for sustainable development


Dr. Laura Woltersdorf receives research award “Transformative Science”

The research prize “Transformative Science” awarded for the first time this year was offered to the environmental scientist Dr. Laura Woltersdorf. It was the transdisciplinary approach of her research work enabling her to develop a concept for the assessment of sustainability for a water resources management in Namibia that convinced the jury. ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research sends sincerest congratulations to its former colleague. The award is jointly offered by the Wuppertal Institute and the Zempelin Foundation for research that initiates and promotes societal impulses and which include civil society into the research process.

Laura Woltersdorf

The award which is endowed with € 25,000 was given to Laura Woltersdorf for her sustainability assessment within the research and development project CuveWaters. Her conceptual work which the jury describes as innovative and exemplary was the basis for the implementation of a sustainable water resources management in northern Namibia. Over there, natural water resources have always been scarce and with progressing climate change the resource is under increasing pressure. In order to secure the supply of drinking water for the population and water for the irrigation of agricultural areas, solutions for a sustainable water supply and waste water disposal were developed within the framework of this project. Award winner Laura Woltersdorf investigated possible technical variants, for instance the reuse of purified waste or rainwater with regard to their respective sustainability. Her assessment concept includes ecological aspects as well as questions concerning the fight against poverty.

Using experience-based local knowledge for research

Which possibilities are socially, economically and ecologically most effective under the present climatic and institutional conditions? In order to answer this question, Laura Woltersdorf included local experience-based knowledge into her concept. That way, the young scientist decisively contributed to the success of the project which until its completion in 2015 had been funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and had been headed by ISOE. The jury voiced the opinion that CuveWaters was an excellent example for the development, implementation and consolidation of a transdisciplinary research project for development work.

„We congratulate Laura Woltersdorf and are happy that her worked has gained recognition. She impressively showed how the potential of a transdisciplinary social-ecological research approach can enfold and thus be used.” says Thomas Jahn spokesperson of ISOE’s executive board. For choosing and implementing sustainable technology, the inclusion of existing knowledge found within the population was a significant prerequisite not least because decisions regarding a sustainable water resources management in the region were thus supported by the people on-site.

From 2011 to 2015 Laura Woltersdorf was working as a researcher at ISOE. Since the end of 2015 she has been doing research work within the Hydrology Research Group at the Institute of Physical Geography at the Goethe University of Frankfurt. Here, she has been working within the focus area ‘Methods of transdisciplinary research’ and has particularly been dealing with the integration of social and natural sciences.



More about the research award at Wuppertal Institute



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