In October 2012, a 1-week student excursion to the island of Samothraki was organized during a crucial phase of the official application process. The objectives of the course were manifold:
- to expose students to sustainability and development challenges in a local setting seen from the perspective of social ecology,
- reflect and engage in the design of a management plan to include initial project ideas for the new Biosphere Reserve, such as sustainable tourism, land use, water, waste and energy systems, and
- allow for the experience of a transdisciplinary research process by learning to interact with stakeholders and conduct interviews in a culturally foreign environment.
Methodologically, during the excursion two main approaches were pursued:
- focus group interviews with local stakeholders (such as farmers, fishermen, local professionals, parents with small children, elderly people in need of care etc.) in order to explore alternative visions for the future of the island,
- distance sampling in order to estimate livestock densities in different area types.This was performed in order to assess the pressing problem of erosion and biodiversity loss due to overgrazing.
The findings of the course were summarised in the SEC Working Paper 142.