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Department of Geography Geochronology

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 work will be integrated into a running PhD thesis. We plan to perform 14C analyses of the degassing CO2 (dur to soil respiration) and a radiocarbon dating of soil organic matter fractions.
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?

See Flyer: Flyer RESTORE (JPG, 3 MB)

Further information:  Prof. Markus Egli

UNESCO Geopark in Corleone (Sicily): Soil organic carbon inventory

Corleone's past is linked to a rather dark history. But things have been changing rapidly. The picturesque town on a plateau between the Monti Sicani to the south and Palermo to the north is surrounded by a spectacular landscape. Besides the landforms, also the geology has specific peculiarities; i.e., the glauconitic calcarenite. The municipality together with the Rotary Club and the UNESCO office in Palermo intend to establish a UNESCO Global Geopark in this region. Basic scientific data about the local to regional soils are missing. The planned MSc thesis will contribute to establishment of urgently needed data that are needed for the application process of the Geopark.
A carbon inventory and characterisation of organic C fractions shall be carried out. In part, these results can be campared to earlier investigations
A collaboration with the University of Palermo (Prof. Salvatore Raimondi) is given.

See Flyer (some pictures): Corleone_landscape (JPG, 6 MB)

Further information:  Prof. Markus Egli

Carbon storage and vulnerability in alpine soils – 1: Soil organic matter changes across the treeline

Aim: Extending existing alpine elevational gradients to the tree line

  • Field work: Soil sampling of 3-5 soil pits around 1500-2000 m a.s.l. to cover the treeline ecotone
  • Lab work: CN analysis and stable isotopes, pH, texture, (+ possible one more parameter that was important/interesting in the alpine soils).
  • SOM characterization by DRIFT and FT-IR spectroscopy or soil fractionation
  • Link the data to soil carbon stocks at higher elevation and to the WSL soil data base of forest soils

Supervisors of the thesis areAnnegret Udke (WSL and UZH), Frank Hagedorn (WSL) and Prof. M. Egli.
Prof. Markus Egli

Carbon storage and vulnerability in alpine soils – 2: Pedogenic drivers of SOC vulnerability in alpine soils

Question: Is soil organic carbon lability driven by temperature or by mineralogy?

  • Field work: Soil CO2 efflux measurements along elevational gradient(s) (i.e. after snow melt, in the middle of the summer, in autumn) of different bedrock types (gneiss, amphibolit, calcareous)
  • Lab work: Soil fractionation of soils sampled along elevational gradients to assess stabilization of soil organic matter
  • SOM characterization by DRIFT and FT-IR spectroscopy

Supervisors of the thesis areAnnegret Udke (WSL and UZH), Frank Hagedorn (WSL) and Prof. M. Egli.
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

Automated image analysis of mineral soil properties. Can soil field survey be assisted by deep learning?

see Flyer (PDF, 150 KB)

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

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? 

Weiterführende Informationen

Interdisciplinary Master's thesis topics

Interested in doing an interdisciplinary Master's thesis at the Department of Geography? Have a look at the list of currently available topics involving two or more research divisions of the Department of Geography. 

Please note

The MSc thesis can be written either in English or in German, depending on the agreement with the supervisor(s).

Master's Thesis and Exam