October 2019

 General News 





General News

New PostDoc positions funded by the OCCR

The Oeschger Centre’s Scientific Committee has decided to fund two new PostDoc positions in fields of strategical importance for the OCCR. The first position deals with the statistics of “compound events”, a topic which is constantly gaining scientific interest. The second position is about  “urban climatology”, a topic shifting into the focus of both the scientific community and the general public, e.g. in the context of  Swiss climate adaptation strategies.

Huge media interest in OCCR Nature papers

“The climate is warming faster than it has in the last 2000 years” and “Volcanoes shaped the climate before humankind” read the titles of two media releases issued by the University of Bern on 24 July 2019. The releases highlighted studies lead by OCCR researchers Raphael Neukom (Lake Sediments and Paleolimnology group) and Stefan Brönnimann (Climatology group) published on the same day in Nature and Nature Geoscience. These items of information have arguably been the most widely cited media releases issued by the University of Bern this year. They were quoted almost 300 times in media outlets including the BBC, and leading newspapers such as Le Monde from France and the Brazilian daily Folha de São Paulo. Read the media releases (Climate is warming faster), (Volcanoes shaped climate).

Raphael Neukom

Excellent start for interdisciplinary flagship project


EXPLO (Exploring the dynamics and causes of prehistoric land use change in the cradle of European farming) is an interdisciplinary flagship project of the OCCR. It was awarded an “ERC Synergy Grant” and is supported by the EU with €6.4 million. The project was initiated by Alfred Hafner (Prehistory Archeology group) and Willy Tinner (Palaeoecology group). They can look back to a fruitful first field season on Lake Ohrid in North Macedonia.

The team has already taken samples from about 800 piles – the remains of settlements from the Neolithic and Bronze ages. The first EXPLO results show that the pile dwellings are much older than thought. Previously, they were thought to have been built between 1200 BC and 700 BC. The OCCR researchers have identified three settlement phases: 4400 BC, 1800 BC, and 1400 BC. However, they have also found much older settlements, established between 6000 BC and 5000 BC. See the long read (“Diving and Sawing in the Bay of Bones”) on a visit to the project that was first published in the University of Bern’s science magazine UniPress.

Climate Change and Health

Ana Vicedo-Cabrera

The interdisciplinary research group “Climate Change and Health (C2H): Our Planet - Our Health” is operational now. C2H has been jointly established by the OCCR and the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine of the University of Bern. The leader of this new junior research group, Ana Vicedo-Cabrera started in September and will now build up her group.

Ana is trained in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Environmental Toxicology, and Epidemiology and has been working as an Assistant Professor in Environmental Epidemiology and Statistics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine up to now. Her research focus is on the impact of ambient temperature on health outcomes. She also evaluates the current and future impacts of climate change on health. With her new research group, Ana Vicedo-Cabrera will address research topics such as heat waves and mortality in Switzerland, temperature-related hospitalization for respiratory diseases as well as temperature changes and incidence of vector-borne diseases.

Financial support for Oldest Ice from SNSF

The EU project "Beyond EPICA – Oldest Ice", in which OCCR members play a central role, aims to drill a core in 1.5-million-year old ice in Antarctica. An analysis of the climate data stored in the ice should contribute to a better understanding of the alternation between warm and cold climate periods. The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has now decided to support an infrastructure project called “Beyond EPICA: Oldest Ice Core - The Swiss Contribution” with an amount of CHF 5.7 million. The project is led by Thomas Stocker (Earth System Modelling – Climate Dynamics group) and Hubertus Fischer (Past Climate and Biogeochemical Studies on Ice Cores group).

Round table discussion on climate strike

Never before the general public seemed to be more interested in climate change matters than today – and as the elections for the Swiss federal parliament are approaching, the topic gets an extra boost of interest. Therefore, it’s no wonder that climate researchers are sought-after guests in public debates these days. Within the University of Bern for example, a round table discussion on the climate strike movement took place which brought together several OCCR members. On 18 September Olivia Romppainen (Mobiliar Group for Climate Impact Research), Martin Grosjean (Lake Sediments and Paleolimnology group), Silvia Schroer (vice rector for sustainability) and political scientist Adrian Vatter participated in a lively discussion that was moderated by Kaspar Meuli (OCCR Management Center). Read a story on the round-table discussion in the University of Bern’s web-journal uniaktuell.

Climate strike

Talented high school students visit the OCCR

The OCCR was part of this year’s “Science Olympiad Day” on 14 September at the University of Bern. Scientific Olympiads are competitions for specially interested and talented high school students. In Switzerland alone, some 4’000 students participate in workshops and competitions in nine different fields throughout the year. The best of these participants meet at the end of the season for a special celebration.  This year, it included a glimpse into climate science provided by the Oeschger Centre. OCCR researchers Hélène Barras (Mobiliar Group for Climate Impact Research), Jörg Franke (Climatology group) and Martin Grosjean (Lake Sediments and Paleolimnology group) held different workshops for a very interested audience of potential future climate researchers.

Science Olympiad Day
(Illustration by Karin Widmer on behalf of Science Olympiad)

New project on PaleoGenes

Christoph Schwörer (Palaeoecology group) has been awarded a grant of CHF 200’000 for a project called PaleoGenes (“Exploring the impact of past climatic change on the genetic diversity of Swiss mountain forests: combining paleoecological and paleogenetic approaches”) by the SwissForestLab. The SwissForestLab is a research platform and infrastructural network for forest research. It is funded and hosted by the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL). The project summary reads: “Mountain forests are strongly affected by temperature and are expected to shift upslope with the current climate change, but little is known about the impact of such range shifts and altered selection pressures on the genetic diversity of tree populations. PaleoGenes will undertake large-scale ancient DNA analyses of subfossil tree remains to reveal, for the first time, the evolutionary responses of mountain tree populations to past climate change.”

E-learning: From historical climate data to hazard maps

Stefan Brönnimann (Climatology group) has released an e-learning tool for weather reconstructions within the PALAEO-RA project. With this tool, students and anyone interested can learn how historical manuscript data can eventually be transformed into complex climate information such as hazard maps. The tool focuses on sources of uncertainty and the application of reanalysis data and other data products in a meaningful way. Data can be downloaded for analyses in statistical software and visualization tools. In addition, introduction videos give a concise overview of each of the three sections of the tool: Historical Climate DataReanalysis as well as Downscaling and Applications.


Workshop on Comparing Climate Change Policy

The 2019 edition of “Comparing Climate Change Policy Networks” (COMPON) will take place in Bern between  22 and 25 October 2019. The COMPON workshop gathers junior and senior researchers from different countries. The purpose is to deliberate methodologies, data collection, future research collaborations, and the future development of the common COMPON project, currently spanning more than 20 countries. The COMPON project is an international project that exists since 2007. Its focus is on investigating and comparing the social and policy responses to mitigate climate change.

Pioneering work on hail

On 13 November 2019, the OCCR’s Mobiliar Lab for Natural Risks organizes a public event on hail in Switzerland (in German). The event on pioneering work includes lectures by OCCR members Olivia Romppainen and Hélène Barras. It takes place at the Alpine Museum in Bern and starts at 16:30h. See the details.

Workshop on Remote Sensing of the Cryosphere

On 3 ‐ 5 February 2020, a workshop entitled “Remote Sensing of the Cryosphere: Monitor what is vanishing” will take place in Bern. As the cryosphere of the Earth is undergoing dramatic changes, it will focus on the latest developments in remote sensing of land ice and snow. Glaciers are retreating at accelerated rates and snow cover distribution and duration is changing with many significant side‐effects (run‐off, permafrost, albedo, etc.). In this context, remote Sensing can provide the required data to study these changes of the cryosphere.

100 years of Palaeoecology in Bern

Centenary Palaeoecology Symposium 2020 Logo

Palaeoecology was introduced at the University of Bern in 1920, when Walter Rytz became a biology professor. In his habilitation thesis about the “Floristic History of the Bernese hills between the Alps and the Jura mountains”) he had studied the postglacial relationship between climate and vegetation changes. The OCCR’s Palaeoecology group will celebrate this centenary with a two-day international symposium on 8 – 9 June 2020. It is called “From the past to the future - 100 years of Palaeoecology in Bern”.

The symposium aims to provide an overview of the state-of-the-art in palaeoecology, with an outlook on the direction the field may take in the coming years. In its sessions, the symposium will focus on the following topics: Scales and Proxies, Quantification, Modeling and Theory of Palaeoecology, Palaeoecology’s Human and Societal Dimension, Implications of Palaeoecology for Biodiversity and Conservation.
More detailed information will follow soon.

Conference on Contaminated Sediments

The 2nd International Conference on Contaminated Sediments ContaSed2020 will take place on 14 – 18 June 2020 in Bern. It will focus on organic and inorganic sediment contaminant classes including microplastics, emerging conta­minants, heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants. Contributions dealing with empirical or modelling studies are invited to the following sessions: From source to sink: transport and deposition of contaminants in sediments; Assessing risks of contaminants in sediments: methodologies and ecotoxicological case studies; Analytical tools and methods for assessing sediment contamination; Fate of contaminants in depositional settings; Sediments as archives of historical pollution. Deadline for abstract submission: 15 January 2020.

Summer School on extreme weather and climate

The Swiss Climate Summer School 2020 takes place on 23 - 28 August 2020, Grindelwald, Switzerland. It focuses on the theme “Extreme weather and climate: from atmospheric processes to impacts on ecosystems and society”. This theme has been chosen due to its paramount importance in terms of both scientific challenges and pressing societal concerns. Always with a focus on extreme weather and climate, the specific topics include: The atmospheric perspective and the impacts perspective, Atmospheric processes and statistical concepts, Impacts of extreme events on humans, ecosystems, and society. Deadline for application is 10 January 2020.

Ice Core Sciences Conference in Crans Montana

The International Partnership in Ice Core Sciences conference will take place in the Swiss alpine resort of Crans Montana on 18 – 23 October 2020. The 3rd IPICS Open Science Conference is organized by Margit Schwikowski (Analytical Chemistry Research group) and Hubertus Fischer (Past Climate and Biogeochemical Studies on Ice Cores group). The theme of the conference is “Ice Core Science at the three Poles”. This title is a reference to the pioneering work of Hans Oeschger on carbon dioxide in polar ice cores. Less known is that he also initiated a high-alpine drilling project on Colle Gnifetti in Switzerland in the 1970s. IPICS wants to acknowledge Hans Oeschger’s important contribution to these two fields of ice core research and to foster the link between the corresponding communities.


Thomas Frölicher lead author of the SROCC

Thomas Frölicher (Ocean Modelling group) was a lead author of the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC), which was published on September 25. In an interview with the University of Bern’s web-journal uniaktuell, he said “this special climate report is highly topical and necessary”, he explained his role as lead author and talked about how he came to explore heat waves in the sea as an inhabitant of a landlocked country. Read the full interview.

Sam Jaccard becomes a member of polar research committee

Sam Jaccard (Paleoceanography and marine biogeochemistry group) was elected as a member of the Swiss Committee on Polar and High Altitude Research, which is a committee of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences (SCNAT). The Committee provides the legal body to represent Switzerland on an international level in the field of  polar and high altitude research and, among other activities, promotes the career of young scientists in the fields of Polar and High Altitude research by the attribution of the De Quervain Prize.

Eri Amsler wins poster award at ICP

Eri Amsler, who is a PhD student at the Paleoceanography and marine biogeochemistry group, was awarded the Best Poster Award at the 13th International Conference on Paleoceanography (ICP), which took place in Sydney, Australia, 2 – 6 September 2019. Her presentation was entitled “Variations in near-bottom flow of ACC during past glacial cycle in SW Indian Ocean”.

Sandra Brügger featured in PNAS blog

A paper by Sandra Brügger (Palaeoecology group) published in the Quaternary Science Reviews was presented in the “Journal Club” of the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The PNAS blog highlights papers selected by Academy members. The post on the OCCR paleoecologist is entitled “Pollen frozen in a glacier reveals the legacy of human impacts in the heart of the Inca Empire” and describes how Sandra Brügger used grains of pollen frozen in the Illimani glacier to reconstruct thousands of years of vegetation change in the habitats below it. The Illimani sits between the city of La Paz, Bolivia, on one side, and the Amazon basin, on the other. “It was undoubtably a very different landscape some 550 years ago”, the post reads, “when the glacier towered over the heart of the Inca Empire. Indeed, researchers have long debated the extent to which the Inca and other indigenous peoples changed their surroundings.”

Dania Achermann’s historical research on the work of Hans Oeschger

Dania Achermann has joined the OCCR group Environmental and Climate History. With her SNSF Ambizione grant, she will conduct a project called "Ice Cores, Small States and Global Climate Change: The rise of a new scientific discipline". From a history of science perspective, the project examines the seminal work of the two scientists Hans Oeschger and Willy Dansgaard, who contributed to the rise of ice core research as a new field in climate science between the 1950s and 1980s. Dania Achermann holds an MA in General History from the University of Zurich and a PhD in History of Science and Technology from Aarhus University, Denmark, and from the Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany. She is particularly interested in the history of climate and atmospheric sciences as well as ice and snow research. To conduct her SNSF project, she is taking leave of absence from her position as Assistant Professor at Wuppertal University, Germany.

Franziska Lechleitner joins LARA

Franziska Lechleitner

Franziska Lechleitner investigates terrestrial ecosystem dynamics and their response to past climate change by analysis of radiocarbon and stable carbon isotopes in stalagmites. She was recently awarded with an Ambizione grant by the SNSF, which allows her to study the potential of organic matter in stalagmites as a tracer of local ecosystem responses to climate change. For this purpose, she will join the OCCR’s Laboratory for the Analysis of Radiocarbon with AMS (LARA) in 2020.

Researchers who have recently joined the OCCR:

Peter Abbott is a new Postdoc in the Climate and Environmental Physics Group, working for the Past Climate and Biogeochemical Studies on Ice Cores. Peter obtained his master in Quaternary Science at Royal Holloway University of London analyzing tephra in the Southern Adriatic Sea. He obtained his PhD at Swansea University in the Department of Geography synchronizing marine records from North-Atlantic and ice cores from Greenland using tephra. He formerly held postdoc positions at St. Andrews University and Swansea University before he was granted a Marie-Curie Fellowship at the University of Cardiff and the University of Bern (Department of Geology).
Peter’s research focus is on the analysis of the crypto-tephra contained in polar ice cores with the aim of identifying their volcanic sources, characterize their climate impact potential, and to constrain the size/frequency relation of large volcanic eruptions in space and time. His work is part of the ERC funded project entitled “THERA: Timing of Holocene volcanic eruptions and their radiative aerosol forcing”.

Miriam Andres is a new scientific staff member with the Quaternary Geology and Paleoclimatology group. She manages the swissdrilling.ch coordination office.

Dino Collalti is a new PhD with the Climate and Environmental Economics group. He did a master in applied economic analysis at the University of Bern with a thesis on the occurrence probability and economic costs of extreme precipitation events in the Caribbean. His research interest are in the use of remote sensing data to quantify economic risk in extreme value analysis, the modeling of natural hazard’s spatial dependency via copulas as well as in the quantification of climate and health related economic externalities.

Mauro Fischer is new Postdoc with the Geomorphology, Natural Hazards and Risk Research group. He did a MSc in Physical Geography at the University of Zurich and gained his PhD in Glaciology at the University of Fribourg. His latest position was a Postdoc at the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) at the University of Zurich.

Kathrin Ganz is a new PhD with the Paleoecology group. Before studying Climate Sciences, she did a MSc in Ecology at the University of Zurich in collaboration with the Swiss Ornithological Institute. Her thesis was entitled "Feathers as a temporal archive to study lead exposure and stress events in golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) – potential and constraints". Kathrin’s research focus is on exploring the consequences of land use for the wider ecosystem including vegetation composition, structure and resilience, species diversity and ecosystem sensitivity, e.g. to human disturbance and climate change at the time of the Mesolithic / Neolithic transition in Greece and the southern Balkans. The working title of her PhD thesis is “Reconstructing prehistoric vegetation, biodiversity and fire dynamics in relation to changes in human land use and climate in Greece and the southern Balkans”.

Julie Jebeile is a new Postdoc with the Philosophy of science perspectives on the climate challenge group. She is a philosopher of science and a social epistemologist with an initial background in fundamental physics and a first professional experience as a neutronics engineer. In her philosophical work, her general interest is to account for how scientific representations, including mathematical models, computer simulations and visual representations, enable scientists to investigate and explain complex phenomena. In her PhD, Julie addressed the problem of epistemic opacity in simulation models that contravenes scientific understanding. Thereafter, she focused on climate modeling and climate expertise more broadly. She studied how IPCC authors manage to write down unified and consistent reports while they disagree on some topics. Her most recent perspective is about assessing the benefits of using multi-model ensembles (from CMIP) for quantifying climate uncertainties, drawing the most accurate climate projections, and exploring possible future climates.


Katrina Kremer is a scientific assistant in a SNF Sinergia project of the Quaternary Geology and Paleoclimatology group.

Natacha Le Grix is a new PhD with the Ocean Modelling group. She did a MSc in Oceanography at Sorbonne Université and the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris with a thesis entitled "Variability in the deep water outflow at the Filchner Sill, Weddell Sea, Antarctica". Natacha’s research focus is on past and future changes in oceanic compound extreme events. The working title of her PhD Thesis is “Compound events in the ocean”.

Maria Leunda is a new Postdoc with the Paleoecology group. She did a PhD in Geology at the University of Zaragoza and the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology (E), looking at millennial scale vegetation and fire dynamics at high altitudes in the Central Pyrenees. She will work in the PaleoGenes project using ancient DNA, pollen and macrofossils to study the impact of past climatic changes on the genetic diversity of mountain forests.

Thibault Moulin is a new Postdoc with the Climate and Agriculture Group at Agroscope and studies the impact of global climate change on Swiss forage production by utilization of mathematical model. He did his PhD in applied mathematics / theoretical ecology at the University of Bourgogne.

Tatjana Münster is a new PhD in the Analytical Chemistry Research group at the Paul Scherrer Institute. She did a MSc in Earth Sciences at the Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg, Germany with a thesis entitled: “Cultural history in a climatic context – Soot layers in stalagmites”. Tatjana has been working as a project assistant in the working group “Physics of Isotopologues” at the Institute of Environmental Physics, Ruprecht-Karls-University, Heidelberg (DE). Her current field of work is the preparation of carbonate samples for the measurement of stable isotopes and clumped isotopes.

Axel Murk from the Atmospheric Radiometry and Processes group has become an Oeschger Member. He has been leading the THz Optics group at the Institute of Applied Physics of the University of Bern where he played a key role in the development of microwave radiometers for atmospheric remote sensing. He was also involved in different space missions, including the development of the on-board calibration system of the microwave radiometers MWS and ICI on Europe's Second Generation Meteorological Operational Satellites (MetOP-SG), and he is Co-I of the SWI instrument on ESA's Jupiter mission JUICE. Since August 2018 he is the head of the IAP Microwave Physics Division.

Eric Sauvegat is a new PhD with the Atmospheric Radiometry and Processes group. He did his MSc in Energy Management and Sustainability at the EPFL Lausanne with an emphasis on hydrology and atmospheric science. After his MSc thesis on atmospheric and blowing snow processes in East Antarctica, he did an internship at the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology. He will be working on the homogenization of the measurement series of two ozone radiometers operated by Meteoswiss and the University of Bern.

Shauna-kay Rainford is a new Postdoc with the Paleoecology group. After completing her dissertation entitled "An integrative assessment of soil organic carbon dynamics in wetland environments" at the Pennsylvania State University (USA), she has joined the Institute of Plant Sciences of the University of Bern to investigate prehistoric vegetation dynamics using annually laminated lake sediment records from Central and Southern Europe.

Vilane Sales is a new Postdoc with the Climate and Environmental Economics group. She studied Economics at the Federal Rural University of Pernambuco in Brazil and holds an MPhil in Administration and Rural Development from the Federal Rural University of Pernambuco (BR). Vilane gained her PhD in Economics from the University of Birmingham (UK) with three essays on the economics and effectiveness of the environmental policies implemented in Brazil with the aim of taking into account possible barriers that contribute to the net forest loss. Her research interests include evaluation and analysis of environmental policies, econometric applications to environmental studies, as well as big data analysis and remote sensing analysis. She currently works on a project called “Estimating the Economic Impact of flash floods and landslides from Remote Sensing Data”.

Gunter Stober is a senior Postdoc with the Atmospheric Radiometry and Processes group. Before coming to Bern, he was with the Leibniz-Institute for Atmospheric Physics, Kuehlungsborn, where he investigated atmospheric processes with different remote sensing techniques including meteor radar, lidar and satellite data. His research interests are remote sensing, middle atmosphere dynamics, solar cycle effects, meteor earth environment and longterm changes of the middle atmosphere. He will be analyzing stratospheric wind and temperature observations from the groundbased microwave radiometers. 

Jens Terhaar is a new Postdoc in the Ocean Modelling group. He did his PhD at the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l`Environnement (F) and at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (B) with a thesis entitled “'Effects of riverine delivery of nutrients and carbon on the biogeochemistry of the Arctic Ocean”. His field of research is the biogeochemistry of the ocean, mainly focused on high-latitude oceans. Areas of special interests are the carbon uptake of the ocean and associated ocean acidification, but also the land-ocean aquatic continuum and the influence of terrestrial carbon and nutrients on the coastal ocean.

A warm welcome to all of you!

Researchers who have recently left the OCCR:

Seraina Bassin, who was a scientific staff member with the Climate and Agriculture group is now Dozentin für Fachdidaktik at PH Schaffhausen, Switzerland.

Sandra Brügger, who was a PhD with the Palaeoecology group moved to the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada, USA now with an Early Postdoc.Mobility grant.
Olivier Cartapanis, who was a Postdoc with the Paleoceanography and marine biogeochemistry group.
Linda Frossard, who was a Postdoc with the Mobiliar Group for Climate Impact Research.
Michael Hilbe, who was a Postdoc with the Quaternary Geology and Paleoclimatology group now works Amt für Statistik Vaduz, Liechtenstein.
Sina Lenggenhager, who was a PhD with the Mobiliar Group for Climate Impact Research is now with SF Meteo, Zurich, Switzerland.
Jörg Rickli, who was a Postdoc with the Paleoceanography and marine biogeochemistry group moved to ETH Zurich, Switzerland.
Veronika Röthlisberger, who was a PhD with the Geomorphology, Natural
Hazards and Risk Research group, is now with Amt für Wald, Jagd und Fischerei, Kanton Solothurn.    
Mareike Trauerstein, who was a Postdoc with the Quaternary Geology and Paleoclimatology group now works for the sustainability consultant firm Neosys, in Gerlafingen, Switzerland.
Matthias Vonwiller, who was a PhD with the Laboratory for the Analysis of Radiocarbon with AMS (LARA) is now with the Amt für Umweltschutz und Energie des Kantons Basel-Landschaft, Liestal, Switzerland.

Helga Weber, who was a PhD and Postdoc in the Remote Sensing group is now a Visiting Scientist with the EUMETSAT CM SAF Climate Monitoring. Hosted by the DWD, she works on the accuracy assessment of long-term satellite data for Essential Climate Variables.

All the best for your future career!

Recent journal publications by OCCR members

See all the publications by OCCR members.