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Department of Geography

Earth System Science

Welcome to the Earth System Science (ESS) group at the Department of Geography of the University of Zürich!

  • Sierra Nevada California USA
  • Beja Portugal
  • Bryce Canyon USA
  • Colorado River USA
  • Wupatki AZ USA
  • Bialowieza Poland
  • Bialowieza Poland
  • Sierra de Santa Marta Colombia
  • Basque Country
  • Georgia USA
  • Nevada USA
  • Grand Tetons USA
  • Yellowstone USA
  • Iceland

The Earth System Science group is a new professorship at the University of Zurich. The group will work to strengthen the Department of Geography, the University Research Priority Program (URPP) in Global Change and Biodiversity, and the University of Zürich’s competencies in Earth System Science and to address key societal and political issues related to Earth System sustainability. Maria J. Santos' professorship is funded by and is part of the URPP on Global Change and Biodiversity.

The ESS research asks questions around the co-evolution of social-ecological systems, a fundamental step to place Earth System Sciences in the context of the Anthropocene. Such approach is by necessity interdisciplinary given the multi-sectorial and complex nature of the problem. The ESS group develops and applies multi- and inter-disciplinary approaches to observe, describe, assess drivers, and model the interactions and feedbacks between Earth System spheres and the human system. We specialize in biosphere- and hydrosphere- human interactions, for example examining the impact of land use or other resource use decisions on biodiversity, resource provisioning and ecosystem services in several model systems around the world. For this purpose, we combine methods from many disciplines, including field sampling and surveys, participatory methods, historical archival research, remote sensing, GIS and modeling. The outcomes of our research will contribute towards a better understanding of the co-evolution of social-ecological systems fundamental to examine options to tackle the key societal challenges expressed in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.


  • Biodiversity and ecosystem service scenarios across global mountain, island and delta systems

    A project led by Maria J. Santos was identified as one of the winners of the competition open by SWISS-RE Foundation, AXA Research Fund and WWF on modelling biodiversity and ecosystem service loss to advance resilience.

  • Fleeing climate disasters

    Climate change is expected to become one of the main reasons for migration in the future. And the poorest will be hit hardest. Christian Huggel and Maria J. Santos analyze which regions are particularly under threat and how to best manage mass relocations.

  • «Wir verändern unseren Planeten nachhaltig»

    Mit dem Anthropozän, dem Zeitalter des Menschen, soll ein neuer Abschnitt der Erd­geschichte markiert werden. Doch was ist das Anthropozän? Wann beginnt es? Und wie zeichnet es sich aus? Ein Gespräch mit der Erd­system­wissenschaftlerin Maria J. Santos und der Historikerin Debjani Bhattacharyya.

  • Sustainable and climate-resilient management of high-Andean ecosystems

    GIUZ scientists won an inter­national bid for a new project at the inter­section of climate change, eco­systems and bio­diversity in the Tropical Andes, opening important oppor­tunities for a dialogue and action with policy makers and other stake­holders.

  • Thinking locally to solve the climate change and biodiversity crises

    World leaders were in Glasgow for COP26, but few expected revolutionary progress from the summit. What if the solutions are among us, our friends, and social connections?

Weiterführende Informationen




University of Zurich
Department of Geography
Winterthurerstrasse 190
8057 Zürich

Phone: +41 44 635 51 61 | +41 44 635 65 15

Secretary's office: Y25 J 52
Opening hours secretariat: Monday - Friday 09.00-12.00h


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