My Research

Research interests

Elverfeldt, Kirsten von, et al. (2016)
  • Relations between society and nature with a focus on system theories, self-organisation, and complexity
  • Self-organising natural systems
  • Global environmental change & climate change, including adaptation to climate change in the context of the sustainable development goals (SDGs)
  • Sustainability
  • Natural hazards and risks
  • Theoretical Geomorphology

Research Projects

  • Climate change adaptation and mitigation
    To develop options for climate actions with colleagues from BOKU, CCCA, University of Graz and University of Linz in the UniNEtZ-working group “SDG 13”.
  • A geomorphology of change
    To outline a theoretical framework for a ‘geomorphology of change’. This is embedded in the broader contexts of global environmental change and the Anthropocene. The first step is to publish a book on theoretical geomorphology. This will be the starting point for developing a ‘geomorphology of change’, which will focus on connectivity and disconnectivity of geomorphic and natural and social systems.
  • Self-organising systems
    To bring system theoretical geomorphology to practice, i.e. fill the gap between meta-theoretical desiderata and geomorphological practice. One fous is on self-organisation in hummocky pastures.
  • Humans as eco-geomorphological agents
    To research on humans as eco-geomorphological agents. One focus is on how humans shape geomorphic and ecological systems in cities.

Every exploration and every empirical research are just as good as the background theory that sustains, underpins and guides this research.

This seems to be a simple statement, but its consequences are huge and pose a rather radical approach in an empirical science such as Geomorphology.

Consequently, in my doctoral thesis “System theory in Geomorphology” I critically analysed the current (system) theoretical thinking with the aim to offer a new perspective for a Geomorphology: understanding systems as open but also operationally closed, and as self-organising and complex. By using second order system theories, my attempt was also to bridge the gap between Geomorphology and Human Geography as well as neighbouring disciplines.

In my post-doctoral research, I deepened and extended this work, culminating in the question which theories and which geomorphology are fit for recent challenges such as Global Environmental Change and/or the Anthropocene. My basic assumption is that theory and empirics stimulate each other in a continuous cycle, and science – especially today – needs both components to be successful and to deal with the grand challenges of the 21st century. Ideally, this stimulation takes place in an intense discourse between theorists and empiricists, and this is what I am immensely interested in. This discourse is also the framework for my works on systems, dialogue in Geography, and self-organising change. Especially the latter aspect of change by self-organisation rather than by only or mostly external triggers also guides my current and future research.

I am convinced that geographical knowledge is a so-called powerful knowledge, i.e. knowledge that is needed if our society wants to handle the grand challenges of the 21st century. However, the power of geographical knowledge can only unfurl if geographers (and Earth scientists in general) go beyond case studies. A bigger picture needs to be drawn that connects and unites different strands of geographical research, and an understandable and comprehensive body of knowledge needs to be created by the alliance of theory and practice.