March 2019

 General News 





General News

Academic support for climate strikes 

More than 12’000 scientists have signed a statement started by researchers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland in support of the youth protests against the climate crisis. In their statement, researches are saying that countries are not doing enough to keep global warming well below 2 °C — the aim of the 2015 Paris climate accord. Young people’s concerns are “justified and supported by the best available science”, it says. In a media release issued by the Swiss Academy of Sciences, OCCR president Thomas Stocker (Earth System Modelling – Climate Dynamics group) is quoted saying: “With their nonviolent but effective actions the young demonstrators have shaken up public opinion. This movement could potentially turn the forthcoming elections in Switzerland into climate elections.”

New OCCR image brochure 

The OCCR has just launched a new image brochure which presents the Oeschger Centre’s activities in a concise form. Beside its scientific excellence, it stresses the collaboration among our 28 research groups: “The Oeschger Centre doesn’t just talk about interdisciplinary cooperation, it lives it“, one of the key messages reads. The new booklet is 20 pages strong and comfortably fits into a jacket pocket. There are an English and a German edition. The brochure is meant to be used as a giveaway for visitors at conferences etc.

You can order as many printed copies as you like or have a look at the digital version of this latest OCCR publication. Please help us putting this brochure into circulation - and many thanks to all of you who agreed to be photographed for it!

OCCR extensively featured in celebrity magazine

The climate strike movement has not only created political awareness with high school students, the OCCR has been approached for interviews by media outlets that never showed any interest in climate research before – the much the better! “Schweizer Illustrierte”, a Swiss celebrity magazine, fully dedicated its issue of 15 march, the date of the national climate strike, to climate change matters. 

The activities of the OCCR were featured in a six-page piece. For their story, the reporter and photographer team met with Hélène Barras (Mobiliar Group for Climate Impact Research), Claus Beisbart (Philosophy of Climate Science and Climate Ethics group), Thomas Stocker (Earth System Modelling – Climate Dynamics group) and Rolf Weingartner (Hydrology group). See the interesting article written for a readership certainly not interested per se in science in the press coverage section of our website.

Drill site for 1.5 million year old ice to be revealed

Where to drill for 1.5 million year old ice? The Beyond EPICA – Oldest Ice project in which the OCCR’s Past Climate and Biogeochemical Studies on Ice Cores group plays a leading role is about to present this long-awaited decision. On 13 March a workshop called “Compilation of reconnaissance data and final drill site selection” took place in Bern. Its outcome, meaning the choice of the actual drill site in the Antarctica, will be revealed at an EGU press conference on 9 April.

20'000 years of evolution and ecosystem dynamics in Lake Victoria

OCCR members Martin Grosjean (Lake Sediments and Paleolimnology group), Flavio Anselmetti and Hendrik Vogel (Quaternary Geology and Paleoclimatology group), and Willy Tinner (Paleoecology group) collaborate with Ole Seehausen (Institute of Ecology and Evolution) and colleagues from Denmark and the US in a new SNF Sinergia project. During the Last Glacial Maximum (20 kyr ago), Lake Victoria (tropical Africa) was completely dry and not existing. Thereafter, the lake started to fill up (15 kyr ago) and more than 500 cichlid fish species have evolved since then. This speed of the evolutionary clock is very surprising and not understood. The project will analyse lake sediment cores and ancient DNA from fish teeth and bones preserved in the sediment. The question is whether environmental change (climate, productivity, erosion) has been a major driver of the pace of evolution and adaptive species radiation.

Decision guidelines regarding surface discharge

The Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks has just published a decision support guide regarding surface runoff (in German). The manual provides an overview on how to deal with surface runoff, characterizes and illustrates the tools on the basis of typical questions raised by practitioners in the field of natural hazards. Read more (in German) or ordera print copy of the guide from the Swiss hydrological commission (CHy).

Scoping Stakeholder Meeting for CH-Impacts

Organized by Proclim, a scoping meeting for the planned new CH-Impacts report will be held on 17 May 2019. The aim of this meeting is to bring together stakeholders and researchers to discuss the potential and use of the CH2018 climate scenarios. Please safe the date! Details on the venue will be announced soon. The OCCR played a pivotal role in establishing the last report on climate change impacts, CH2014-Impacts.


2nd International Bachelor Summer School

After a very successful first edition last year, the OCCR and the World Trade Institute (WTI) at the University of Bern jointly organize a 2nd International Bachelor Summer School for Climate Change Research Summer School. It is entitled “Confronting Climate Change – from Science to Policy” and takes place from 5 – 16 August 2019. The event aims to bring together highly motivated, open-minded bachelor students (semesters 4 to 6) from different fields of study, and who are interested in Climate Change Research. See the video announcement for the Bachelor Summer School 2019.

Agent-Based Models of Climate Policy

In a lecture organized by the OCCR on 20 May 2019, Detlef F. Sprinz, a leading researcher on climate policy, will talk on agent-based models of climate policy. Detlef F. Sprinz is a Senior Scientist with PIK - Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany, and a Professor with the Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences at the University of Potsdam. He also serves as lead author for the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, Working Group III, chapter 14 on “international cooperation.” The presentation takes place at Unitobler, room F 013 from 10 to 12 a.m.

Successful colloquium on Digital Archaeology

Digital technologies are not only changing the natural sciences. In fact, quantitative approaches, spatial statistics and socioecological modelling are also transforming the field of humanities including archaeology. In order to promote the University of Bern and the Oeschger Center as one of the leading institutions in this sector, the first International Colloquium on Digital Archaeology was held in Bern on 4 - 6 February 2019. 

The event was initiated by committed young members of the OCCR’s Prehistory Archeology group: Maria Elena Castiello, Julian Laabs, and Martin Hinz. About 60 national and international participants presented and discussed the application of quantitative and computer-aided methods at the interface between archaeology and environmental sciences, and the future directions of research in relation to past human-environment interactions. In addition to specific applications and case studies, four keynote speakers provided new perspectives for archaeology in current social discourses, which could be realized through the new possibilities offered by digital approaches. The colloquium was complemented by a workshop on site prediction and a field trip.

Swiss Polar Day hold in Bern

The Swiss Polar Day 2019 will take place in Bern on 23 April 2019. The morning of this annual one-day conference will be dedicated to keynote talks on various topics such as the quest for the Oldest Ice and plastic pollution in Polar Oceans. The speakers include OCCR members Hubertus Fischer (Past Climate and Biogeochemical Studies on Ice Cores group) and Samuel Jaccard (Paleoceanography and marine biogeochemistry group). The afternoon will be used to discuss the first science plan by the Swiss Polar Institute. Besides this, the Swiss Polar Day is also meant to be a opportunity for the Swiss Polar community to gather, network and exchange ideas. The event is free of charge, but online registration is mandatory. Please register by 7 April 2019.

Young Researchers Meeting 2019

The OCCR Young Researchers Meeting 2019 takes place - as in previous years - in Aeschi bei Spiez on 6 and 7 June. The topic of the meeting is „Scientific excellence in Climate Sciences - How to deliver and offer scientific work in good, if not excellent quality”. The meeting is open to all young climate researchers based in Switzerland. The program and registration procedure will follow in due time.

1’700 archaeologist meet in Bern

The European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) will celebrate its 25th annual meeting from 4 – 7 September 2009 in Bern. OCCR members Albert Hafner and Caroline Heitz (Prehistory Archeology group) are part of the scientific committee of this major with 1’600 – 1’700 participants. The general theme of the conference is “beyond paradigms”. On the occasion of its 25th anniversary, the EAA seeks to reflect “on what the real contribution from Archaeology and Archaeological Heritage has been and can be, for a future in which everything that seemed solid in 1994 has melted away under the pressing threats that challenge an inclusive and progressive idea of Europe”, as the welcome note reads.

100 years of Palaeoecology at the University of Bern 

In 2020, it will be exactly a hundred years since paleoecological research was initiated at the University of Bern. A symposium will be organized on 8 – 9 June 2020 to celebrate this century of Paleoecology made in Bern. The overall theme of the event is “State of the art of the scientific field and outlook to future directions and developments of Paleoecology”. The conference will include sessions dedicated to ”Scales and Proxies”; “Quantification, Modelling and Theory of Paleoecology”; “Paleoecology’s Human and Societal Dimensions” and “Implications of Paleoecology for Biodiversity and Conservation". Save the date!

Climate Career Evening

On 2 May 2019, the Climate Career Evening will take place at the Institute of Geography, starting at 17 h. ClimateAlumni will present their professional career in short, informal talks and will be around to answer questions at the following ice-breaker apéro. The program and registration procedure will follow in due time.


Three new research group leaders

The Oeschger Centre welcomes three new principals investigators and their research groups.

Margreth Keiler (Geomorphology, Natural Hazard and Risk Research group) is an Associated Professor for Geomorphology, Natural Hazards and Risk Research at the Institute of Geography and Co-Director of the Mobiliar Lab for for Natural Risks. Examples of her research interests are mass movements, risk and vulnerability assessments and management, and human-environment interactions in general.

Vincent Lam (Philosophy of science perspectives on the climate challenge group) is an SNF Professor. His SNF professorship research project is called The epistemology of climate change.  Among his research and teaching topics are philosophy of (climate) science and physics, epistemology, and also metaphysics.

Michael Sigl (Past volcanism and climate impact group) was awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant for his project called THERA (Timing of Holocene volcanic eruptions and their radiative aerosol forcing). His research interests are in climate change, 14C dating and high mountains.

Samuel Jaccard is chief scientist of GLACE expedition 

Samuel Jaccard (Paleoceanography and marine biogeochemistry group) will be chief scientist of the first complete circumnavigation expedition around Greenland (GLACE). The expedition will take place this coming summer. GLACE is organised by the Swiss Polar Institute. It is composed of 15 different, synergistic research projects, bringing together scientists from a wide range of disciplines and from around the globe. Research questions will target the physics, chemistry and biology of sea-ice, glaciers, lake sediments, terrestrial ecosystems, the ocean, and the sea floor. Samuel is responsible for the planning and implementation of the science plan and will oversee the science operations while on board.

Excellent master students

Anna Kulakovskaya and Thomas Rölli were the in the Graduate School of Climate Sciences in 2018. They year have been awarded the 2018 Oeschger Young Scientist’s Prize. In an interview, they talked about their reasons for doing a master’s degree in climate sciences. “What mattered most to me was the multidisciplinary approach”, Thomas Rölli said. Anna Kulakovskaya was particularly impressed by the attitude of the professors towards their students. “I really felt I was taken seriously.”

Anna Kulakovskaya   Thomas Rölli

William Cheung is the new OCCR visiting scientist

As of 1 September 2019, William Cheung will stay for four months at the OCCR as a visiting scientist. He will be hosted by the Ocean Modelling group. William is an Associate Professor at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. His main research addresses the key challenges in understanding and predicting the responses of marine natural-human systems to global changes.

He is involved in international and regional initiatives that bridge science and policy. He was a Lead Author in the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and a Coordinating Lead Author in the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). He serves as member of the editorial board of Fish and Fisheries, Fisheries Oceanography and Frontier in Marine Sciences, and as scientific advisors in a number of international organizations including BioDiscovery, IUCN and WWF Canada.

Climate field reconstructions through evolutionary algorithms

Fernando Jaume Santero from Universidad Complutense de Madrid is currently visiting the OCCR’s Climatology group as part of his PhD. With a solid background in physics from his BSc, he has specialised in paleoclimatology during his master's degree in atmospheric sciences at Université du Québec à Montréal in Canada.

His work within the The Stratospheric and Tropospheric REsearch And Modeling (STREAM) group of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid is focused on the optimization of last millennium climate field reconstructions through evolutionary algorithms, and the analysis of regional climates by means of sparse climate datasets. Don’t hesitate to get in contact with Fernando to discuss his work!

Researchers who have recently joined the OCCR:

Mathias Aschwanden is a new PhD with the Past volcanism and climate impact group. He did a Master in Environmental Sciences at ETH Zürich with a thesis entitled "Multi-millennial Changes in the Meridional Overturning Circulation in a Warming Climate". His PhD project is on "Analysing ocean extreme events using a high resolution Earth system model".

Angela-Maria Burgdorf is a new PhD with the Climatology group. She did her Master’s studies in Geography at the University of Bern and wrote her thesis at Monash University in Melbourne (Australia), where she focused on the influence of stratospheric ozone depletion on precipitation in the Southern Hemisphere. In her PhD project, she is focusing on the variability of the global monsoon systems and their relation to sea-surface temperatures and tropical volcanic eruptions during the past 500 years.  

Ariane Balmer is a new Postdoc with the Prehistory Archeology group where she is part of the ERC Synergy EXPLO project as a senior Postdoc researcher and coordinator. She received her doctoral degree in Prehistoric Archaeology from the University of Zurich in 2012. Then she gained a Postdoc fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris and and a Postdoc fellowship from the Walter Benjamin Kolleg of the University of Bern. Subsequently she held a position as a scientific staff member and lecturer at the Institute of Pre- and Early History of the University of Heidelberg.

Giorgia Baffa is a new PhD with the Paleoecology group. She did a MSc in Ecology and Evolution, specialising in Plant Ecology at the University of Bern. Her thesis was entitled “Vegetation and fire history around Stagno di Sa Curcurica (north-eastern Sardinia, Italy): climate and human influences“. Her PhD project is on “Exploring prehistoric vegetational and agricultural dynamics using annually laminated sediment records from Central Italy (Lago di Mezzano)”

Barbora Jonášová is a new PhD with the Paleoecology group. She did a MSc in Botany at the University of South Bohemia, Öesk6 BudöJovics, Czsch Republic. The title of her thesis was. „Comparison of seed banks of different habitats in a floodplain of Luznice river identified by plant macrofossil analysis“. Her PhD project is on „Reconstructing prehistoric societal responses to environmental change in northern Greece and the southern Balkans using multiproxy high-resolution sedimentary time series“.

Elin Lundstad is a new PhD with the Climatology group. She did a Master’s in Earth Science at the University of Bergen, Norway and then worked for the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and the Norwegian hydropower company Statkraft.
Her PhD project is on “Variability of weather and climate since I700 from early instrumental observations”.

Marius Mayer is a new PhD with the Laboratory for the Analysis of Radiocarbon with AMS (LARA). He did a MSc in Physical Geography and Environmental Change at the University of Basel. His thesis was called „Assessing the effect of biochar on erosion by using a high precision rainfall simulator and testing isotope analysis“. His PhD project is on „Dynamics of carbon sequestration and stabilisation in an agricultural long-term trial – DynaCarb”.

Kathrin Naegeli is a new Postdoc with the Remote Sensing Research group. She did her PhD in the Alpine Cryosphere and Geomorphology Research Group of the University of Fribourg. Before starting in Bern, she researched glacier surface processes at the Centre for Glaciology at Aberystwyth University, Wales. She is contributing to the ESA CCI+ Snow project, which aims to map global daily snow-cover extent based on various satellite data sources and over a time period of almost 40 years.

Eric Samakinwa is a new PhD with the Climatology group. He obtained a Master’s degree in Environmental Physics from the University of Bremen, with a thesis focusing on modelling the mid-Pliocene warm period. For his PhD, he will be working within the framework of the ERC project PALAEO-RA by reconstructing sea-surface temperature back into the 15th century based on available reconstructions, proxies, as well as instrumental records. This will be used to drive an ocean model, and the resulting fields will be used to investigate mechanisms behind episodes of slowed and enhanced warming.

Yunuén Temoltzin Loranca is a new PhD with the Paleoecology group. She gained a MSc in Geology form the University of Regina (Canada) with a thesis entitled: “Palaeoenvironments and palaeoclimates during the late Holocene in Lake Siscunsí (Colombia), a multiproxy perspective”. Her PhD project is called „Digging deep into Lake Victoria’s past: 20,000 years of evolution and ecosystem dynamics in the world’s largest tropical lake reconstructed from sediment cores, fossils and ancient DANN“.

A warm welcome to all of you!

Researchers who have recently left the OCCR:

Raphael Felber, who was a scientific staff member with the Climate and Agriculture group is now a project leader in the field of air pollution control with the cantonal office for the environment in Zug.

Tiziana Domenica Pedrotta who was a scientific staff member with the with the Paleoecology group left for personal reasons.
Jonas Stegmaier has stopped his PhD in the Analytical Chemistry Research group left for personal reasons.

All the best for your future career!

Recent journal publications by OCCR members

See all the publications by OCCR members.