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Department of Geography

Past projects

SaFE – Safety and Field Education (2018)


Fieldwork is an important topic for all groups within the Department of Geography. While every group has its individual set of activities related to fieldwork, there are aspects that are not unique, thus shared across the different groups. The project aimed at encouraging the dialogue between and within the different research groups to share information and experiences, discuss preparation measures and how to cope with difficult situations in the field.

Further information

The Organizing committee: Alessandro Cicoira, Leonie Kiewiet, Nico Mölg, Gerald Raab and Sarah Speck

Who is behind your data? A conversation across geographic disciplines (2018)


The project aims at creating space for a dialogue to bundle and deepen the existing knowledge of participatory approaches at the Department and at fostering potential collaborations. For those dealing with participatory approaches this will be an opportunity to anchor their projects in the roots of Geography; for others this will be a good chance to gain insights into the subject.

To exchange experiences and knowledge, a one-day workshop will take place on March 9 2018 with a keynote speech by Dr. Matthias Stevens, a post-doctoral researcher at the Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) group at UCL. Further highlights of the workshop include presentations from GIUZ members about their experiences with collecting data from the public, as well as a roundtable discussion and group work by participants.

The workshop flyer can be downloaded here (PDF, 494 KB)

The Organizing committee: Olga Chesnokova, Muriel Côte, Ekaterina Egorova, Stefanie Müller, Ross Purves, Jan Seibert, Barbara Strobl & Frank Techel

Science down to Earth (2017)

dubai buildings

The project launched in 2017 aims at bringing together staff members of GIUZ to discuss current cross-disciplinary issues in science and research through a series of lunch talks.


The topics of the talks were:

  • Gender stereotypes and career development, accompanied by career coach Susanne Matuschek
  • Slow Science
  • When metrics matter
  • Workplace stress and academia
  • Supervision and leadership including an interactive performance with Forum Theater
  • Concluding session: Landscapes of tranquility and inspiration

The full programme can be downloaded here (PDF, 140 KB).

The Organizing committee: Muriel Côte, Suncana Laketa, Itta Bauer, Arzu Cöltekin, Alice Kern, Gwendolyn Leysinger Vieli, Veruska Muccione, Karin Schwiter, Flurina Wartmann, Miriam Wenner

The Anthropocene (2016)

dubai buildings

The Anthropocene, the so-called ‘geologic age of Man’, has become a key concept
driving research agendas across the earth and social sciences and has grasped the
public imagination far beyond the academy.
A one-day interdisciplinary symposium took place in November 2016 and brought together leading international scholars from the earth and social sciences to explore the concept’s emergence and varied reception across these domains and beyond.
It aimed to provide a platform to discuss the different epistemological and methodological frameworks within which knowledge of the Anthropocene is generated and the contested questions around its historical origins and social, political and philosophical importance. More information and video-recordings of the speakers are available on the workshop website.

The Organizing committee:

  • Rory Rowan (Political Geography)
  • Rogier de Jong (RSL/Earth System Science)
  • Mathis Kückens (Science and Sustainability Education)
  • Mathew Bukhi Mabele (Human Geography)

Reproducible research (2016)

tobias bolch at the workshop

In September 2016, a 2-day workshop took place, featuring external keynote speakers, short talks by GIUZ members, and hands-on sessions on reproducibility. The workshop brought together various groups across the Department to exchange ideas and best practices, taught participants skills like versioning and literate programming, and successfully raised awareness of the important and timely topic of reproduciblity in science. In the spirit of the workshop, all materials, including tutorials and slides from the keynotes and short talks, are publicly available on the workshop website.

The Organizing committee:

  • Pia Bereuter (GIScience)
  • Elise Acheson (GIScience)
  • Felix Morsdorf (RSL)
  • Manuela Brunner (Hydrology and Climate)
  • Annina Michel (Human Geography)

Observing water availability in Switzerland (2015)


The project started in fall 2015 and aimed at assessing water availability across ecosystems by integrating hydrological modeling and remote sensing of dynamic vegetation processes. It was led by:

  • Maria Staudinger, Hydrology and Climate (H2K)
  • Alexander Damm, Remote Sensing Laboratories (RSL)
  • Rogier de Jong, Remote Sensing Laboratories (RSL)

Topology in Geography - an Interdisciplinary Exploration (2015)


The InnoPool project on topology explored the ways topology is interpreted in different geographic subfields. In addition, the project aimed at exploring the possibility of integrating these interpretations into a framework that enables cross-disciplinary collaboration.

Martin Tomko, Katharina Pelzelmayer, Timothy Raeymaekers, Elisabeth Militz

Topology in Geography

Uncertainty in decision making in a changing climate (2013)

uncertainty  workshop

Uncertainty is an unavoidable component of decision making, with implications for all fields of climate research – from projections of future climate change, to assessments of regional impacts and vulnerabilities, to adaptation policy making. During the workshop organized by the InnoPool project on March 21-22 2013, nine speakers from academia, industry and government introduced the 50 participants to key aspects on the topic ranging from uncertainties in climate model scenarios to managing uncertainties in development agencies.

Addor, N., Ewen, T., Johnson, L., Çöltekin, A., Derungs, C., & Muccione, V. (2015):
From products to processes: Academic events to foster interdisciplinary and iterative dialogue in a changing climate. Earth's Future, article

Critical GIS and the production of geographic knowledge (2013)


This InnoPool project aims at bringing together people from different groups at GIUZ through reading & discussion groups, a workshop and colloquia. All events are open for GIUZ staff and MSc students. Participants will look into how the practice of GIScience can profit from including social theories and methodologies and how for example qualitative GIS can enrich human geographers understanding of the spatial dimensions in their work.

Critical GIS and the production of geographic knowledge

Friday's Food for Thought (FiFFTh) (2011-2013)


This InnoPool project aims at bringing the big picture into discussion and filling a gap by a new intellectual activity.

The project started in 2011 with a (1) monthly discussion club on a Friday during lunch hour to watch and discuss a TED talk or similar, (2) a bi-annual highlight event with invited inspiring speakers and (3) an annual session with GIUZ members presenting their ideas and reasoning once a year as short talks.

At the Grand Finale Event fall semester 2013 some GIUZ talks were video recorded. 

Arzu Çöltekin, Bart Klem, Glenda G. Santos, Maria Staudinger, and Stefano De Sabbata

Friday's Food for Thought

Seed Funding for an Undergraduate & Graduate Student Publishing Project

seeds and book

Through a shared publishing platform and printed annual volume, students profit from access to their peers’ excellent seminar papers, which often contain good summaries of readings as well as interesting – yet small – case studies. Consolidating and showcasing emergent knowledge and themes in the department make them available to a broader audience and add massive value to the Department. In a learning-by-doing process – and under initial guidance of experts– students become acquainted with the process of creating and publishing an edited volume of interest in print format.

Jennifer Bartmess (PGG), Tracy Ewen (H2K), Stephan Hochleithner (PGG), Gary Seitz (Library)

Introduction of a new technology in small agriculture systems: Biochar in India


The biochar technology has been recently proposed as one of the most promising technology to mitigate climate change as well as improve agricultural systems. It consists in producing a specific char out of organic wastes together with a gas usable as an energy. The char (named biochar) can be apply into the soil and there will reduce CO2 fluxes (greenhouse gas) to the atmosphere as well as improve soil fertility. Biochar is a technology that raises many expectations in terms of poverty reduction in small-scale farmers, particularly in places where the organic resources are existing and where agriculture is still an important economical sector.

If the theory is well established, the practical evidence that this system can be successful in reality are virtually absent. In particular, two questions are still pending:

  1. What are the physical levers one should considered before introducing this kind of technology in the field (physical geography aspects) ?
  2. What are the social structures that would welcome favorably such kind of structures (human geography aspects) ? 

This innopool project aims at selecting the right location from the physical and social point of view to start a large case study research project where a biochar production unit will be introduced in a village of India.

Light Use efficiency eXperiment – LUX: Testing ability of the xantophyll transformation sensitive optical indices to track dynamic of plant photosynthesis in various illumination and temperature conditions

comic sun

In this project, we wanted to take advantage of the RSL group expertise regarding spectral analysis of plant activity and 2B group expertise in plant physiology. In the field of remote sensing, indexes based on spectral properties are used to describe the vegetal biomass activity at regional scales. This is for example the case of the photochemical reflectance index (PRI), connected to the photoprotective transformation of xantophyll foliar pigments that regulates photosynthesis via thermal dissipation of excess light energy. However, the relationship between PRI and photosynthesis was shown to be inconsistent when measured at the level of whole canopy (disturbance of canopy structural effects) and in longer time period (disturbance of temporal changes in leaf chlorophyll content). Other indexes, more robust, have been proposed, but needs to be tested.

In this project, we want to test the following objectives:

  1. test their ability to track the photosynthetic activity of the small tree canopy under various illumination and temperature conditions in the controlled environment of the multi-labelling isotopes chambers (MICE).
  2. test different optical spectrum-derived indexes and test their relationship to photosynthesis.

InnoPool project team: Zbynek Malenovský, Ryan Christinger (RSL), Mirjam Studer, Samuel Abiven (Phys 2B)