Researcher biography

Dr Severine van Bommel is working as a senior lecturer in rural development and extension in the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, the University of Queensland. She is an interdisciplinary social scientist (forest and nature conservation policy, communication and innovation studies) specialising in the relationship between people and their environment in agriculture and natural resource management. She is passionate about interactive meaning making and social learning for governance of complex (international) agri-environmental systems. Taking an interpretive systems approach, she investigates how people in interaction 1) give meaning to events from their own perspectives, in light of their own experiences; 2) engage with the land, farm animals, forests, wildlife, climate change and so on; and in doing so 3) act upon, shape and re-shape policy, technology and markets. The engagement with what is meaningful to people, and how those meanings - often plural, at times clashing - are enacted, as well as the consequences of this, lies at the heart of her work. When possible she moves beyond explanation to an intervention of some sort intended to improve the situation, such as for marginalised actors (both human and non-human).

In practical applications, she uses this approach to co-design research, technologies, policies and other interventions that link up with the local realities of agri-environmental communities and therefore have higher uptake and impact, have more legitimacy and contribute to empowerment. She has more than 15 years of experience of working in Africa, Latin America and Europe. She is currently mainly working in Australia and the Pacific.

Her current theoretical research interests include boundary work and biopolitics, social learning in a landscapes of practices, more-than-human participation in research and dilemmas in fieldwork. Her publications include the co-edited books Forest-People Interfaces (Wageningen Academic Publishers 2012) and Forest and Nature Governance: a Practice based Approach (Springer 2013). Her teaching includes various interdisciplinary BSc and MSc courses (Participatory research, Development and Extension practice; Effective Stakeholder Engagement; Working with Groups and Teams; Leadership for rural industries: Management of human-wildlife conflicts) and postgraduate supervision.

She is a member of the Advisory Board of the International Interpretive Policy Analysis conference (IPA) and she runs an International Community of Practice for Interpretive Practitioners. She is also part of in the International Farming Systems Association (IFSA) and the Australasia-Pacific Extension Network (APEN).