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Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies

Spatial Ecology & Remote Sensing

Spatial Ecology & Remote Sensing

Our research interests focus on the role of vegetation, its composition and structure, on land surface processes and climate feedbacks. Radiation is one of the key factors linking land surface and atmospheric processes. At the same time, radiation is a limiting growth factor of vegetation, be it in the short wavelength range as photosynthetically active radiation or in the longwave domain as temperature. Our goal is to contribute to ecological and climatological questions through combined field and satellite radiation measurements, radiative modelling, and ecological experimental approaches, from the plant to the landscape scale.
The emphasis lies on continuous process-related ecosystem variables (e.g. albedo, plant traits), going beyond traditional land cover types with spatially discrete class boundaries. Our focus is on vegetation dynamics, biodiversity and related permafrost-vegetation-atmosphere processes in Northeastern Siberian tundra.

External group page

Head of group: Prof. Dr. Gabriela Schaepman-Strub

Most recent news

  • 22/04/24 - Gabriela Schaepman-Strub selected as National Champion of Switzerland for Frontiers Planet Prize Portrait of 23 National Champions
  • 02/04/24 - Big congrats to Vitalii Zemlianskii on his succesful PhD thesis defense and thank you to all committee members (Ksenia Ermokhina, Nick Zimmermann & Jordi Bascompte) who supported us!
  • 27/11/23 - A warm welcome to all our newest group members, Linqing, Weixao, Nicole, Melanie, Jacqueline, Annatina, Sheldon, looking forward to fruitful collaboration and exciting research results!
  • 25/01/23 - Listen to Gabriela's latest contribution to 'The World' US radio station on the issue of impacts of the war on permafrost science - including many of our Kytalyk sounds.
  • 16/01/23 - A very warm welcome to our 3 new group members Debora Obrist (postdoc), Gregor Lichtenthäler (MSc) and Isaline Businger (MSc) - looking forward to interact and work with you all!
  • 05/12/22 - Congratulations, Elena, to the very important paper on albedo changes in the Arctic during the past 20 years, published in Environmental Research Letters!
  • 02/12/22 - Thank you, Jin-Soo, for a great collaboration on our Science Perspective on extreme fires in Siberia!
  • 02/12/22 - SRF Tagesschau recently covered the effects of the war on our research in Siberia (12:40 onwards).
  • 01/12/22 - A very warm welcome to Rhonda Müller, our new PhD student! We already know her well from the great collaboration we had during her MSc study in our group!
  • 31/10/22 - Delighted to announce our Nature Communication study demonstrating that Arctic vegetation types matter for summer land surface energy fluxes - much more than most other drivers usually assumed to have significant effects! Thanks, Jacqueline, for your hard work and thanks to all co-authors and data producers!
  • 12/09/22 - Congratulations, Annabelle, to the publication on drivers of mangrove aboveground biomass - it's mainly soil nutrients, supported by daily water level variation - so important to better understand mechanisms of this ecosystem that contributes to combat climate change through blue carbon storage!
  • 11/07/22 - Annabelle Constance and Elena Plekhanova have successfully defended their PhD thesis in the past 3 weeks! Congratulations, so very well done! A privilege to have worked with these two strong women and contribute to biodiversity research - from the Aldabra mangroves to the Arctic tundra!
  • 11/07/22 - our group heavily supported the 2nd World Biodiversity Forum in Davos 2 weeks ago. The resolution is out now - please spread widely!
  • 11/05/22 - our Cornelia Krug discussed in the Swiss Parliament how biodiversity in Switzerland can be maintained and fostered - excellent summaries also by other speakers how to address the climate and biodiversity crises jointly!
  • 03/05/22 - a very warm welcome to Jakob Assmann to our research group! Looking forward to exciting collaboration!
  • 22/04/22 - Gabriela was interviewed by a journalist from Swissinfo and NZZ Global about the impact of the current war onto research in the Russian Arctic.
  • 14/04/22 - Arctic floods threaten the breeding habitat of the critically endangered Siberian crane - our article is out now!
  • 06/04/22 - a very warm welcome to Ramona Heim to our research group! Looking forward to exciting collaboration!
  • 01/02/22 - very big congrats to Jin-Soo Kim for his Nature Communications Earth & Environment paper published today: Arctic warming-induced cold damage to East Asian terrestrial ecosystems - a really nice synthesis of observations, modelling and remote sensing data!

For news in the past, visit the full news list!

Research themes

  • Biodiversity and climate interactions in Arctic tundra ecosystems
  • Arctic shrub encroachment and its feedbacks to permafrost and climate
  • Land surface reflectance and albedo definitions and measurements
  • Validation of satellite-inferred land products
  • Spatial patterns of vegetation and animal movement

Projects and collaborations


  • Ecosystems and Climate (UWW182)
  • Spatial Ecology and Remote Sensing (UWW252)
  • Introduction to Earth System Science (ESS101)
  • Earth System Modelling (ESS 416)


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