The Earth System Science 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.
The professorship in Earth System Science at the University of Zurich was established in 2018. The group works 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.