Philippe Saner

Table of contents

Research Interests

My latest research interest as a Postdoc is based around sustainability and process optimization in organizations and I became involved in a number of projects around these topics. Together with Dr. Matthias Haeni (WSL) – I am an external consultant to the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD on the analysis of financial flows to combat desertification land degradation and drought (DLDD) (August 2014 - May 2015).  I co-supervise student projects on (i) food waste (Jasmin Küng, UZH, 2015, joint supervision with Prof. Dr. Lorenz Hilty), (ii) sustainability at Universities (Tatjana Bores, HTW Chur, 2015, joint supervision with Prof. Dr. Ivan Nikitin), and investor behaviour in sustainable finance (Tony Reyhanloo, UZH, 2016, joint supervision with Prof. Dr. Stefan Baumgärtner). As a co-project leader of DissGo I also define the requirements to optimize the PhD process for the Life Science Zurich Graduate School according to the regulations of the Faculty of Science (UZH) and the Department of Biology (ETH Zurich).

Apart from this more general interest in how to measure sustainability and optimize organizational processes my core research interest is in the restoration of tropical forests. Tropical forests are reknown for their wealth in biodiversity and their ongoing degradation leads to a subsequent loss of landscape, species and genetic diversity. Although restoration efforts can alter this loss to a certain extent, a degraded forest cannot be restored to pristine conditions again. The main questions of our research therefore also address, to what extent a degraded forest can provide functions at similar rates compared to pristine forests.

The focal study species belong to the wider taxa of dipterocarp trees. We formulate ecological hypotheses and test them on the basis of experimental field studies and under shadehouse conditions. Measured traits on individual species are then related to proposed survival strategies. The results may contribute directly to a better understanding of the ecology of these species, which is again of potential use for restoration efforts.


One important function that tropical forests fulfill is their role in the global carbon cycle. Depending on their state of degradation they can act as either a carbon sink (storage) or a source (release). As part of my research we determine how much carbon a selectively logged forest stores, and at what rate carbon is released, through fundamental ecosystem processes such as soil respiration. These results contribute to the wider aim of an overall carbon budget. It determines how much additional carbon can be stored by restoration efforts.

Apart from my own research on tropical plant community ecology I actively engage in the restoration and protection of key habitat for endangered wildlife. I link this engagement in nature conservation with public lectures at University of Zurich, FH St. Gallen and HTW Chur on sustainable consumption and the use of natural and non-renewable resources.


Education and Professional Positions

2013 - 2016 Postdoc in the research group Biology of Species Interactions, and scientific manager to Prof. Dr. Bernhard Schmid, Dean of the Faculty of Science, University of Zurich, Switzerland
2012 -  Co-project leader DissGo, Life Science Zurich Graduate School, Zurich, Switzerland
2011 - 2015 Coordinator of the PhD Program in Ecology, Life Science Zurich Graduate School, Switzerland
2006 - 2010 PhD and Postdoc on the Sabah Biodiversity Experiment. Environmental sciences, University of Zurich, Switzerland. Download PDF
2000 - 2005 Diploma in biology (major subject zoology, minor subject microbiology), University of Zurich, Switzerland

Other Positions

2015 Founder,, Zurich, Switzerland
2010 Partner, Binaïs Ltd Strategic Services, Switzerland
2009 Founder, Rhino and Forest Fund e.V., Germany