Submitted my first truly interdisciplinary work and abstract (to the EGU2019)

This project was a hell to organise, but a lot of fun and with a very steep learning curve on my side. Now the first attempt to combine most results into one abstract and to present a holistic view on river-floodplain dynamics. I am also applying for an early career travel grant because I will be still on maternity leave at the time.

First of two PhD-Positions advertised: „Effects of bioturbation on rates of vertical and horizontal sediment and nutrient fluxes“ within the Priority Program „Earth-Shape: Earth Surface Shaping by Biota“

This PhD-scholarship will be part of Project 4 of EarthShape`s Phase II (DFG-priority program):

Join us at the EGU 2019 - Biogeomorphology/Ecogeomorphology session!

This year with a focus on animals and geomorphic processes (but all biogeomorphology-topics are welcome!). Keynote will be given by Professor Stephen Rice from Loughborough University.

here the link to abstract submission:

Our session will most likely be scheduled Thursday or Friday. It has become tradition in the past 2 years that the Biogeomorphology session participants go out for dinner one evening at the famous beaver brewery:

Submit your abstract and join us at the session with the probably youngest convener team on a revolutionizing topic:)

Fake peer-review journals and conferences are apparently a really large problem - and a huge sink of tax-payers money.

The pressure to publish a large number of papers results in some unwanted extremes, one of which are fake peer-review journals and conferences. The German public television (ARD) has made a fascinating documentation about this phenomenum:

Initially, the pressure to publish an as large as possible number of papers per year has resulted in a higher efficiency of University employees and has had several fantastic effects, e.g. that work paid by tax payers was also made publicly available, and more matrix- and less network-based job appointments. But, it has also lead to some very wrong incentives, which include e.g. salami slicing, to value quantity above quality, and the establishment of fake peer-review journals. I am convinced that it is time to move on, it is clear to all scientists that they need to publish. To advance science, we should increasingly think about quality, originality, and novelty of our papers to really advance science, and to value this more than number of papers.

Professor Ellen Wohl will recieve the 2018 Gilbert Award at AGU Fall meeting 2018

Ellen Wohl will receive, well-deserved, and as the first female, the prestigious Gilbert Award at the upcoming AGU Fall meeting. While citations of award winners always read fantastic (and this one is no exception), I find Ellen`s answer to the citation truly inspiring and very special. She is a very enthusiastic Geomorphologist and passionate about science, her answer to the citation displays however her deep commitment to making Universities places of inspiration and unselfish collaboration. During my time at several Universities In Germany, Australia, and Switzerland I have only met a few people (3) that had a similar attitude to especially younger colleagues than Ellen - and meeting them has always left me with a positive feeling and motivated me.  I cannot really pin it down, but it might have to do with being genuine, interested, and having perspective - besides of course burning for the topic. Maybe this is the effect of being inclusive (as mentioned by the citation for the Gilbert Award) - the key importance of inclusiveness is being increasingly raised by many successful women throughout science and has been argued to replace the discussion and measures focusing on diversity.

October 2018: Last drone flight above Marthalen beaver pond in beautiful autumn light

This day has officially ended my field work at the Marthalen beaver pond. It is a special site for Switzerland, providing a small glimpse of what beavers could create if they were given some short sections of alluvial floodplains over a longer time period of time (not just a 1-2 years like currently practiced in Switzerland). These beavers have been so active in the course of the 1.5 years monitoring, which really created a challenging scientific record - I guess this represents the problematic side of investigating biotic effects:). Time also for some drone selfies of my dimensions at 9 months - these boots were almost impossible to get off.

Marthalen beaver pond. On the right the linearily dug channel of the Mederbach. On the left the pond - in the vegetation period the shallow pond is almost completely covered with semi-aquatic vegetation. The light green areas represent areas with flowing water. We hypothesize that the semi-aquatic vegetation, typical for shallow beaver ponds, plays a huge role in reducing sediment transport.

14.09.2018: The Swiss National Fund (SNF) drops the discriminating rules regarding age limits post-PhD for all career grants

With the start of 2017 the Swiss National Fund (SNSF) implemented new rules. These included also a reduction of years post-PhD in all career grants. At the same time, a limit was set of 1 year extension for family reasons or military service. This meant an active discrimination of researchers that had family commitments for more than 1 year post-PhD, and therefore excluded female researchers that had invested more than 1 year into their family post-PhD. It is clear that biologically, the early and mid career phase however is the time window in which females will have children and take time of. These new age limits also stood in stark contrast to university and funding rules of most if not all other countries in the developed world, which have increasingly implement new rules focusing on evaluating scientist looking at opportunities equal to experiences. This all happened during a phase in which the SNF had a woman president. Since the 14th of September this year, under the new presidency of a man, the SNF has dropped these extension rules, and permit applications of researchers with lengthy career paths ( In a central European University system, career grants are of great importance, because there are only very few permanent/tenured positions available for young researchers. The 14.09.2018 is a great day for all scientists in Switzerland, and it is fantastic that the incredible anachronistic reform of 2017 has been retracted and improved. It has however excluded me from the chance to continue my career in Switzerland. I hope that all the phone calls, talks, comments in SNF presentations, and noise I made (with the strong support/engagement of Prof. Bettina Schäfli ( has somehow helped to raise the issue.

Presentation of water quality results at the 8.International beaver conference in Denmark

Josh Larsen presented some of the results of our water quality monitoring during the 8. International Beaver conference in Denmark ( Unfortunately I was unable to join the conference - no airline would fly me into Denmark because of my advanced pregnancy. I hope very much that I will be able to join the next beaver international beaver conference in Rumania in 2021, these seem to be real interdisciplinary events, something that I find very rare.

Our interdisciplinary beaver review in the journal Earth Science Reviews has just been submitted in the final version before the conference. 

Josh Larsen presents water quality data of 1.5 years of monitoring of 4 beaver sites (in his dam-it shirt!)

Swiss national beaver conference announced

Beavers are ecosystem engineers, and modify rivers and floodplain significantly by constructing dams and digging channels and burrows. This modification stands in stark contrast with current river management, but also river rehabilitation techniques. Conflicts between beavers, river managers, farmers, natural protection agencies and the local population ever increase as beavers dam more and more headwater streams since 2008, probably due to increasing population pressure. This conference aims to effectively communicate between science and stream management with the goal to rise the acceptance of beaver modifications and find new solutions to beaver stream management problems. The conference is in german and french at the 7.12.2018 in Frauenfeld (Schweiz), and registration is open until 31.10.2018. I am co-organizing and presenting my research. Please visit

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.


Young Geomorphologists meeting at the Ammersee

super nice, friendly meeting, great talks - the german young Geomorphologist meeting became international! Hut ab!