, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 414–424

A Reflective Lens: Applying Critical Systems Thinking and Visual Methods to Ecohealth Research

Original Contribution

DOI: 10.1007/s10393-010-0362-6

Cite this article as:
Cleland, D. & Wyborn, C. EcoHealth (2010) 7: 414. doi:10.1007/s10393-010-0362-6


Critical systems methodology has been advocated as an effective and ethical way to engage with the uncertainty and conflicting values common to ecohealth problems. We use two contrasting case studies, coral reef management in the Philippines and national park management in Australia, to illustrate the value of critical systems approaches in exploring how people respond to environmental threats to their physical and spiritual well-being. In both cases, we used visual methods—participatory modeling and rich picturing, respectively. The critical systems methodology, with its emphasis on reflection, guided an appraisal of the research process. A discussion of these two case studies suggests that visual methods can be usefully applied within a critical systems framework to offer new insights into ecohealth issues across a diverse range of socio-political contexts. With this article, we hope to open up a conversation with other practitioners to expand the use of visual methods in integrated research.


critical systems approach critical systems heuristics human well-being protected-area management systemic intervention visual methods 

Copyright information

© International Association for Ecology and Health 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fenner School of Environment and Society, ANU College of Medicine Biology and EnvironmentAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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