PhD Position in Qualitative Study on Relational Values of Birdwatchers

University of Zurich Department of Geography

Geographisches Institut

PhD Position: Qualitative study on relational values of birdwatchers
60 %

We invite applications for a PhD position at the interface of Human Geography (environmental social sciences) and environmental ethics, based at the Department of Geography at the University of Zurich (UZH).

The PhD project is integrated into the interdisciplinary research project 'People's Place in Nature', in which we study how people value nature in personal human-nature relationships, and how we can draw on such relationships for ethical arguments in favor of considerate approaches to nature. The notion of 'relational value' as the value ascribed to nature in relationships, plays a central role in this research.
In the preceding phase of the project 'People's Place in Nature' we developed an analytical model of this value category and of the differences between relational value and instrumental and intrinsic value. We studied human-nature relationships and values of mountain farmers to understand how relational values are associated particularly with instrumental values.

The project 'People's Place in Nature' is led by the environmental philosopher Dr. Anna Deplazes Zemp (lecturer in Ethics and Philosophy of biology at the Biology Department of the UZH), who will be one of the two main supervisors of the PhD project. The second main supervisor is Prof. Norman Backhaus, a Human Geographer at UZH. The PhD student will work in Norman Backhaus's group Space, Nature and Society at the Geography Department and be a member of Graduate School Geography & Earth System Science.

Your responsibilities

The advertised PhD project is part of the second project phase, in which we plan to deepen and broaden our understanding of human-nature relationships by studying relational values of birdwatchers as a community that interacts with nature in their leisure time (as a contrast group to the mountain farmers). Towards this aim, the PhD candidate will conduct semi-structured qualitative interviews and participant observation with birdwatchers and analyze them under consideration of questions and concepts associated with the philosophical research in the project. Moreover, a particular research focus will lie in the role specific landscapes and their services play.

Your profile

  • Bring a completed master's degree in geography, anthropology, development studies, sociology, political science or other social sciences. The master's degree should be completed the latest at the beginning of the employment.
  • Have knowledge and experience in qualitative methods of social sciences, basic knowledge in ethics and (analytic) philosophy is desired, a basic understanding of ornithology/biology is an asset.
  • Have a passion for and basic knowledge on the discourses on nature conservation and biodiversity protection.
  • Be motivated (ideally experienced) to work in an interdisciplinary team.
  • Be fluent in German (including the ability to understand Swiss German), and have a high standard of written and spoken English, knowledge of French is an asset.

What we offer

We offer varied and interesting work in an inspiring and socially relevant environment.
Diversity and inclusion are important to us.
  • Four year funding for a PhD-project.
  • A vibrant interdisciplinary and international working environment in environmental social sciences and environmental ethics.
  • Excellent working conditions at the University of Zurich, high quality of life in Zurich and supervision by two senior researchers (PIs).
  • Training in the framework of the Graduate School Geography & Earth System Science.

Place of work

Geographisches Institut Universität Zürich, Winterthurerstrasse, Zürich, Switzerland

Start of employment

Employment start date to be mutually agreed. The candidate should be able to start the PhD project between August and November 2023.