Social Ecological Systems Training and Education Program (SESTEP)



About the Course

Course Outcomes

Costs and Application Process



Urgent environmental challenges call for new approaches to natural resource management and planning. The field of social-ecological systems provides a framework for managers to simultaneously consider human and ecosystem dynamics. By using such an approach, managers can take into account a broad set of variables, drivers, and feedbacks in a system, so that complex real world dynamics are better represented for improved management and decision-making. To improve natural resource and land management approaches, SESTEP provides practical training for professionals to develop new skills using an integrative social-ecological approach to decision-making and problem solving.
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About the Course

SESTEP is a training program for professionals who work with complicated natural resource management issues, such as multi-use forests, climate change, and water management. SESTEP aims to build capacity among managers, professionals, and graduate level students to address land and natural resource management. The SESTEP training is appropriate for all levels of managers, including federal, state, and local government management professionals, tribal land managers, town planners, academics, and NGO personnel. SESTEP participants will earn a professional certificate, with the option of 5 academic credits, through University of Montana in a self-paced, 6-week course. This training includes in-person, virtual, and field-based learning modules, which are as follows:

• 1 week in-person: Foundations about a social-ecological system (SES) management approach

• Choice of two 2-week online modules: See module descriptions

• 1 week in-person: Participant independent projects and lessons learned

Course material will be delivered through the use of management case studies and scenarios. Additionally, participants will complete an independent project by applying an SES approach to a management scenario of their choosing. The program is designed to leverage the experience and knowledge of participants, and to foster team-based learning among the cohort members. The program structure provides the flexibility to develop each participant’s unique skills and knowledge of SES-based techniques for management. Participants must expect to commit the following level of time investment: attend both in-person portions of the course (10 days total); attend online modules (est. 4 hours per week); and spend personal time completing the pre-course material, writing an independent management case study, and completing module activities (est. 30 hours).
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Course Outcomes

Course participants will learn to use social, ecological, and economic information in an integrated way to improve their decision-making and management strategies. Participants will gain a toolbox of interdisciplinary approaches and methods to apply to their diverse work settings and resource management challenges. Participants will learn the following during the course:

● Social Ecological Systems mapping and problem solving process

● Stakeholder analysis and management

● Terminology and approaches used in social and biophysical sciences

● Tools and methods for monitoring and collecting data about social and biophysical indicators

● Data management and synthesis techniques used in Social Ecological Systems management

● GIS tools for spatial integration

Course modules (2-week online courses) and learning outcomes:

Engagement and Conflict Resolution
Introduction to SES Data: Synthesis and Analysis
Social and Political Context of Decision Making
Social Science: A Deeper Dive
Biophysical Science: A Deeper Dive

Stakeholder engagement strategies, multidisciplinary collaboration approaches, and conflict resolution skills will be taught

• Making sense of models: how they are made, what they mean

• Understanding data: collection, management, and analysis

Learning to bridge:

• Interactions between top down and bottom up governance

• Policy, legal, and jurisdictional context and across boundaries

• Value systems

• Treaty rights

Basics of social science methods, data, and analysis, including:

• Common research questions and approaches

• Methods for gathering data

• Data quality

• Data analysis

Basics of biophysical science methods, data, and analysis, including:

• Common research questions and approaches

• Methods for data collection

• Data validity

• Data analysis

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Costs and Application Process

When and Where?

In-person: August 17-21 at Flathead Lake Biological Station, MT
Virl:      August 24 – October 30, 2015
In-person: November 2-6, 2015 at University of Montana-Missoula, MT

Cost? There is a $250 registration fee for SESTEP. Registration will include room and board during the in-person portions of the course.
How do I apply? Contact Sarah Dengler ( for more information.

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Course Instructors:

Dr. Lilian Alessa, Director, Alaska EPSCoR and President’s Professor of Resilient Landscapes, University of Idaho

Dr. Michael Barton, Director, Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity, Arizona State University

Dr. Ed Galindo, Natural Resources Tribal Cooperative Director, University of Idaho

Dr. Andy Kliskey, Director, Center for Resilient Communities, University of Idaho

Dr. Libby Metcalf, College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana

Dr. Jonathan Ozik, Computation Institute, University of Chicago

Dr. Morgan Zedalis, Heritage Program - Payette National Forest, U.S. Forest Service, ID

Other Working Group Members:

Samantha Brooks, M.Sc., U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington DC

Dr. Ray Callaway, Project Director, NSF EPSCoR & Institute on Ecosystems, University of Montana, Missoula, MT

Pat Fallin, M.A. Aspen International Mountain Foundation, Aspen, CO

Dr. Jim Gosz, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID

David L Griffith, M.A., Center for Resilient Communities, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID

Dr. Scott Whittenburg, University of Montana, Bozeman, MT

Dr. Arika Virapongse, Center for Resilient Communities, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID

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The SESTEP program was initiated by the NSF-funded Mountain Social Ecological Observatory Network (MtnSEON)

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