March 2017

General News



General News

New SNSF professorships at the OCCR

The OCCR has been awarded two new SNSF professorships – out of five awarded to the University of Bern in total. The new professors are Thomas Frölicher and Vincent Lam. Swiss National Science Foundation professorships address young researchers who intend to pursue an academic career and wish to establish their own team to realise a research project. A professorship includes the researcher's salary (assistant professorship level), a research grant, salaries of employees as well as a contribution to infrastructure costs. The funding period is 4 years and may be extended by no more than 2 years. See details on the research of the new OCCR professors in the “people” section of this newsletter.

OCCR study on the cover of Nature Geoscience

A study carried out at the Oeschger Centre makes the headlines on the cover of the march issue of Nature Geoscience. Using new methods of reconstruction, Oliver Heiri (Aquatic Paleoecology group) Willy Tinner (Terrestrial Paleoecology group) and colleagues have been able to demonstrate that some 9,000 to 5,000 years ago, the Mediterranean climate was considerably warmer than previously suggested. Concerns regarding the reliability of climate models could thus be dispelled. A media release by the University of Bern was largely taken up by the media. Have a look at the most recent articles referring to the Oeschger Centre in the press coverage section of our website.

Wanted: Lecturer in empirical Economics of Climate Change

The Scientific Committee of the OCCR has decided to fund the position of a full-time Lecturer (Oberassistent) in empirical Economics of Climate Change for a period of 4 years. The job profile reads as follows: “We seek a young enthusiastic scholar who is eager to enhance the international research profile of the Oeschger Centre in the field of Economics of Climate Change (sensu lato) and to take advantage of the vibrant interdisciplinary climate research environment at the University of Bern. The successful candidate holds a PhD in Economics (or related discipline) and has a demonstrated research record in the Economics of Climate Change, e.g. mitigation / adaptation research, economic assessment of climate change impacts, behavioral economics, political economy or similar. Strong preference is given to empirical, experimental and / or applied research in an interdisciplinary context.”
Review of applications starts on April 6, 2017 and continues until the position is filled.

The OCCR represents the University of Bern at the MIT

The OCCR was selected to represent the University of Bern at its first participation at the MIT European Career Fair in Boston. At their booth, Christoph Raible (Earth System Modelling - Atmospheric Dynamics group) and Flavio Lehner, a former student of the Graduate School of Climate Sciences and now at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, presented the Climate Graduate School and the University of Bern in general. During the fair, lively discussions with bachelor, master and PhD students from various disciplines took place. Additionally, early career scientist received information about career options at the University of Bern as well as funding possibilities. In total over 2'000 students and early career scientist participated and received information from 85 exhibitors, among them all the major Swiss Universities.

“Girls on Ice” project receives SNF Agora funding

The OCCR Analytical Chemistry Research group has received funding from the SNF communications program Agora. The project “Girls on Ice” intends to communicate and promote science by organizing a series of tuition-free field courses at Findelengletscher above Zermatt with the theme of Glaciers, Climate, and the Alpine Landscape. The project targets young women (age 15 to 18) from diverse backgrounds, who are normally difficult to reach or to interest in scientific topics. The primary goal of the international initiative “Girls on Ice” is to increase young women’s self-efficacy and interest in pursuing science (specifically MINT). The field courses are conducted in collaboration with the Paul Scherrer Institut (PI Margit Schwikowski) and the Swiss Society of Snow, Ice and Permafrost of the SCNAT.

How Americans think about climate change

Americans overwhelmingly believe that global warming is happening, and that carbon emissions should be scaled back. But fewer are sure that the changes will harm them personally. “Americans want to restrict carbon emissions from coal power plants. The White House and Congress may do the opposite” writes the New York Times in a story on new data released by Yale researchers that give the most detailed view yet of public opinion in the US on global warming.

New late Quaternary palaeotemperature records to be developed

In the framework of an SNF project that started in January 2017, the Aquatic Palaeoecology group will develop new late Quaternary palaeotemperature records from several localities in Switzerland and southern Germany. The reconstructions based on aquatic indicators will cover sections of the last interglacial period (the Eemian, approx. 130,000 to 115,000 years ago) and the last glaciation (approx. 115,000-11,500 years ago). The project will work towards developing a continuous, millennial-scale summer temperature reconstruction for the study region that covers a full glacial to interglacial cycle. The new temperature reconstructions will allow a validation of existing palaeotemperature evidence (e.g. based on other temperature indicators or climate model studies) and a reassessment of the long-term effects of climate change on ecosystems and landscapes in Central Europe.

OCCR now active on Twitter

The OCCR is now active on Twitter. Please follow us on

Open position for an IT System Administrator

The OCCR is looking for an IT System Administrator (ICT-Supporter III and ICT-Operator II) as a member of its management team. This part time positon (50 %) requires excellent knowledge in state of the art web technologies (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, JavaScript (jQuery) as well as experience in supporting ICT infrastructure at workplaces (1st level support).

Detailed information


Axel Timmermann gives lectures in Bern

Axel Timmermann is a leading climate scientists who studies the mechanisms of natural climate cycles such as the periodical warming in the tropical Pacific (El Niño) or the global glacial periods. In his newest studies, based on model simulations of the settlement of the Earth by humans, he shows how human development was influenced and driven by climatic change since the beginning of mankind in Africa. Axel Timmermann was a professor of Oceanography at the University of Hawaii and now holds a chair at the Busan National University in South Korea where he is the founding director of the Center for Climate Physics at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS). He will talk on “El Niño’s subtle dance with the seasonal cycle” on 1 May as part of the seminar series of Climate and Environmental Physics and give a public lecture (in German) on 2 May entitled “Homo sapiens – der ewige Klimaflüchtling”.

Climate containers on tour

The OCCR organizes an exhibition on climate research for the general public in early autumn of this year. The show, installed in sea containers, will be touring in various districts of Bern. Additional stops of this travelling exhibition are the ICDC10 conference in Interlaken and the Science Night at the University of Bern. The “climate container” show is realized in co-operation with the city of Bern that will present, in its own containers, topics related to energy and mobility.

Workshop on 14C Analyses with the MICADAS

Supported by the OCCR, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry will host the 1st Workshop on 14C Analyses with the MICADAS on 13-15 September 2017 for the OCCR community and international guests. The workshop will discuss innovations and developments of radiocarbon analyses with MICADAS (MIni CArbon DAting System) and other AMS (accelerator mass spectrometer) systems, the wide range of radiocarbon applications in research, and the benefits and caveats of radiocarbon-based chronologies. On the third day of the workshop, an optional practical training on statistical approaches for radiocarbon-based age models of various climate archives will take place. This is a “by the community for the community” workshop, and oral or poster contributions related to any aspect of MICADAS- or radiocarbon-based research are strongly encouraged. Registration and abstract submission are free of charge. Students (B.Sc., M.Sc. and PhD) are particularly encouraged to participate. Full details can be found here. Abstract submission deadline is 31 July 2017.

Young Researchers Meeting 2017

The Young Researchers Meeting is an annual two-day workshop for PhDs and Postdocs, organized by the OCCR. This year, it is dedicated to career planning for climate scientists, with keynotes, experience talks, individual work, and workshops on aspects like decision-making, personal profile, or convincing strategies for both academia and private labour market. It takes place in Aeschi bei Spiez on 8 - 9 June 2017. Save the dates; the program and registration will soon be out.

Why be cautious? On the Justification of Precautionary Principles

On 4 - 5 May, the OCCR group Philosophy of Climate Science and Climate Ethics organizes a two day conference that will discuss questions regarding Precautionary principles from a broad range of theoretical perspectives such as decision-making, practical rationality, philosophy of science, and ethics of, e.g., rights, risk and justice.

Global climate change confronts human societies with difficult decisions: The stakes are high, but the uncertainties deep. Precautionary principles (PPs) are proposed to guide us in such situations. They require that we take actions against possible harms even if we are not sure whether these will materialize. But PPs have been criticized, e.g. as being vacuous, incoherent, or based on irrational fears instead of sound science.

So can PPs be justified at all? And if so, how?

Symposium ad memoriam Alias Bretscher

At the end of last year, Dr Alfred Bretscher has deceased at the age 97 (obituary). He was a great friend and supporter of the University of Bern and particularly interested in Climate Science. He has funded several PhD projects at the OCCR through the Bretscher Fonds. On 19 June 2017, the OCCR organizes a symposium to honor the memory of “Alias” – as he was known to his many friends. The event consists of talks (in German and English) held by former and present PhD students supported by the Bretscher Fonds. Program details and registration

Apéro Series re-launched in May

The next edition of the “Apéro Series” for young researchers will be hosted by the Institute of Plant Sciences and will take place on 19 May 2017, 16:00–18:00 at the botanical garden. Please save the date. More detailed information will follow soon. The OCCR “Apéro Series” are an informal get-together organized by PhDs of different research groups in turns. All OCCR PhDs and Postdocs are invited to join for a presentation of individual research projects of the hosts followed by drinks and snacks.


Matthias Erb joins the OCCR

Matthias Erb of the Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) has become an adjunct researcher with the OCCR. He is the head of the division of Biotic Interactions at the IPS. Read an interesting profile story on this researcher who splits his time between being a biology professor and a mountain farmer and an article on his research on dandelion.

Vincent Lam is a new SNF professor with the OCCR

Vincent Lam has been awarded an SNF professorship at the OCCR and the Institute of Philosophy. His research project is entitled: “The epistemology of climate change. Philosophy of science perspectives on the climate”. Vincent gained a MSc in Physics at ETH Lausanne and then did his PhD in Philosophy at the University of Lausanne (Title: “Space-Time within General Relativity: A Structural Realist Understanding”). He was an Ambizione Research Fellow at the University of Lausanne and then became an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, at the University of Queensland, Australia. Vincent will form part of the OCCRs Philosophy of Climate Science and Climate Ethics group.

Thomas Frölicher is a new SNF professor with the OCCR

Thomas Frölicher has been awarded an SNF professorship at the OCCR and at Climate and Environmental Physics. His research project is entitled: “Ocean extremes in a warmer world: Discovering risks for marine ecosystems (OceanX)“. The project proposal reads: “Our understanding of the role of ocean extreme events for marine organisms and ecosystem services is very poor. This knowledge gap is of particular concern as the ocean provides food security and livelihoods for about 15 % of the world population.” OceanX wants to extend knowledge by detecting and attributing past and future changes in ocean extremes, and by assessing and mapping the risk of these ocean extreme events for marine organisms and ecosystems. Thomas Frölicher studied Environmental Sciences at ETH Zurich and did his PhD at Climate and Environmental Physics at the University of Bern. He then was a SNF Postdoctoral Research fellow at Princeton University where he held additional Postdoc positions. He is currently an Ambizione Fellow at Environmental Physics, ETH Zurich and will join the OCCR in August. His team will include two PhDs and a Postdoc.

Sam Jaccard’s professorship extended

Sam Jaccard’s SNF professorship at the OCCR and the Institute of Geological Sciences has been extended by two years. Sam is the PI of the OCCR group Paleoceanography and marine biogeochemistry. He works on processes in the Southern Ocean modulating temporal changes in the marine biogeochemistry, and assesses their role in determining atmospheric CO2. He was part of the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition ACE which has just concluded and made himself a name as a blogger aboard the ACE’s Akademik Treshnikov.

Ulf Büntgen elected professor in Cambridge

Ulf Büntgen, PI of the OCCR’s Dendrochronology group, was elected professor of Environmental Systems Analysis at the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge, UK. The description of his new position reads: “Ulf Büntgen conducts fieldwork all over the globe to provide answers to his main research questions: What are the causes and consequences of changes in different, though intertwined environmental systems across space and time, and how can diverse tree-ring parameters and archives be compiled and analyzed to provide answers to such and related inter-/cross-disciplinary research questions?“

Roland Zech elected professor in Jena

Roland Zech holds an SNF professorship at the OCCR and the Institute of Geography and he leads the OCCR’s group Biogeochemistry and Paleoclimate. He will now move to Jena where he was elected as a professor and chair for Physical Geography at the Friedrich-Schiller University. Nevertheless, Roland will bring to an end his SNF professorship at the University of Bern till March 2018.

Venia docendi for Annelie Holzkämper

Annelie Holzkämper who is a Postdoc with the Air Pollution/Climate group has successfully completed her habilitation thesis entitled “Integrated adaptation of agro‐ecosystems to climate change”. She has received her venia docendi in the field of Geoecology at the University of Bern and has thus gained the permission for lecturing at Universities and the status of Privatdozent (PD). Annelie is meant to carry on the research activities in the area of climate change and agriculture within the OCCR after the retirement of Jürg Fuhrer later this year.

Regula Mülchi wins Faculty Prize

Reugla Mülchi, a former MSc student at the Graduate School of Climate Sciences, has been awarded the Faculty Prize by the Sciences Faculty of the University of Bern in the area of Geosciences for her master thesis "Evaluation of the influence of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions on temperature, precipitation and runoff in Switzerland". She is now writing a Ph.D. thesis ("Future changes in runoff regimes and flood-triggering atmospheric precursors") with the Mobiliar Group for Climate Change Impact Research.

Researchers who have recently joined the OCCR:

Florian Adolphi is a new a Postdoc with the Past Climate and Biogeochemical Studies on Ice Cores group. He gained a diploma in Geoecology at the Technical University of Freiberg, Germany and did a PhD in Geology, Quaternary Sciences at Lund University, Sweden. (Thesis title: “Solar Activity Changes at the End of the Last Ice Age – Influences on Climate and Applications for Dating.”). Subsequently, Florian held a Postdoc position at Lund University. His work at the OCCR is on “Testing mechanisms of interhemispheric climate change throughout the Holocene.” For his stay at the University of Bern he benefits of a three-year grant by the Swedish Research Council.
Alex Bolland is a new PhD student with the Aquatic Paleoecology Group. He did an MSc Environmental Monitoring, Modelling and Reconstruction at the University of Manchester. His research interests are the inferences of climate and environmental change using microfaunal subfossils, focussing on the Eemain interglacial and the last glacial period.
Marco Carozzi is a new a Postdoc with the Climate/Air Pollution group. Marco did his PhD in in Agricultural Ecology at the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences of the University of Milan (Italy), followed by postdoctoral work at the same institute and at INRA-EcoSys (Versailles-Grignon, France). His interest is in the effect of agricultural land use and management on fluxes of reactive nitrogen and greenhouse gases. He will continue working on this subject with a focus on emission factors and greenhouse gas budgets for pasture systems at the Swiss scale. The aim is to develop options and recommendations for improvements in the calculation of the Swiss agricultural greenhouse gas inventory.
Regula Mülchi is a new PhD student with the Mobiliar Group for Climate Change Impact Research Her thesis is on "Future changes in runoff regimes and flood-triggering atmospheric precursors". Regula gained her MSc Climate Sciences at the OCCR’s Graduate School.

A warm welcome to all of you!

Researchers who have recently left the OCCR:

Konstantinos Agrios, who was a PhD in Laboratory for the Analysis of Radiocarbon with AMS (LARA), moved on to the Department of Chemistry at Villanova University, USA

Andreas Born, who was a Postdoc in the Earth System Modeling – Atmosphere Ocean Dynamics group, is now an Associate Professor at the Department of Earth Science at the University of Bergen, Norway.

Beat Ihly, who was part of the technical staff of the Earth System Modeling – Atmosphere Ocean Dynamics group, is currently looking for a new position.

Katrin Keller, who was a Postdoc with the Earth System Modeling – Bio-Geo-Chemical Cycles group, is now a Safety- and Risik Management Engineer with Emch + Berger AG in Bern.

Oskar Lecuyer, who was a Postdoc with the Environmental and Climate Economics group, is now with the Division Research and Knowledge of AFD (Agence française de dévelopement).

All the best for your future career!