Nils Droste a personal page

ALTER-Net Summer School

A network for life!


Source: Lovisa Nilsson

I am back from a fabulous experience in Peyresq, France, at the ALTER-Net Summer School. It was an intense 10 day summerschool on biodiversity, ecosystem services, and science-policy interfaces in a gorgeous village in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.

Five elements contributed essentially to the extraordinariness of the experience:


The organizers, Allan Watt, Martin Sherman and last but not least, Marie Vandewalle, did a fantastic job in inviting a stunning set of high-level speakers who amazed me with their input. We heard about a variety of science-policy interfaces on socio-ecological problems of our times: we had in-depth insights on IPBES (biodiversity) by Carsten Nesshöver, IPCC (climate) by Wolfgang Cramer, INI (nitrogen) by Marc Sutton, SDGs (sustainable development) by Eeva Furman, and Experimental Ecosystem Accounting by Sander Jacobs. We had talks on latest methodogical developments in participatory planning by Francis Turkelboom, ES mapping by Nicolas Dedonker, aquatic ES management by Sonja Jähnig, forest diversity by Stephen Cavers, ES bundling by Emilie Crouzat, interactive valuation with Marc Metzger, and economic valuation by Erik Gomez-Baggethun. To help scientific self-reflection, we heard inspiring inputs about the “post-truth” world by Martin Sharman, the precautionary principle by Sybille van den Hove, ethics within ES research by Kurt Jax, human-wolf relations by Taru Peltola, and the relevance of research from a societal perspective by Raoul Mille. With regard to the broad range of topics and compentencies, I am really grateful for having had the chance to get in touch with them.


Nicolas Dedonker, Brooke Wilkerson, Uta Fritsch, Klara Winkler and Emilie Crouzat did an excellent job in guiding us through the participatory group work, being both considerably respectful and insightfully nudging. You did a great job. Thank you!


We were working on a project: “How to maintain wellbeing and biodiversity in the upper Verdon Valley?” (Helios). Within 7 days we were to deliver an analysis of the current status quo including trends, develop scenarios, assess trade-offs and synergies, propose policy-measures and present the findings. A challenging task which - after we had settled for understanding it as a simulation without the need to do all these steps in all possible detail - became great fun! The original working group proposal looked like this:

Helios Structure

Source: ALTER‐Net Summer School 2017 Working group project preparation document

In the end, we had developed a far more complicated, yet effective structure with further special taskforce groups on trade-offs and synergies, policy proposals, creative communication, and the scenario envisioning. We were delving into a lively and really inspiring collaborative process, that has taught me a lot on structures and collaboration.

A really helpful lesson was the technique that was employed: Kanban, which allowed to transparently and flexibly schedule, prioritize, breakdown, implement and validate tasks within working groups. It is really worth being tried! It even inspired a couple of songs that were composed in our leisure time.


Getting in touch with 34 highly skilled young scientists from not just Europe but all over the place was a great source of inspiration. Very bright minds! I am quite sure a couple of us will remain connected and strive together towards solving the world’s socio-ecological crises! I am deeply grateful for you partaking in this experience. Imagine all us people, working for the world (sorry, this is an insider)!



Source: Ph. Malburet

A beautiful, refurbished historical mountain village, remote, without high-speed internet, named after the French humanist Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc and one of the best places I have been so far. The staff was very friendly and the food was delicious. Perfect for hosting the summer school!

For me this was a 100 per cent recommendable experience. If you ever have the chance to attend – do it!