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Department of Geography

Annina Michel
Annina Michel, Dr.
Group Leader

Space, Nature and Society

Tel.: 044 63 55247
Room number: Y25 L 42
Presence times: Monday, Tuesday, Friday

Research Interests

I am a conservation social scientist interested in social and political dimensions of protected areas and landscape planning. With a research focus in Switzerland, I engage with questions of equity and justice in environmental negotiations and participatory processes and how these are intertwined with and influenced by social values. 

Generally, I am interested in human-nature relationships: How do we speak about and engage with our surroundings, and how do we shape and interact with what we call 'nature'? 

Learn more about my research group: Landscape and Conservation Social Sciences

ValPar.CH - Values of the ecological infrastructure in Swiss parks

Commissioned by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), 10/2020–12/2024

Within this transdisciplinary research project, we assess the social values of the ecological infrastructure (EI) and ecosystem services in regional nature parks in Switzerland. Using a mixed-methods approach, we seek to understand locals' perceptions of landscapes and landscape elements and the meanings attributed to them. Furthermore, we analyze how emotions tied to landscape experiences and practices are connected to underlying values. With go-along interviews, such as transect walks, and researcher-generated photography, we will receive an in-depth understanding of people's relations to landscapes and ecosystems and will be able to understand interlinkages over space and time. Additionally, participatory mapping will be used to bring together perceptions, meanings, and emotions with ecological and economic values of EI. 

Project homepage: ValPar.CH

Where Georgia and Switzerland meet: Sustainable development in mountain areas

Project supported by a Seed Funding Grant of the Swiss Leading House for Science & Technology Cooperation, University of Geneva, as part of the Swiss Bilateral Cooperation Programme of SERI. Duration: since 2021.

Project partners:
Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University (TSU): Gvantsa Salukvadze, Temur Gugushvili, Prof. Dr. Joseph Salukvadze
University of Zurich (UZH): Dr. Annina Michel, Prof. Dr. Norman Backhaus

With this project we follow two goals: Firstly, we foster the collaboration between researchers of TSU and UZH who work in the field of sustainable development and nature conservation in mountain regions in Georgia and Switzerland, strengthen our network and use synergies from our research for ongoing and future projects. We will pave the way for establishing an environment in which Georgian and Swiss colleagues share their knowledge, experience, and visions. Secondly, we will create a modular course at both the Department of Human Geography at TSU and the Department of Geography at UZH. The course will introduce rural development strategies and policies in mountain systems and embed this applied topic in a solid foundation of conceptual frameworks and research methodology. Lectures and seminar sessions will be simultaneously held online in Tbilisi and Zurich and address Geography students on advanced bachelor and master level. Furthermore, the students will also do fieldwork in their respective regions to gain hands-on experience and practice different research methods. The course offers a unique setting to engage with different socio-political contexts in the Caucasus and in Central Europe, which stimulates a critical examination of and reflection on processes linked to sustainable development in mountain areas. Moreover, we want to give the opportunity to students to establish international connections and to engage with global challenges in an international setting.


MTA: An online platform for cross-border student collaboration and learning

Supported by the UZH competitive teaching fund. Project leader: Dr. Annina Michel

MTA - MountainApp wants to inspire people to immerse themselves in landscapes. MTA -  MountainApp was developed for a transnational research seminar taught at the University of Zurich and the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University. The app is used to facilitate cross-border student collaboration and learning and to introduce students to sustainable mountain development through the lens of the Alpine and Caucasus mountains. We are interested in learning more about places and landscapes people visit and experience in their everyday lives. By collecting this data, we want to better understand people’s relationships to different kinds of landscapes and landscape elements. With a focus on these relationships, the project aims to analyze values and meanings attached to landscapes. We want to draw attention to contemporary challenges of mountainous regions and bring people living in these areas closer together. Fun fact: “Mta” is the Georgian term for “mountain”!

Visit to find out more!

FIRI - Flip it and reverse it: Transformative change through (re)visibilization of interdependencies among humans and the rest of nature

Project supported by SNSF Spark Grant (CRSK-1_220573). Project leader: Dr. Sierra Deutsch
The project coordinates a team of Indigenous stewardship specialists, academics, and Swiss nature conservation practitioners to understand: (1) how critical theory on the core causes of the triple crises can be translated into practical solutions in Transdisciplinary Transformative Change Initiatives (TTCIs)? (2) how TTCIs can center holistic Indigenous understandings of relationality and responsibility in a meaningful way that doesn’t reproduce historical power relations and harms, and what does this mean in the Swiss context; and (3) what the broader transformative impact is of the learning associated with the coproduction of a TTCI that centers holistic worldviews.

Completed research projects

Empowering policy relevance of our research

Funded by the URPP Global Change and Biodiversity

Collaborators: Dr. Sierra Deutsch, Dr. Roger Keller, Dr. Cornelia Krug

The impact of our research is often measured in the number of publications or related indices. The impact on policies and practitioners is more difficult to assess and less recognized in academia. With this initiative, we aimed to strengthen the societal relevance of our research by fostering different pathways of science-policy-interfaces.

Find more information and publications here.


Social Acceptance of Protected Areas

Commissioned by FoLAP SCNAT, 2019-2020.

Project partners: Dr. Astrid Wallner, SCNAT & Dr. Annina Michel, UZH

What can the scientific literature tell us about the social acceptance of large-scale protected areas? Which recommendations for practice does it offer, and how can research help to advance our understanding of the social acceptance of protected areas in the future? These questions were investigated in a synthesis study.
Read about the results of the literature review in the Swiss Academies Factsheet 15 (5).


Park Moralities – Social and Political Negotiations in Parc Adula, Switzerland

Dissertation funded by the SNSF project "Morality and the establishment of national parks: Social and political negotiations in Abel Tasman National Park (New Zealand) and in Parc Adula (Switzerland)", 2014-2018.

Project partners: Dr. Tim Tait-Jamieson & Prof. Dr. Olivier Graefe, Université de Fribourg, Dr. Annina Michel & Prof. Dr. Norman Backhaus, Universität Zürich

This project extends a geographical perspective in order to understand social and political negotiations surrounding a national park project in Switzerland – Parc Adula. The study investigates the reasons for the rejection of Parc Adula – and approaches park negotiations by focusing on day-to-day discussions that took place during the park’s planning phase. Moreover, the thesis tries to understand how moralities shaped opinions about and understandings tied to Parc Adula and national parks in general. Regarding a general shift of protected area policies towards more participatory and bottom-up approaches over the last decade, the Parc Adula case study holds important insights into contemporary protected area establishment.

Curriculum vitae

Since 04/2024 Department of Geography, University of Zurich. Oberassistentin.

Since 09/2023 St. Gallen University of Teacher Education (PHSG). Lecturer. (part-time)

Since 11/2021 Department of Geography, University of Zurich. Group Leader Landscape and Conservation Social Sciences.

10/2020-03/2024  Department of Geography, University of Zurich. Postdoc, project ValPar.CH.

01/2019–09/2020  Department of Geography, University of Zurich. Postdoctoral teaching and research associate.

09/2014–12/2018  Department of Geography, University of Zurich. PhD Candidate. 

05/2014–08/2014  Swiss Federal Office of Energy. Specialist Geoinformation. 

11/2013–04/2014  Swiss Federal Office of Energy. Internship, Radioactive Waste Management. 

09/2008–10/2013  University of Zurich. Master of Science. Major Geography, Minor Biology. 


Current Teaching

Fall semester:
GEO361 - Advanced Human Geography (Research Seminar A). Sustainable Mountain Development.
Forschungskollquium "Space, Nature and Society". (See

Spring semester:
GEO425 - Political Ecology (guest lecture on Environmental Justice).
Forschungskolloquium "Space, Nature and Society".

Teaching Activities

FS 2011 & 2012:  GEO 241 Geoökologie und Vegetationskunde
HS 2012:  GEO 222 Humangeographie III
FS 2015:  GEO 599 Excursion International Organizations Geneva
FS 2016–FS 2019: GEO 122 Humangeographie II
HS 2018: GEO 110 Schweiz 2040
HS 2018: GEO 112 Humangeographie I
HS 2018/2019, 2022-2024: GEO 361 Vertiefung Humangeographie, Forschungsseminar
FS 2019:  Preparatory seminar Greenland excursion
FS 2020-FS 2024:  GEO 425 Political Ecology
FS 2021: GEO 242 Humangeographische Methoden der Datenerhebung
HS 2019 & HS 2021: GEO 721 Exkursion Engiadina/Val Müstair
FS 2022 & FS 2023: GEO 838 Self-organized Seminar

Supervised Bachelor Theses

2015  Sara Schälchli: Partizipation der Maasai in der Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tansania

2016  Eliane Brändle: Der Kormoran (Phalacrocorax carbo): Ein Grenzgänger in vielen Bereichen. Akteure und Massnahmen in der Schweiz begrifflich und umweltethisch untersucht

2018  Florian Sturzenegger: Wissenschaftliche und umweltpolitische Aspekte gebietsfremder und invasiver Arten am Beispiel der Schweiz und Neuseeland

2019  Sophie Hauller: Die Rolle von Werten für Projekte zur Gewinnung erneuerbarer Energien am Beispiel der Windkraft

2019  Jeannine Suremann: CO2-Zertifikate und Neoliberalisierung

2020  Selina Gattiker: Nature-Needs-Half in the Light of Environmental (In)Justice

2021  Lou Lena Pfister: Affekt und Emotionen im Umwelt-Aktivismus

2022  Annika Gebhardt: Convivial Conservation im Vergleich zur neuen Governance Regionaler Naturpärke in der Schweiz

2023 Madleina Dreier: Mensch-Natur-Beziehungen in 'mehr-als-repräsentationalen' Landschaften und dem Naturschutz

Supervised Master Theses

Haggenmacher, Monika (2017) Landwirtschaft und Naturschutzprojekte: Eine Untersuchung zur Wahrnehmung der Landwirtinnen und Landwirte am Beispiel des Nationalparkprojekts Parc Adula.

Schneiter, Rebecca (2022) Die Bedeutung von Mensch-Natur-Beziehungen in der Bewertung von Natur und Landschaft.

Gattiker, Selina (2023) Back to ‘Nature’? Exploring Perceptions and Values of Nature and Wild(er)ness in the Swiss National Park during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Selected Presentations

09/2023    5. Tagung Parkforschung Schweiz, Lausanne, Switzerland.

06/2023    Biodiversity Convention: From Science to Implementation, Ascona, Switzerland.

12/2022    UZH Ringvorlesung "Sprache(n) und Räume: Sonderfall Schweiz?"

09/2022    3. Schweizer Landschaftskongress, Rapperswil, Switzerland.

02/2022    Stakeholder Workshop ValPar.CH (online).

11/2021    19th Swiss Geoscience Meeting, Geneva, Switzerland (online).

10/2020    18th Swiss Geoscience Meeting. Zurich, Switzerland (online). (Session chair)

11/2019     3. Tagung Parkforschung Schweiz. Bern, Switzerland.

09/2019     German Congress for Geography (DKG). Kiel, Germany. (Presented by N. Backhaus)

07/2019     Environmental Justice Conference. Transformative connections. University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. 

05/2018     Module 'Practice of Nature Conservation'. Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Germany. (Guest lecture)

03/2018     19th Student Conference on Conservation Science. Cambridge, UK. (Poster presentation)

11/2017     6th International Symposium for Research in Protected Areas. Salzburg, Austria. 

06/2017     2. Tagung Parkforschung Schweiz. Bern, Switzerland. 

01/2017     Workshop 'Park Governance, Ethics, and Morality'. Zurich, Switzerland. 

09/2016     27th session of the Permanent European Conference for the Study of the Rural Landscape (PECSRL). Innsbruck and Seefeld, Austria.

04/2016     Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG). San Francisco, USA.    

10/2015     German Congress for Geography (DKG). Berlin, Germany.

10/2014     High alpine photovoltaic installations workshop. Bern University of Applied Sciences, Burgdorf, Switzerland.        

Further Publications

  • Michel, Annina Helena; Wallner, Astrid (2020). How can the local Population be won over to Protected Areas? Swiss Academy of Science. Factsheets, 15(5):1-7. Link
  • Michel, Annina Helena; Wallner, Astrid (2020). Comment gagner l’adhésion des populations locales à un parc ? Académie des sciences naturelles. Factsheets, 15(5):1-7. Link
  • Michel, Annina Helena (2016). Negotiations and Modes of Justification in the Swiss National Park Project ‘Parc Adula’. In: Bender, O., Baumgartner, J., Heinrich, K., Humer-Gruber, H., Scott, B. & Töpfer, T. (Hrsg..): Mountains, uplands, lowlands. European landscapes from an altitudinal perspective. PECSRL 2016. IGF-Forschungsberichte 7: 62. Austrian Academy of Sciences Press. Link