MSc Topics

Master students interested in writing a thesis in the field of Geochronology are welcome to approach us with their own suggestions. In addition to this, members of the Research Group regularly announce topics for possible master theses (see list below).

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Do landfills and soil restorations stop CO2 emissions from former organic soils?

In the Bernese Swiss Plateau, degraded soils and the bumpiness of the surface (caused by peat degradation) are more and more technically changed, restored and backfilled. For this purpose, often local moraine and molasse sediments are used. So far it is unclear what happens with the underlying organic soil or peat. Does such a backfilling stop the degradation of organic matter of thee buried soil? Does it substantially reduce CO2 emissions? These are questions that shall be addressed and investigated at some younger and older landfills in the Three Lakes Region.
This topic is highly relevant and debated at the moment, and of outermost importance for the future planning and use of soils and landscapes. A strong collaboration with Pro Agricultura Seeland and the authorities of the cantons of Bern, Fribourg and Vaud is foreseen. See also Berner Seeland – quo vadis?

Further information:  Prof. Markus Egli

Temporal evolution of soil erosion in the Geopark Estrela (Portugal)

To date, most studies evaluating rates of soil erosion have focused on the impact of soil tillage on agricultural lands and on the comparison between cultivated and uncultivated soils while few have focused on natural environments, such as forested slopes or high alpine areas. We hypothesise that soil erosion rates on moraine hillslopes decrease over time as soils evolve and slopes stabilise. We selected a sequence of moraines in the Geopark Estrela (Portugal) to study these processes over time. This area is characterised by spectacular rock tors and thus also erosion (that even might be kept at a high level owing to frequent bush fires).

See also Geopark Estrela

Further information:  Prof. Markus Egli

Prograde and retrograde soil evolution in the Apennine – Italy

Soils have been used over millennia in the Apennine – in some places very intensively and in others less. We now would like to estimate current and past erosion rates and see how they affected soil formation trajectories in the Apennine of Emilia Romagna (near Bologna).
Collaboration will be with Dr. Giacomo Sartori and the Servizio difesa del suolo, della costa e bonifica (Bologna).

Flyer: (PDF, 4 MB)

Further information:  Prof. Markus Egli

Temporal evolution of surface (soil) denudation during the Holocene and Pleistocene; Wind River Range (Rocky Mountains)

How the landscape surface has been shaped over last about thousands of years, how soil erosion rates evolved over time and how these processes correlate with climate is a matter of debate. The Wind River Range (Rocky Mountains, USA) offers optimal conditions to study erosion rates over time by analysing the surface age of tors (large free-standing rock outcrop that is in contact with bedrock) and surrounding soils. Supervisors of the thesis are Prof. Dennis Dahms (Northern University of Iowa) and Prof. M. Egli.
Prof. Markus Egli

Soil denudation rates in an old-growth forest (Sinharaja, Sri Lanka) driven by tree uprooting dynamics

The aim of thesis is to find out how long-term and short-term soil erosion and redistribution rates relate to tree-uprooting, and thus “macro-bioturbation”, in a tropical, primeval forest. Erosion and redistribution rates will be detected by using 10Be and Pu-isotopes. The thesis is embedded in a running project (funded by the Czech Republic; Prof. Pavel Samonil) with the title “The mystery of biogenic soil creep: the biogeomorphic role of trees in temperate and tropical forests and its ecological consequences”. The general aim of this project is to assess the ability of trees to drive, modify and record hillslope processes under various disturbance regimes and to create a general conceptual model of biogenic creep.

The master thesis is related to the following networks and institutions:
-    Global Forest Research Network
-    One plot of this global network is the Sinharaja
-    The Czech Research Institute for Forest Ecology (Silva Tarouca Research Institute)

Further information: Prof. Markus Egli

Temporal development of erosion rates in proglacial areas (HILLSCAPE)

The evolution of hillslope structures over time is strongly related to erosion and mass wasting processes. How such structures evolve, particularly at early stages, and which mass redistribution rates are involved is barely known. Mass redistribution will be calculated by using DEM that will be generated from drone surveys (first datasets are available from 2016/2017). The thesis will be part of an ongoing, international project (HILLSCAPE: Hillslope Chronosequence and Process Evolution). Supervisors of the thesis are Prof. A. Vieli and Prof. M. Egli.
Prof. Markus Egli

Rates of biocreep along hillslopes in temperate forests (Czech Republic)

Tree uprooting can cause substantial geomorphic reworking and transport of material along forested hillslopes. Little is known about the long-term denudation caused by  tree uprooting. The thesis will be done in collaboration with Prof. P. Samonil (Brno, Czech Republic). Prof. M. Egli is the main supervisor.

Prof. Markus Egli

Landscape evolution of the Schlappintal (canton of Grisons)

With the continuous development of  dating techniques (e.g., 10Be), the extent of glaciers and related spatial variations since the Late Pleistocene is now partially rewritten. The Schlappintal (close to Klosters) offers a nice suite of moraines and boulders that enable the dating of glacial stades and the reconstruction of the landscape since the LGM.
Prof. Markus Egli

Bewegungsrekonstruktion auf einer Rutschfläche in Braunwald

The impact of increasing frequency and intensity of drought on tree-ring growth in the Mediterranean

Reconstructing glaciers mass balances using high-elevation tree rings in the Central Alps

Tree-ring physiology: exploring the black box between genomics and wood cells

Tree rings and water: How and where can dendroecology help hydrological research?