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During the 1990s, in connection with scientific monitoring of the Mer d'Iroise Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO Man and the Biosphere programme) and using geographic information systems (GIS), UMR LETG-Brest (Géomar) made a study on land-use on Ushant island, the largest inhabited island in the reserve. This study contributed to the objectives of the international programme LUCC (Land Use and Land Cover Changes) by focusing on large scale environmental changes.

Successive states were reconstructed from different sources for a period of 150 years (ref. 1). The spatial changes revealed, notably the consequences of a decrease in agricultural activity, were modelled to simulate variations in pasturing pressure (ref. 2). This attempt at specialized surveying was hampered by the fact that GIS does not take time into account and the model of Ushant was oversimplified.

At the beginning of 2000, the ComMod (Companion Modelling) group proposed companion modelling, which is an original research approach based on using models to help understand interactions in the socioecosystem and the management of renewable resources. The Ouessant project was relaunched with research to test this approach on the island as part of study on several biosphere reserves facing changes in use and the closure of certain environments.

The project is supported by the program ‘Biodiversity dynamics and means of access to environments and resources’ [Dynamique de la biodiversité et modalités d’accès aux milieux et aux ressources] of the l’Institut Français de la Biodiversité, and is based on creating joint multidisiplinary groups that include land managers. For Ushant island, the formation of such a group allows a truly interdisciplinary approach that will enable a conceptual model to be built identifying the resources, actors, dynamics and interactions in play. This will serve as a basis for prototype software, based on a multi-agents system, to perform simulations based on spatial scenarios (ref. 3).

The sum of the acquired knowledge was simplified to produce a role-playing game with the aim of helping public consultation. With funding from Fondation de France, this game was used in five sessions that brought together some of the islanders, in which they could express their points of view on land uses, dynamics and present and future constraints (ref. 4). At the final game session, the scientists in charge had the opportunity to work with pupils from Urshant secondary school, with their teachers present.  Here, they witnessed the interest that this group of pupils had for the game and how it served as a means of exchange on several themes, such as sustainable development, management, coastal dynamics and change, participation, etc.

The scientists then aimed to adapt their research output to awareness-raising and education. Starting in 2008, they worked together with Océanopolis to create a learning workshop for 4th year secondary school pupils.  The MEDIA project “Multi-agent modelling and role-playing game: tools for mediation and learning for sustainable development” [Modélisation multi-agents et jeu de rôle: des outils de médiation et d’apprentissage au service du développement durable] was supported by the ASOSc* of Région Bretagne and by the Ecological Engineering programme of the CNRS and Cémagref, which is associated with several teams and organisations in Finistère.  This led to the creation of the workshop “Between land and sea: the coasts” [Entre Terre et Mer, les littoraux], which offers three types of activity including a play-based session with an adapted version of the original game incorporating numerous modifications to the rules, form and logistics. Since 2010, almost 4000 pupils have participated in this workshop.  Throughout the fifteen years of development, the evolution or this research has associated science and society.  MEDIA is not an end in itself, but a step that has yielded new scientific questions (ref. 6), notably on the role of scientists in such activities and the degree to which they are adopted by the public.


* Society for the social appropriation of the sciences [Association pour l’appropriation sociale des sciences]

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