Elsa Berthet

McGill University
Postdoctoral fellow candidate

Supervisor: Gordon Hickey
Start: 2015-01-05
End: 2016-12-21
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From ecological modeling to the collective design of sustainable agro-ecosystems
Beyond highly productive “agro-systems” in which technical inputs replace ecological processes, and “natural ecosystems” from which human economic activities are excluded, what comprises “sustainable agro-ecosystems” is difficult to define. Indeed, their expected functions are multiple, and their values are partly unknown. My postdoctoral research focuses on the collective design of sustainable agro-ecosystems (AES) which requires innovation in practices, organizations, and in the way we view and manage ecosystems. Such a collective design process faces two major difficulties: on the one hand, AES are open-ended: we do not know at a specific point in time all their potential uses and values for each stakeholder. On the other hand, stakeholders are often in conflict. My hypothesis is that a key to success is to involve stakeholders in a collective exploration process of potentially desirable AES properties, instead of negotiating about known values. My research aims to contribute to the development of a theory of the collective design of agro-ecosystems. I work in close relationship with ecologists to analyze how to better leverage ecological knowledge for the design of innovative AES. I also work on empirical situations to study the cognitive and governance issues raised by AES collective management. For this postdoctoral research project, I am building comparative case studies between Quebec and France, in which I will analyze how stakeholders have designed innovative governance rules to enhance the sustainability of their AES. This empirical research will be an opportunity to assess to what extent existing agricultural and environmental policies enable innovation at a local scale.


design, innovation, agro-ecosystem, ecosystem services, biodiversity, governance, conception, agro-écosystème, Biodiversité, gouvernance, biens communs, commons, services écosystémiques


1- How to foster agroecological innovations? A comparison of participatory design methods
Berthet, Elsa T.A., Cécile Barnaud, Nathalie Girard, Julie Labatut, Guillaume Martin
2015 Journal of Environmental Planning and Management

2- Analyzing the Design Process of Farming Practices Ensuring Little Bustard Conservation: Lessons for Collective Landscape Management
Berthet, Elsa T. A., Vincent Bretagnolle, Blanche Segrestin
2012 Journal of Sustainable Agriculture