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The Retrieve Land
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A social-ecology-design coupling

The research site is a coastal wetland located in northeast China. This region hosts traditional fishing villages and several nature reserves.


There have been residents since the Ming dynasty, and the village has existed for over 500 years. Living by the sea, fishing, and sea salt production became the main livelihood for locals.


This wetland is one of the most significant passage sites for migratory birds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. This stopover site act as one of the most important station between the Arctic circle and Australia. The site were obligated to provide food and rest space for these long-distance travelers.

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As a complex and ever-evolving research subject, climate ecosystem-related design research and practice are urged for a dynamic and systematic methodology. This article will investigate the practical aspects of conducting an interdisciplinary systematic social-ecology-design coupling approach locally.


Bottom-up environment care practice is an inadequate field for design approach, which holds strong potential to force differences in everyday social-ecology context. The study intervened in the complex social-ecological system by starting with birds' habitat conservation practices. The study explores the possibilities of restoring sustainable ecological resources within the local context.

By reorganizing the social-ecological relations as a chain reaction from multiple dimensions, this research attempts to situate design in this circular operation system. This work remediated the contradictions between local wetland preservation and the residents' ever-growing needs for a better life. Multiple stakeholders are involved in this context, and tensions and problems are intertwined. The stakeholders include NGOs, fishers, local authorities, decision-makers, and non-human entities (wild birds, fish, soil, water). These stakeholders all play crucial roles in the system, and any decisions will receive responses from others. However, such diverse wills and aims lead to a stagnant social-ecological entanglement. Better communication mechanisms between different stakeholders are needed. This work intends to work with the following research questions:


What design methods could activate local social activities towards a sustainable route?

And how could designers contribute to this process?

Social Network Analysis
This is an inclusive analysis to identify potential actors and actions in the system, including critical stakeholders, groups and sub-groups, power flows, leaders, and other relationships.
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Qualitative interviews

The interviews were conducted to rely on the various perspective different groups holds around the wetland. 


Four interviewee groups were involved in the interviews, including the NGOs, the tourist, the tourism operator, and the fisherman. And each of them explained their relationships with the land and shared their stories. Vocabulary lists were generated based on the frequency of certain words that appeared during the interview.

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Brochure & Animation
To meet the communication gap between the decision-maker and the on-site operator. An introduction brochure was designed to build a shared understanding of the wetland and surrounding environments.
saw dust
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