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Education University of Groningen Summer Schools

Islands as Laboratories for Sustainability

The case of Lesvos

Islands are special cases for Sustainable Development. Methodologically and scientifically, islands are ideal ‘laboratories’ for sustainable landscape stewardship. Islands are unique in both attractiveness and climate vulnerability, they are relatively isolated and ‘on their own’ compared to mainland areas, yet they are also more dependent and need to be well-connected to other areas more than mainland areas. The summer school is aimed at combining all these different perspectives.

The summer school focuses on the Mediterranean island of Lesvos which is home to what is known as Aristotle’s lagoon and has also been described as the birthplace of the science of biology; an island well-known for its unique biodiversity, a petrified forest and many scenic landscapes reflecting in its UNESCO Geopark status. The island is also the birthplace of great literary figures and has a very rich cultural history. It has also long been a popular tourism (and eco-tourism) destination. More recently it has been at the centre of global media attention as the crossing land of refugees’ flight to safety and key gateway to Europe.

Overall the central question of the summer school is: How to come to sustainable development amidst starkly different island dynamics? Students in this summer school are challenged to blend perspectives towards sustainability: to understand the current situation and to research possible sustainable futures building via a multi-disciplinary approach. Questions that will be considered and addressed include: How can an island like Lesvos (as a case study) move towards an ambitious and successful energy transition? How to combine conservation in core nature areas with development in the surrounding landscapes? How can the challenges and opportunities of the refugee crisis can be met in socially sustainable ways? What are the prospects for sustainable social and economic development?

Practical information

Dates 1 - 8 May 2022
Location Lesvos island, Greece
Level BA/MA/PhD/Postdoc/Practitioners

€ 200
(including all course materials and electronic resources, lunch, coffee/refreshments and excursion to the Lesvos Petrified Forest and Natural History Museum; excluding accommodation)
Participants will also be welcome to attend any relevant sessions of the EUROGEO2022 conference which will be held at the University of the Aegean on 5-6 May 2022

Academic coordinators

Dimitris Ballas and Frans Sijtsma, Faculty of Spatial Sciences
Raymond Klaassen, Faculty of Science and Engineering
Thanasis Kizos, Department of Geography, University of the Aegean



The main target group will comprise postgraduate students (taught master as well as PhD candidates) and post-doctoral researchers. It may also include excellent undergraduate students (both in terms of academic performance as well as relevant extra-curricular activities and demonstrated interest in the themes covered by the summer school) and external stakeholders (e.g. employees of local authorities, NGOs and any other organisation that is relevant to the summer school themes).

It is expected that the participants have a sufficient command of the English language to actively participate in the discussions and to present their own work in English.

Learning outcomes

After this course you will be able to demonstrate

  • An enhanced understanding of current scientific theories, concepts and principles of islands as special and privileged places and of the natural and human-induced processes that are essential for understanding their past, present and future.
  • An enhanced understanding of the existing political, economic, legal, geopolitical, and social implications of human interactions with the environment on a specific space, islands.
  • An enhanced understanding of socio-spatial, cultural and economic processes that are specific to islandness.
  • An enhanced understanding of economic, social and environmental policy processes and principles of effective management and planning for islands.
  • An enhanced understanding of the way the public and private sectors can handle environmental issues on islands.
  • An understanding of how Social Network Analysis, multi-criteria analysis and GIS story maps can be used for analysis pertaining to the learning outcomes

Preparation: 38 hours
Lectures: 18 hours
Discussion/interaction with teaching staff and other students: 6 hours
Assignment: 24 hours

Upon successful completion of the programme, the Summer School offers a Certificate of Attendance that mentions the workload of 84 hours (28 hours corresponds to 1 ECTS). Students can apply for recognition of these credits to the relevant authorities in their home institutions, therefore the final decision on awarding credits is at the discretion of their home institutions. We will be happy to provide any necessary information that might be requested in addition to the certificate of attendance.

Course Schedule
  • Introduction (Dimitris Ballas and Thanasis Kizos)
  • Social Network Analysis for stakeholder selection (Christina Prell)
  • Multi-criteria analysis as a decision tool (Klaus Hubacek)
  • Island story maps (Seraphim Alvanides, Benjamin Hennig)
  • Protected areas and landscapes (Nikolaos Zouros, Benjamin Hennig)
  • Migration and the Refugee crisis (Dimitris Ballas, Shareen Elnaschie, Electra Petrakou)
  • Sustainable energy for islands (Heracles Polatidis and Theocharis Tsoutsos)
  • Perturbations of coastal islands ecosystems (Rodrigo Riera and Ricardo Haroun, ULPGC)
  • Participant group presentations & concluding section (Dimitris Ballas, Benjamin Hennig, Thanasis Kizos, Christina Prell, Klaus Hubacek)
  • Fieldtrip/excursion to the Museum of Natural History and Petrified Forest Park

In addition to the above sessions, all participants will be offered the opportunity to attend (with no extra charge, unless they need to also have access to relevant catering facilities of the conference and a registration and attendance certificate) the EUROGEO2022 conference which will be held on Lesvos on 5-6 May 2022.


Participants need to organize (and pay for) their accommodation independently and they are also very welcome to make use of a special arrangement (subject to availability at the time of booking) with Heliotrope Hotel (a 4-star hotel by the sea and within walking distance of the University of the Aegean campus, where most of the speakers will be staying), offering the following rates (per night) for the Summer School participants: single room €58; double/twin room €68 euros; triple room €87 euros. If you wish to make use of this special arrangement please contact the hotel directly (info with a note "Islands as Laboratories for Sustainable Development" University of Groningen/University of the Aegean Summer school" in the message subject and explain in your message that you are taking part in the ISLAS summer school (and following this the hotel will provide more information regarding booking and payment). In addition, any participants who may be interested in sharing a twin or triple room with other summer school participants (in order to share the costs with them) are advised to contact us (please send an email to islas and we will do our best to help (but please note that we can offer no guarantee as this is subject to the number of participants wanting to share a room and to hotel room availability at the time of booking; we expect that the earlier you try to book the more likely it will be that there will be availability).

You may also find more information on alternative possible accommodation options on the page of the EUROGEO2022 conference as well as via alternative accommodation search and booking platforms of your choice.

Application procedure

The deadline for application for this summer school has passed. We are no longer accepting applications.

Cancellation policy:

  • Participants who cancel more than 4 weeks before the start of the course are liable to pay 15% of the full course fee, unless the Summer School in question decides otherwise.
  • Participants who cancel within 4 weeks before the start of the course are liable to pay the full course fee, unless the Summer School in question decides otherwise.
  • Participants who withdraw during the course are liable to pay the full course fee, unless the Summer School in question decides otherwise.

The summer school is an initiative of the Sustainable Landscapes research group of the University of Groningen and the Research Master Islands and Sustainability program.

The Sustainable Landscapes research group at UG is devoted to developing knowledge for better landscape governance by combining cutting-edge disciplinary and integrative research from widely differing scientific fields.

Islands and Sustainability is a track within the Research Master in Spatial Sciences. It combines thorough training in scientific research with a thematic specialization on Islands and Sustainability.

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Last modified:28 April 2022 09.41 a.m.