Summer internship at Agroscope: insights into agroecology and environment

Agroscope, affiliated to the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG), is the federal competence center for agri­cultural research. During my summer internship, I worked in the laboratory and in the field, and helped to analyse the data.

Elisa Filippini

My experience

During my two-month summer internship at Agroscope (Reckenholz), I was able to gain an insight into the research area of agroecology and environment, by being involved in the research group for Water Protection and Substances Flows.
I mainly worked in three areas of activity: laboratory, data evaluation and field work. I spent a large part of the internship in the laboratory. There, for example, I prepared the leachate samples from the lysimeters and the slurry used in the long-term experiment for the analysis of 15N with the mass spectrometer. Field work has also been part of the internship. I had the opportunity to participate in field sampling, and was mainly involved in measuring the stomatal activity of different crops under different fertilisation procedures. Towards the end of the internship, I helped analyse the data.

The working atmosphere was stimulating and welcoming. I was very happy with the flexible working hours, even though the working from home option was only possible to a limited extent, as my tasks were mainly in the lab and occasionally in the field. 

During my time there I learned a lot, both in theory and, above all, in practice. In my opinion, such an internship is very suitable for students who have a strong interest in soil science and agricultural research. It is important to note that you spend a lot of time in the laboratory, which is probably not to everyone's liking. In addition, fieldwork was not a daily routine because it is weather-dependent and often a task carried out by technical staff.

In my opinion, the knowledge gained in the Bachelor's program, especially in the field of physical geography, is sufficient. I was able to apply many of the topics covered in soil science and hydrology in practice. It is very helpful to be familiar with isotopes, as many laboratory's analyses work on the basis of isotope ratios. Basic knowledge of agricultural topics and terms, as well as basic skills with data analysis programs such as R and Excel are helpful. However, interest and motivation are the most important prerequisites.

Internship's organisation

At the beginning of the autumn semester 2020, I visited the Agroscope research center with the excursion which was organised as part of GEO 342 Vertiefung: Boden-Pflanze-Umwelt I and was very positively impressed. Among other things, aspects of soil pollution and nutrient leaching were passionately explained to us. Because there was no suitable internship position advertised on Agroscope's job portal, I took it upon myself to apply for a summer internship at the beginning of October (hr-conseil@agroscope.admin.ch). After some correspondence I attended for an interview, the details of my internship with the research group for water protection and substance flows were organised and towards the end of April everything was officially arranged. 

About Agroscope:

The goals of the research carried out at Agroscope are competitive agriculture, high-quality food for a healthy diet and a sustainable environment. Agroscope works on issues in the areas of plant breeding, plant cultivation, plant protection and plant products. Research also includes farm animals, animal feed and animal products. The focus is also on cultivation systems, protection of natural resources and agricultural technology. Agroscope has a decentralised infrastructure with various locations throughout Switzerland, which allows regional differences in the agro-environmental system to be taken into account.