stefan Lang, PhD, assoc. prof. Angela Hof, PhD) and from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (prof. Maria del Mar Alonso, PhD, assoc. prof. Fernando Borrajo Millan, PhD).

Learn more about BIPs