Oeschger News (October 2015)

Postdoc positions funded by the OCCR

The Oeschger Centre wants to strengthen its position in the fields of regionalisation, impacts and human dimension of climate change. The scientific committee has therefore decided to finance new Postdoc positions in the following groups: Hydrology (1 full position), Environmental Policy Analysis (1), Terrestrial Paleoecology (0.5), Earth System ModelingBio-Geo-Chemical Cycles (1).

New funds for Graduate School students

The University Board of Directors has decided to return the examination fees of Graduate School students to the OCCR. These extra financial resources will go back to the students in different ways. Firstly, an annual award for the best master’s degree will be awarded as of January 2016. It consists of CHF 1’500. Secondly, the funds will be used to finance a course on scientific writing for PhD students. The course is taught by Craig Hamilton, lecturer with the Academic English Services at the University of Bern and will take place in the spring semester 2016, an announcement will follow.

Markus Fischer plays lead role in the IPBES

Switzerland is about to take a lead role in the IPBES Regional Assessment for Europe and Central Asia that is under preparation by the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services IPBES. The Assessment will be co-led by OCCR member Markus Fischer (Plant Ecology group), Maka Bitsadze (WWF Georgia) and Mark Rounsevell (University of Edinburgh). The IPBES Technical Support Unit for the Regional Assessment for Europe and Central Asia will be hosted by the Institute of Plant Sciences at the University of Bern.

Successful bids for infrastructure grants

In a one-time initiative, the University Board of Directors has made available an amount of CHF 4 millions to be used for investments in research infrastructure. Several OCCR research groups were successful in their bids for this financial assistance. Four groups (Climatology, Earth System Modeling – Bio-Geo-Chemical Cycles, Mobiliar Group for Climate Change Impact Research, Earth System Modeling – Atmosphere Ocean Dynamics) joined forces to install a new storage system with a capacity of 2 Petabytes. The joint use of storage space and of common data sets increases flexibility to satisfy the changing needs of the users in a cost-efficient way. Data sets stored will include results from Earth System Models, Regional Climate Models, climate reanalysis systems, and observational data sets. The system will permit the Oeschger Centre to remain at the forefront in climate and Earth System modelling and it will allow the OCCR to address a wide range of scientific problems related to climate variability, extreme events, or biogeochemical processes in a warming world.

Thanks to this extraordinary, funding the Laboratory for the Analysis of Radiocarbon with AMS (LARA) will be able to set up a preparative gas chromatography system, enabling the separation of organic substances for compound-specific radiocarbon analysis. This system will be used for the purification of methane extraction from environmental compartments. At a later stage, it shall be used for isolating substances of terrestrial origin in order to improve dating of lake sediments with a complex mixture of origins of organic matter.

Behind the scenes of Paris 2015

From 30 November to 11 December 2015, the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) will take place in Paris. The head of the Swiss delegation, Franz Perrez, will be a guest at the OCCR right after the end of this crucial conference for the future of international climate politics. In his talk “The steep road to a legally binding climate agreement: Where from now?” Franz Perrez will provide first hand information on Paris 2015. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to get a glimpse behind the scenes of COP21. The event takes place on 14 December 2014, 16:15-18:00, Kuppelsaal, Main building, University of Bern, Hochschulstrasse 4. An apéro will be offered after the talk.

Successful flood protection

What’s the key to effective flood protection? And what factors lead to successful projects? These are some of the questions that will be raised and discussed at a public event on 12 November 2015 organized by the Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks, a research institution created by the OCCR and the Swiss Mobiliar insurance company in 2013. The event comprises talks by researchers and representatives of the different political levels in charge of Swiss flood protection as well as a roundtable discussion.

“Was macht Hochwasserschutzprojekte erfolgreich?” takes place on 12 November 2015, 17:00 – 19:00 at the Institute of Geography, room 001, Hallerstrasse 12, 3012 Bern.

Euro-Climhist goes public

Euro-Climhist is an online data base which provides access to climate related historical documents in Switzerland back to 1500. This ambitious project has been realized over several years by the OCCR’s group for Environmental History and Historical Climatology. The relaunch of Euro-Climhist will be celebrated at Auditorium F022, Unitobler, Lerchenweg 36, 3012 Bern, on 26 November 2015, 17:15. The detailed program will be announced.

Group for Quaternary Climate Geology closed

In 2012, OCCR member Dominik Fleitmann accepted a professorship at the University of Reading (UK). After his last PhD student in Bern has finished her thesis, the OCCR's group for Quaternary Climate Geology has now been closed. At Reading, Dominik is a professor of Palaeoclimatology and Archaeology and director of the the Scientific Archaeology Research Group. In addition, he is a member of the University of Reading's Centre for Past Climate Change and its Walker Institute. Dominik remains affiliated to the OCCR as a Corresponding Member. To keep in touch, see his personal website.

Nomination for transdisciplinary award

The MontanAqua project team led by OCCR member Rolf Weingartner (PI Hydrology group) was nominated for the swiss-academies award for transdisciplinary research. This award is the most generously endowed conferred by the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences. In the end, MontanAqua was placed second in the contest. The scientific achievements of the project in the field of transdisciplinary research were highly rated by described by the jury: ”The team with Professor Weingartner at the University of Bern submitted a compelling project that addresses the subject of water scarcity in the Alps and that was carried out in the framework of the National Research Programme NFP61 Sustainable Water Management. For their work, the researchers enlisted the help of various local actors active in the area of water-resource management. They jointly examined development scenarios and alternative approaches to adapting the existing water-management practices.”

Actors join scientists on the Science Live Tour

Several OCCR members were part of the so called Science Live Tour organized to celebrate the 200 anniversary of the Swiss Academy of Sciences SCNAT this year. OCCR researchers initiated five thematic walks on topics such as floods, phenology and cloud pictures in Bern and Basel. These events were an extension of the outreach project OpenNature.ch created by the OCCR’s Climatology group. The walks not only provided scientific information, but an artists view on the presented facts as well. Two improvisation actors developed scenes and dialogues on the spot – to the delight of the approximately 120 visitors who joined the walks. “In our view”, says project coordinator This Rutishauser of the Climatology group, “working with improvisation actors is an excellent way to do science communication.”

Researchers who have recently joined the OCCR:

Yannick Barton is a new PhD student at the Mobiliar Group for Climate Change Impact Research group. He did a MSc in climate sciences at the University of Bern with a thesis entitled „Clustering of extreme precipitation events in Switzerland“. His PhD project is called „Improvement of a radar-related precipitation data set and its application for the analysis of sub-daily processes.
Christophe Espic is a new PhD student at the Laboratory for the Analysis of Radiocarbon with AMS (LARA). He is going to investigate the sources of atmospheric methane in the carbon cycle, which are diverse and parts of which are poorly quantified. He will classify methane from Swiss fresh waters, wetlands and the atmosphere according to its level of the long-lived radioisotope radiocarbon (14C). This work is supported by the Dr. Alfred Bretscher Fonds.
Julian Laabs is a new PhD student in the group of OCCR adjunct researcher Albert Hafner (Institute of Archaeological Science). Julian did a MSc in Prehistoric and Historic Archaeology and Geography at Kiel University. His thesis project is entitled “Modelling of population density, land use and land cover in the Neolithic and Bronze Age of Western Switzerland”. The thesis is part of the international project “Beyond lake settlements: Studying Neolithic environmental changes and human impact at small lakes in Switzerland, Germany and Austria” and financed by the SNSF.
Ece Satar is a new PhD student in the Environmental Isotopes and Gases group. She gained a MSc in Climate Sciences at the University of Bern with a thesis entitled „Evaluation of the data from the CarboCount CH site at Beromünster, Switzerland“.

Karl Voglmeier is a new a PhD student in the Climate/Air Pollution group. He did his MSc in Meteorology at the University of Innsbruck. His research interests are in boundary layer meteorology, and his PhD thesis is part of the SNSF project NiceGras – “Nitrogen Cycling and Emissions of Grazing Systems” led by Christof Ammann. The project will investigate the N use efficiency and gaseous emissions (ammonia and greenhouse gases) of two rotational grazing systems.

A warm welcome to all of you!

Researchers who have recently left the OCCR:

Anamaria Häuselmann who finished her PhD thesis “Late Quaternary and Holocene paleoclimate and paleoenvironmental reconstructions – a multi-proxy approach on Swiss speleothems” at the Quaternary Climate Geology group.

Gideon Gfeller who finished his PhD thesis “What controls chemical aerosol signals in Greenland ice cores?” at the Past Climate and Biogeochemical Studies on Ice Cores group.

All the best for your future career!