Next week is EGU in Vienna! Early career Geomorphology program

The early career representatives have made an ECS - Geomorphology tailored program, including short courses and social events. We will update you on a daily basis on twitter @EGU_GM.

Hands-on - connecting (our) beaver research with river management: Swiss beaver conference announced (I am co-organising)

Save the date! The Biberfachstelle (swiss beaver management) organises in cooperation with

·        Naturmuseum Thurgau
·        WWF Thurgau
·        Pro Natura Schweiz
·        Université de Lausanne
·        Wasser-Agenda 21
·        Jagd- und Fischereiverwalter-Konferenz JFK
·        Bundesamt für Umwelt BAFU

a national beaver conference, with the goal to connect catchment and river manager (federal, cantonal and local), river restoration companies, scientists, stakeholders (fishery and farmers), natural protection agencies, and other interested people with each other. Languages are german and french, a sumultaneous translation is offered.

New concept for the evolution of beaver meadows

before beaver 
Beaver meadows are defined in two ways in the literature. Early and recent literature define beaver meadows as complexes of ponds and multi-thread channels within overall swampy conditions caused by damming and digging activity of beavers (summarized in Polvi and Wohl, 2011). Others have stated that beaver meadows are areas of abandoned beaver ponds. The soils are altered because of sedimentation in the beaver ponds, which in combination with subsequent erosion and changes in local hydrologic conditions cause a longer-term vegetation change, and make beaver meadows (abandoned beaver ponds) detectable even after they were drained and re-vegetated (Naiman et al., 1988). Based on our investigation of a beaver meadow and several beaver pond cascades in Germany and Switzerland, we propose a new concept of beaver meadow evolution. This conceptual model includes three stages: i) large beaver pond, ii) headward retreat of alluvial knickpoint, incision, and drainage of the pond, development of a multi-thread channel system, and iii) swampy conditions due to beaver alteration of the multi-thread channels. This model combines both earlier conceptual models, by identifiying the geomorphic process that is responsible for the evolution from the initial beaver pond stage to a much longer, stable beaver meadow stage.

beaver pond stage

beaver meadow stage

Tree response to rising shallow groundwater level

In cooperation with Nico Baetz (Eawag), and Paolo Cherubini (WSL), my master student Simon Berthoud and I are analysing tree cores at WSL (Swiss Federal Insitute for Forest, Snow and Landscape) from inside and adjacent to beaver ponds and meadows to see what the response of the trees are to rising shallow ground water levels. In geomorphic terms, this is important, because tree roots are stabilising banks and floodplains, so in order to understand the beaver streams, we are investigating trees. We also hypothesise that trees in the pond of course are negatively affected (they are dead or clearly struggling), but trees further away might benefit from the rise in groundwater level, especially in Marthalen, where the subsurface are Rhein and Thur gravels, and water availability might be limited in times. At the other site, beaver dams regularily breach, and we might see the response of the trees to this localised, but important change in water availability quickly in the tree rings. Oxygen isotope analysis of tree rings might also find that the water source of the trees changed, because groundwater flow direction changed or trees have switched to use shallow groundwater. #Dendrohydrology

AGU fall meeting 2017 posters on beaver related change

Link to AGU abstract

Link zu AGU abstract 

Geomorphology - Early Career Scientists (ECS) webpage updated and twitter account re-vived

Thanks to Eric, the GM_ECS webpage was updated:

Also, we have re-vived the EGU_GM twitter account. Please follow us, and more importantly, if you have something to post/distribute, cite us @EGU_GM

EGU-Biogeomorphology session planned for 2018

Our Biogeomorphology session was a very well visited session in 2017 when it ran for the first time. "We", this is William, Wietse, Nico, Jana and me, and we are all early career scientists. This is the second year we propose it, and hope for many submissions. Last year we were lucky and Ellen Wohl (Bagnold medal recipient) gave a keynote in this session, much of which was about beaver induced change. Dov Corenblit presented novel advances in fluvial Biogeomorphology. This year, we decided for the keynote being coastal, and early career: Torsten Balke from the University of Glasgow will present his research in the keynote:

But, of course this doesn`t limit the session to coastal Geomorphology! We want to cover the whole width and depth of Biogeomorphology, so please submit your research until the 10.01.2018 to this session:

If you are yet not convinced: We are also planning (like last year) on having a Biogeomorphology beer after the session, at the famous beaver (!!!) craft beer brewery:

Increadible, but true. Hope to see you there...

50% Professorship - more time for creative thinking, less teaching and admin = better science, more publication, and more time for family

The University of Fribourg (Switzerland) has employed four 50 % Professors, two in Earth Science (Glaciology). In both cases the job sharing seem to work very well, and I wanted to know more about this. I have many friends that struggle with the work load as a Professor, and all the administration that comes with such a job is not what they wanted to do, because after all they wanted to be scientists, not politicians. On top, in the central European model, Professor-jobs are the only permanent science jobs, which one needs to have a family and work efficiently. A friend of mine, already a Professor since 25 years, told me that being a Professor and having a family is bascially incompatible because of the high work load, except if the partner doesnt work and does all the family-related buisness. Which really means: Professor = no or very little family time, which really is not the family model the younger generation strives for, as far as I am aware of. After all, Swiss men under 30 years of age are most willing to work less and spend more time with their family, if given the opportunity - which is unfortunately not often the case. In Sweden, rate of divorce has dropped extremely after the introduction of a new policy, which implemented that men had to take almost the exact amount of parental leave than women. This makes it very clear to me that in the younger generation, it is the traditional model (men work, women stay home), that seperates family members from each other, and at least in Sweden, has lead to higher rates of divorce, leaving children with seperated parents, which is what nobody wants. With emancipation and better education  people dont stay married just for financial reasons, and socities have to adjust. Germany struggles with this development, which can be seen by seperated women being "poor" (even if well educated). Hence, divorce with kids is still a cause for poverty. This means to me that  the University of Fribourg has made a very smart move with the 50 % Professorships, and has seen the signs of the time (probably a Germanism, but I guess you can grasp what I want to say). And the University even benefits from it, because the two Professors produce more output, get more grants than one, and both Professors are most likely delivering a less exhausted, higher quality teaching.

Please read the interview my colleague Pascal Egli did with one of the 50 % Glaciology-Professor Martin Hoelzle from Fribourg on the EGU-GM blog:

a field work summer officially finished

This summer we have surveyed, sampled, gaged, drilled and flown 4 beaver streams and their floodplains, plus drilled at 2 sites. We have taken ~600 water samples, done 12 tracer tests, drilled 78 soil cores, sampled 210 soil samples, and taken 4200 drone photos. Thanks to everybody that helped. Now onto the data!


Dear #Spessart people, I know we are proud of making really large fires. But, large fires ON a lake, and with this scenery...  The swiss beat us there.

Our article on "Biotic drivers of river and floodplain geomorphology – new molecular methods for assessing present-day and past biota" is online at ESEX

Geomorphology has increasingly considered the role of biotic factors as controls upon geomorphic processes across a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. Where timescales are long (centennial and longer), it has been possible to quantify relationships between geomorphic processes and vegetation using, for example, the pollen record. However, where the biotic agents are fauna, longer term reconstruction of the impacts of biological activity upon geomorphic processes is more challenging. Here, we review the prospect of using environmental DNA as a molecular proxy to decipher the presence and nature of faunal influences on geomorphic processes in both present and ancient deposits. When used appropriately, this method has the potential to improve our understanding of biotic drivers of geomorphic processes, notably fauna, over long timescales and so to reconstruct how such drivers might explain the landscape as we see it today. 

"Anthropogenic influence on rates of aeolian dune activity within the northern European Sand Belt and socio-economic feedbacks over the last ~2500 years" by Lungershausen, Larsen, Duttmann and Bork published online in The Holocene today. Thick, thick paper, we argue for a bit more geo-determinism in the interpretation of sedimentary and palaeo-ecological archives surrounding abandoned settlments in landscapes dominated by aeolian processes.


Son and I doing field work in a beaver meadow

The poor boy thinks that every puddle and lake is the product of a beaver. He already has his own waders (in croc style).

Deirdre clearly knows how to comment on job application drafts :)

Charging for yet another round of extreme beaver meadow monitoring....

World`s best equipment: The ysi exo2 in its very professional container, and the Trimble dGPS. 

Our paper "Anthropogenic influence on rates of Aeolian dune activity within the northern European Sand Belt and socio-economic feedbacks over the last ~ 2500 yrs" accepted in the Holocene

A thick paper accepted in the Holocene!

I became an early career representative of the Geomorphology division of the European Geoscience Union

I am looking forward to join the group of very active early career representatives (ECS), myself for the Geomorphology division, together with Micha Dietze (GFZ Potsdam).

Biogeomorphology session at the EGU 2017

Solely early career scientists (Wietse van de Lageweg, William Nardin, Nico Baetz, Moritz Thom, and myself) were running this session at the annual meeting of the EGU in Vienna. Both, oral and poster sessions were packed, with approximately 90 people joining us. Highlights were the two solicited talks by Ellen Wohl (this year Bagnold medal recipient) and Dov Corenblit. We are in the process to collect articles for a special issue on Biogeomorphology in ESPL.

EGU Poster "A global review on the influence of beavers (Castor fiber, canadensis) on river and floodplain dynamics"

in the Biogeomorphology session