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Department of Geography

Simon Hirschhofer
Simon Hirschhofer
PhD candidate

Geographic Information Systems

Room number: Y25 J 92

Research Interests

  • The study of bird migration by radar
  • The understanding of how distinct spatial features influence migration patterns
  • The application of advanced data analysis tools to do so

Current research

  • Migratory birds are increasingly suffering from population declines. The most detrimental factors are of anthropogenic source.
  • Light pollution is among these factors. It seems to cause attraction and disorientation during flights, but most birds appear to be highly sensitive when searching a suitable sites to stop over, rest, and feed. This however is bad news, because urban areas are often related with low resource availability, which in the end lead to prolonged stop over durations, exposure to a whole set of other threats (like cats, and collisions with buildings).
  • To protect migrating birds, we need to know when and where to expect high migration activity. After all, the most accepted conservation measures are those that affect humans the least - thus, dynamic measures might increase acceptance and with that, efficiancy.
  • Because most birds migrate at night, we therefore use ornithological radar - highly specialized devices that help us quantify birds and get insight into their flight behaviour.
  • We deployed four of these radars at the coast of Croatia, where several important migration routes intersect. Despite its importance, the region remains understudied by radar until now.
  • "Migration in the Light" is a collaborative research project between the Department of Geography (UZH), the Swiss Ornithological Institute, and local assistants to investigate...
    • ...when to expect highest migration intensities along the Croatian coast.
    • these migration intensities are influenced by and might change with increasing light pollution.
    • ...and whether there already is an influence of light pollution on bird stopover densities.


Hirschhofer, S. et al. (2023) ‘High‐intensity bird migration along Alpine valleys calls for protective measures against anthropogenically induced avian mortality’, Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation [Preprint]. Available at:

Media articles


2022 – present University of Zurich, Swiss Ornithological Institute
PhD in Geographic Information Science
Research topic: the influence of light pollution on bird migration patterns
2021 University of Zurich M.Sc. in Geography, specialized in Geographic Information Science
Master thesis: The Alps – A real Barrier for Bird Migration?
2019 University of Zurich
B.Sc. in Geography and Biology
2012 Alte Kantonsschule Aarau
Matura with focus on Biology, Chemistry and Arts