Alumni profile: Aster de Vries Lentsch

Aster graduated in 2015 with an MSc in Environmental Sustainability. Find out how her dissertation project has turned into a research position with the Institute of Geography.

“Bonkers but Good”

Hello! My name is Aster de Vries Lentsch and I’m the creator of the STREAMLINE interview format. STREAMLINE started as my dissertation project for the MSc in Environmental Sustainability. Immediately following my graduation in 2015 the University of Edinburgh offered me a position as Research Associate to test and expand the method under the auspices of the OPERAs project.

Inner Forth landscapeSo what is it I do? In a nutshell: I make it easier and more enjoyable for people to take part in environmental planning, policy making and research. In its current form STREAMLINE consists of a set of colourful, laminated A3 canvasses. Set in the future, each canvas invites the interviewee to set out their vision on a particular topic through a series of questions and tiles. Taking user experience as a starting point, STREAMLINE’s open and inter-active format provides an engaging platform where people can express not only what they want or think, but also why they feel that way, providing rich data and insight in the motivations behind their answers.

At the moment I’m using it in the Inner Forth area for socio-cultural valuations of Ecosystem Services, with hopes of expanding to different geographic areas and theoretical domains. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster since I got hired, and it took me a while to find my feet in academia but now I am loving it. Because my research is funded by OPERAs I get to travel around a lot and meet loads of interesting people. Every week seems to bring new exciting opportunities and it still feels a bit outrageous that I can pay my rent doing something I love.

© Google Maps 2016.
© Google Maps 2016.

My plan for the immediate future is quite simple, I want to keep expanding STREAMLINE into a full fledged methodology that anyone can use in their research or consultation work. Hopefully I can find funding to start a PhD next year, so if anyone has some good ideas, let me know! Ultimately I’d like to build a start-up around STREAMLINE, combined with an academic career and teaching. Being unleashed on a group of students and creatively explode their minds and broaden their ideas of what they can achieve with that awesome brain of theirs seems like good fun.

As for my current project, the feedback has been amazing. When I asked one of my participants about their feedback, all they said was: “Bonkers! But good.” And that’s how I feel about my work at the moment. It is absolutely batshit-crazy, but I enjoy every minute of it!

STREAMLINE will become widely available under a Creative Commons license late 2016/early 2017. For more information: www.streamline-research.com.