Welcome to the School – Dr Eirini Saratsi

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Dr Saratsi obtained a BSc in Agricultural Science from the Agricultural University of Athens, Greece in 1995. After she completed her undergraduate studies she worked for several years in Athens in the private sector on landscape design and management and in the public sector at the Greek Ministry of Agriculture. In 1997 she was awarded a scholarship from the National Scholarship Institute in Greece to undertake postgraduate studies abroad. Through this opportunity she was awarded an MSc in Landscape Ecology Design and Management from Imperial College at Wye, University of London and a PhD in Landscape History from the School of Geography, University of Nottingham.

Since completing her PhD in 2003, Dr Saratsi has held research and teaching positions at the Universities of Athens, Leicester, Greenwich and Exeter. Throughout these years she has worked with academics in the UK, and internationally, and produced a series of collaborative publications. Eirini is a member of the European Society of Environmental History, the Royal Geographical Society and the Institute of British Geographers, the Landscape Research Group and the International Union of Forest Research Organisations at which she served as deputy director of its Forest history research group for ten years (2005 – 2015).

Research interests

Dr Saratsi is a human geographer by training and her research interests lay within the fields of cultural, historical and environmental geography. Her work is concerned with cultural landscapes; the socially defined spaces upon which humans develop their livelihoods and base their wellbeing. These interests built the rational of her doctoral thesis, which investigated long-term processes of change in the landscape character on the Greek mountains and explored these changes in the context of shifting cultural constructions of nature and the environment across rural communities. A particular part of her work is concerned with the cultural history of forests and she has published several academic papers and an edited book on woodland cultures. Eirini’s work also explores; peoples’ use and appropriation of nature as well as their cultural attachments with green spaces; participatory and deliberative techniques in environmental decision making and; issues of knowledge cultures and the role of science as asignificant cultural force that has historically mediated and changed relationships between humans and the natural world.

Current research – Valuing Nature Placement

Dr Saratsi was appointed an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Anthropology and Conservation in September 2015. Last December in collaboration with the School she applied for, and was awarded, a Valuing Nature Placement fellowship to work with Historic England the government’s expert advisory service on England’s historic environment.

The overall aim of this placement is to advance knowledge of how we can better embed heritage values assigned to urban green spaces within valuing nature research (and relatedly the ecosystems approach). Dr Saratsi will integrate existing data and the views of cultural heritage experts and members of the public to measure the significance of heritage values of urban green spaces for individuals and the society.

Urban green spaces provide a place for the expression of cultural and personal diversity. The social and cultural values assigned to these spaces reflect attitudes towards nature and people’s desire for contact with it. A recent public dialogue project highlighted that people hold strong cultural heritage associations with urban green spaces (e.g. parks and botanical gardens) and that there was a need to further understand how the diversity of such values can be reflected in relevant policy and research agendas. These values are not always directly reflected in policy and practice of valuing nature and they often disappear under the general category of ‘cultural services’. However, heritage values assigned to green spaces, like any other kind of cultural values, are shaped by the perceptions and experiences of individuals, as well as wider inherited cultural/historical perspectives and identities and contribute to people’s happiness and wellbeing. It is also true, that these values are not static; they vary between societies and individuals and change over time. This cultural heritage also includes closely connected tangible and intangible values which should not be seen in isolation. Therefore alongside any research on the economic value of tangible heritage and it’s ecological and regulatory roles it is imperative to extend our understanding of the intrinsic values that draw individuals and societies towards these spaces.

During this time data and expertise from social and economic research as well as the arts and humanities will be combined to strengthen our knowledge around the heritage values of urban green spaces and test innovative approaches for further research. In doing so the project aims to promote the use of heritage values in relevant government policies, especially with regard to the ongoing development of work on natural capital.

 

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