Marie Louise Aastrup


Office: IIC2006



Dr. Arn Keeling, Memorial University
Dr. Alistair Bath, Memorial University


Dr. Carly Sponarski, University of Maine


MSc Sustainable Resource Management, Technische Universität München (2016)

BSc Geography & Geoinformatics, University of Copenhagen (2014)

Title of Project:

Beyond Ecological Sustainability: Untangling Local Perceptions of Nature Conservation in the Case of a New Proposed National Park in the Romanian Carpathians

Research Project Description:

Establishing a new national park is never a controversy-free endeavor. Historically, the establishment of national parks in North America and Europe followed a “fortress conservation” model: preserving nature by excluding people. My research looks into contemporary national park establishment in the Southern Carpathians in Romania, more specifically in the Fagaras Mountains. The Fagaras Mountains, covering almost 200.000 ha, is a region of great ecology significance, as one of the wildest mountain ranges in Europe with vast amounts of virgin forest and the last stronghold of European large carnivores (bears, wolves, lynx). However, nature protection in the area is minimal and illegal logging (commercial and private) of virgin forest is common. A private conservation association is currently buying up land to protect the area, with the goal of establishing the “Yellowstone of Europe”, the Fagaras Mountains National Park (FMNP). The association intends to return the land to the public domain once the national park has been established. Fagaras Mountains are dominated by traditional, semi-subsistence livelihoods, with a mosaic of landownerships (state, private, municipalities, commons). These landholdings were all nationalized during the communist regime (1948 – 1989) and are still, in some cases, in the process of being restituted. Establishing a national park could result in local residents losing access to the resources within the Fagaras Mountains. I explore the importance of the land to the residents by investigating how they value, use, and depend on the area, how they perceive the area to affect their lives, and whether they support the FMNP initiative. My research investigates the delicate intersection between nature conservation and sustainable livelihoods within an East Central European context, where nature protection levels are still in the process of adapting to EU standards and regulations.

Research Interests:

  • Political Ecology
  • Environmental geography
  • Human Dimensions of Natural Resources
  • Natural Resource Management
  • Protected Area Management

• The Dr. Alan G. Macpherson Graduate Research Award in Historical and Cultural Geography (2019/2020)
• Scotiabank Bursary for International Study (2019)
• Dr. Ian A. Brookes Graduate Field Research Award in Geography (2019/2020)


Department of Geography

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000