Nature Perception - Theories and Methods for Investigation

Course content

Nature Perception is a problem and knowledge based course. The course explores people’s visions, ideas and values about nature and landscape. Visions, ideas and values of e.g. full time farmers, hobby farmers, foresters, biologists and visitors to the countryside might serve as examples of different and often conflicting interests in the same areas. In lectures the students will be introduced to different methods, approaches and frameworks for analyses of perceptions of nature, i.e. visions, concepts, images or views of nature. We will study frameworks from environmental psychology, anthropology, sociology, environmental ethics, human geography, and landscape research. Concepts such as rewilding; value orientations; environmental framing; social representations; eco-strategies; place attachment; myth of nature; faking nature; human-nature relationships; and cultural ecosystem services are addressed. Further, values of selected groups of people will be presented and discussed. Based on introductory lectures the use of different frameworks for investigations of perceptions of nature will be exercised.


MSc Programme in Nature Management
MSc Programme in Agriculture
MSc Programme in Landscape Architecture
MSc Programme in Environmental Science

Learning outcome

The course has two overall goals: to make the students aware of their personal biases in relation to landscape values; and to enable them to identify, analyze and compare the meanings of nature of different stakeholders in order to generate appropriate solutions to problems and/or conflicts in the countryside.

Knowledge: Present examples of different theories and methodologies for analyzing meanings of nature and describe and compare their content

Skills: Ability to select and use methods and theories for analyses and comparison of nature perception in concrete cases.

Competences: Ability to present and discuss similarities and differences of nature perception based on theories and empery.

Fundamental theoretical understanding of different perceptions of nature are presented in lectures and obtained through individual readings. Practical knowledge is acquired through exercises and , field trips and visits to relevant institutions/​organizations. Personal skills of analysis, interpretation and presentation are developed through student presentations, group work, and plenary discussions.

Litterature will be accessible from KUnet. Includes:

Arler, F. (2011). Landscape Democracy in a Globalizing World: The Case of TangeLake. Landscape Research 36(4): 487-507.

Buijs, A. (2009). Historical views on nature in Buijs, A. Public natures: Social representations of nature and local practices, Alterra, Wageningen, pp. 50-59. 

Buijs A, (2009). Lay people's image of nature: Comprehensive frameworks of values, beliefs, and value orientations. Society & Natural Resources 22(5), pp. 417-32.

Douglas, M. (1996): “Four Cultural Types”. In Douglas, M. Thought Styles. Critical Essays on Good Taste. Sage Publications,London,Thousand Oaks,New Delhi, pp. 83-92.

Elliot, R. 1995. Faking Nature. In Elliot, R. (ed) Environmental ethics. Oxford University Press, pp 76-88.

Gamborg, C & Gjerris, M. 2009, ' The price of responsibility: ethical perspectives '. In: M Gjerris, C Gamborg, JE Olesen & J Wolf (red), Earth on fire: climate change from a philosophical and ethical perspective. Alfa, Copenhagen, s. 89-113

Gamborg C. & Sandøe P. (2004): Beavers and biodiversity: The ethics of ecological restoration, in Oksanen, M. & J.Pietarinen (eds.) Philosophy and Biodiversity, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK, pp. 217-236.

Gjerris M (2012): The willed blindness of humans: animal welfare and beyond, in Potthas T & Meisch S: Climate change and sustainable development. Ethical perspectives on land use and food production. Wageningen Academic Publishers, pp. 35-40.

Manning, R.E. (2011). Outdoor Recreation Places. Emotional and Symbolic Meanings. In: Manning, R.E. (ed): Studies in Outdoor Recreation. Search and Research for Satisfaction. Chapter 12, pp. 256-272.ThirdEd.OreganStateUniversityPress.

Meinig, D.W. (1979): The Beholding Eye. "Ten versions of the Same Scene" in Meinig, D.W. (ed.) (1979): The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscape. Geographical essays, Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford, pp. 33-48.

Plieninger et al 2013. Assessing, mapping, and quantifying cultural ecosystem services at community level. Land Use Policy 33, 118-129

Sandell, K. 2007. A Conceptual Framework of Ecostrategies. Paper presented on 2nd Nordic Geographers Meeting in Bergen, Norway, June 15-17, 2007, pp.1-18.

Teel, T.L.; Manfredo, M.J.; Jensen, F.S.; Buijs, A.E.; Fischer, A.; Riepe, C.; Arlinghaus, R.; Jacobs, M.H. (2010). Understanding the cognitive basis for human-wildlife relationships as a key to successful protected-area management. International Journal of Sociology 40/3, pp. 104 – 123.

Williams, Daniel R. (2008). Pluralities of place: A user′s guide to place concepts, theories, and philosophies in natural resource management. In: Kruger, Linda. E.; Hall, Troy E.; Stiefel, Maria C., tech. eds. Understanding concepts of place in recreation research and management. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-744. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. p. 7-30

Bacelor degree in Natural Resource Management, Landscape Architecture, Geography, Biology, Environmental Sciences or similar

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Oral examination, 25 minutes
An individual written synopsis on a self-selected case is handed in before the oral exam.

The written synopsis is elaborated by the student in an oral presentation (10 minutes), followed by a discussion (15 minutes).

Weight: Written synopsis 30%, oral examination 70%.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

The assessment is based on the intended learning outcomes and syllabus

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 40
  • Excursions
  • 12
  • Theory exercises
  • 15
  • Project work
  • 12
  • Guidance
  • 1
  • Exam
  • 1
  • Preparation
  • 125
  • English
  • 206