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Past projects

Institute of Natural Resource Sciences

The selection of projects described below highlights the breadth of research carried out at the Institute of Natural Resource Sciences.

Visualisation of wind turbines using Augmented Reality

Employing the help of Augmented Reality (AR), i.e. the computer-assisted enhancement of how the real-world environment is perceived, an app is being developed that can display - correctly proportioned - wind energy installations on a smartphone. This enables interested parties to assess the effect of a wind farm on the landscape from any chosen location as early as the project planning phase. The aim of the app is to improve public acceptance of wind energy installations by presenting a realistic picture of any planned facility. The app is the result of close collaboration between research groups at the ZHAW Institute for Natural Resource Sciences and Echtzeit GmbH. Furthermore, the project is supported by The Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) and the Hightech Zentrum Aargau.

Research groups: Environmental Planning, Renewable Energy, Geoinformatics
Project partner: Echtzeit GmbH
Video: App visualisation
Further information: project website; Website of Echtzeit GmbH

MODO – a washing machine and a toilet in a closed nutrient and water circulation system

Saving water is currently the focus of much interest. With the help of MODO, we are investigating how water can be cleansed and then reused. The water remains in a closed cycle and losses are replaced by rainwater. Thanks to an integrated photovoltaic system, a laundrette has been created that is independent of mains water and power supplies. The aim is to develop this innovation in South Africa into a marketable solution as part of the LaundReCycle Project. The circulatory principle is also applied to a dry toilet integrated into a car. Instead of disposing of nutrients with wastewater, urine is processed into fertiliser, and faeces are turned into biochar through a process of pyrolysis. The intent is that both of these products will be used in agriculture to improve soil quality.

Research group: Ecotechnology
Further information: Project website
Video (in German): MODO – A washing machine and a toilet in a closed nutrient and water circulation system

AniMot – Effectiveness of a new wildlife accident prevention system

Many roe deer, red deer and wild boar die on Swiss roads in collisions with vehicles. The resulting costs from damage to property and personal injury are estimated at 40 to 50 million Swiss francs each year. Furthermore, the risk of wildlife accidents is expected to mount due to growing wildlife populations and increasing traffic. Systems such as AniMot that warn road users as soon as a wild animal is near the road can lead to a significant reduction in wildlife accidents. Wild animals near the road are detected by means of motion sensors and road users are alerted by a roadside warning lamp. The aim of the project is to test the effectiveness and reliability of the device in field tests.

Research group: Wildlife Management
Project partner: Hunting and Fisheries Management, Canton Zurich ZH, Dept. of Civil Engineering, Canton of Zurich ZH, Cantonal Police of Zurich, Jagd Zurich (Zurich Hunters Association), Wildnispark Zurich, Office for Forest and Countryside, Canton of Obwalden OW, Department for Hunting, Fishing & Wildlife, Canton of Valais 
Further information: Project website

i-Tree – urban tree ecosystem services

The i-Tree open source app makes it possible to leverage and promote the climate-adaptive ecosystem services that urban trees and woodland naturally provide. The importance of these services has still not been adequately recognised in Switzerland and is insufficiently integrated into urban planning. With the help of i-Tree, it is possible, using a science-based approach, to gain an understanding of where trees are making a positive impact in cities and where there is room for improvement in terms of structure and quantity. The project combines this information with interdisciplinary strategies to develop creative solutions for better use of the climate-adaptive services of urban trees and woodland. This improves the ability to plan large numbers of tree crowns over the long term, making it possible to manage them sustainably.

Research group: Planting Design
Further information: Project website

«Fighting bites with bytes» – a tick prevention tool

The aim of this interdisciplinary project is to use data provided by app users to improve protection against tick bites. The Zecke - Tick Prevention app reminds people with a tick bite to monitor the bite site for symptoms of Lyme disease. Based on the data reported by these people, tick bite prevention should be improved by allowing people to find out when and where the risk of tick bites is greatest.  In addition, the project has also developed a method of dealing with notoriously unreliable crowdsourced data, which should be able to be adapted for other risk models that are based on anonymous and potentially inaccurate data.

Research groups: Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology (IUNR), Phytomedicine (IUNR), Geoinformatics (IUNR), Centre for Bio-Inspired Modeling & Learning Systems (IAS)
Project partner: A&K Strategy GmbH
Video: Fighting bites with bytes – crowdsourced tick prevention
Further information: Project website

Energy and climate-conscious meals in urban catering establishments

The «Energy and climate-conscious nutrition in urban catering companies» inter-institute project is developing a range of food and beverages with a positive environmental impact. This range should meet the needs of the guests in the various Zurich catering establishments (staff restaurants and centres for the elderly) by adapting the Menu Sustainability Index for these operations. In addition, measures that are intended to promote the choice of sustainable catering options are also being developed and tested in a field study. The project will be completed in spring 2021 and is being financed by Zurich's centre for energy research (Energieforschung Stadt Zürich).

Research groups: Sustainability Communication & Environmental Education (IUNR), Life Cycle Assessment (IUNR), Centre for Bio-Inspired Modeling & Learning Systems (IAS) department
Project partner: Energieforschung Stadt Zürich
Further information: Project website; Menu Sustainability Index video (in German)

Acceptance survey – Parc Ela and Beverin

An acceptance survey has been carried out in the Beverin and Parc Ela nature parks asking, “What have the parks done in the region and how strongly does the population support them?”. The majority of the population has a positive opinion of the activities in both parks, and the general view is that often-feared restrictions, for example in agriculture or hunting, have not resulted in the anticipated negative outcomes. According to the survey, the nature parks have succeeded in making the region better known, preserving natural and cultural values and promoting nature tourism. The nature parks have also increased regional value creation and improved the marketing of regional products.

Research group: Tourism and Sustainable Development
Project partners: Parc Ela Association, Beverin Nature Park
Further information: Project website