In mid-September, the PhD fellows of COUPLED convened in Vienna, Austria. At Institute of Social Ecology at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), located in the heart of the city, we spent five days immersed in an intense learning environment. We met to complete two courses: one on “Assessing Flows of Land-based Products” and one on “Communicating Science”. This is a report on tools and methods to measure the material and energy flows occurring between countries because of international trade. For the report on Communicating Science, please go here.

Material flows are among the most fundamental components of the telecoupling framework. Goods, products, and resources, for instance, flow from one part of the world to another, with certain impacts on land-use patterns. For three days, the fellows dived into questions such as: How can we measure and better understand these impacts? How can we trace flows of goods across a supply chain? What are the best tools available to account for or measure these socio-environmental interactions?

The course comprised a series of multifaceted lectures given by the interdisciplinary team at the institute and invited guest speakers. We were highly fortunate to have the pioneers of the field sharing their insights on the cutting-edge methods for capturing material flows, helping us to understand terms such as ‘Embodied Human Appropriated Net Primary Production’ and tools such as ‘Food, Agriculture and Biomass Input-Output Model’.

Gratitude goes to Helmut Haberl at the  Institute of Social Ecology for hosting the course. Externally, we had Javier Godar from the Stockholm Environment Institute presenting TRASE, a powerful and user-friendly tool to monitor movements of goods across supply chains, empowering scientists, decision-makers and journalists with intuitive data visualization.

What better place to learn about material flows than in the historic city of Vienna, once the capital of the Austrian Empire, with its trade networks stretching across Europe and beyond. With the lectures finished and the formal knowledge gained, it was time to dig into the art of communication. Read more about that one.

COUPLED team at Training Courses in Vienna

Beyond completing courses, Vienna provided a space for ESRs to engage with each other. By now, we are all at different stages within six months of starting our three year journey – meaning ideas galore. Spurious, off-hand discussions led to opportunities to identify synergies and potentials for collaborations, but perhaps also some points of contestation, across projects, to be built on in the future. With the first ATC session finished, we look forward to the next time we meet in November, this time in Amsterdam and Louvain-la-Neuve.

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