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Master Research Unit Ecological Engineering for the MSc Environment and Natural Resources

Are you fascinated by complex ecological issues? Are you interested in the interplay between technology and ecology? In the Ecological Engineering specialisation, you will acquire the knowledge to develop holistic solutions.

Ecological Engineering combines engineering with ecology and holistic thinking. Natural materials, processes, organisms and ecological principles are employed as tools and utilised in technical systems. The vision is that the development objectives for creating a sustainable society cannot be achieved solely by technical means, but instead require ecology, technology and socio-economic factors to be cleverly combined.


As a Master of Science ZFH in Environment and Natural Resources, specialising in Ecological Engineering, you will ...


Would you like to know where your career path could take you after graduation? We present an outlook on our career page.

«The electricity industry is facing major challenges due to the imminent decarbonization of the energy system. For this we need specialists with sound technical and ecological knowledge, such as that taught in the Master's degree programme Environment and Natural Resources.»

Thomas Hiltbrunner, Managing director EW Lachen

Master's thesis

As part of your Master's thesis, you will develop your own ideas and concepts to solve scientific challenges. This will enable you to tackle complex issues independently in your future professional life. You will be able to apply and develop scientific methods, even in new or multidisciplinary contexts.

You will write your Master's thesis within your chosen research unit. The content of the thesis can be adapted to your interests and the current project status. The following selection in German and English gives an insight into the possible subjects

Research groups at the Institute of Environment and Natural Resources

You will spend half of your study time in the research group of your choice. This allows for individual specialization and gives you a deeper insight into research and development work. Already during your studies you will build up a professional network with our partners from industry and research. You will complete your Master Studio (Project Work 1 and 2 as well as Master Thesis) in the selected research group.


Aquaculture Systems Research Group

"We research, develop and improve production systems in aqueous environments, both for fish and algae. We support fish producers with our know-how, test new feed formulations, improve husbandry conditions, develop solutions for by-products and produce raw materials in a resource-conserving manner. We work with our own large-scale facilities, use the latest measurement and analysis technologies and initiate innovations that bring tangible improvements for people, animals and the environment." Dominik Refardt, Head of Research Group


Research areas:

  • Nutrition, health and well-being of fish
  • Operation of aquaculture facilities, including waste management
  • Sustainable cultivation of microalgae (wastewater treatment and production of high-quality ingredients)

Renewable Energies Research Group

"With a focus on renewable energies and energy efficiency, we design, simulate and optimise energy systems according to various criteria. In doing so, we not only consider technical, but also ecological, economic and social aspects. In interdisciplinary projects we also deal with the acceptance of renewable energies and energy saving." Jürg Rohrer, Head of Research Group


Research areas:

  • Electricity and heat production with solar energy, especially in the winter months
  • Integrated building energy systems
  • Sector coupling (electricity, electric mobility, heating, cooling, storage, synthetic fuels)

Sustainability Communication / Environmental Education Research Group

"Ecological and technical solutions alone are not enough to achieve sustainable development. Our research group investigates the obstacles and drivers which influence people's actions and the ways people can be won over to sustainable action. We combine techniques of behavioural psychology, education, communication and art." Urs Müller, Head of Research Group


Research areas:

  • Methods and techniques of behavioural change
  • Effect-oriented communication, storytelling
  • Environmental education and education for sustainable development

Life Cycle Assessment Research Group

"We assess the ecologically sustainability of food, agricultural production systems and nutritional styles. For this purpose, we specifically use ecobalance methods, i.e. Life Cycle Assessment, which considers the entire life cycle. Our commitment to research and education contributes to the further development of methods of ecobalance and to integrating life cycle thinking as the basis for ecological decisions in science, business, politics and society." Matthias Stucki, Head of Research Group


Research areas:

  • Ecological hotspots in value chains of the agricultural and food industry
  • Ecological footprint of new technologies, food trends and nutritional styles
  • Strategies for environmental optimisation and increasing resource efficiency

Ecotechnology Research Group

"We combine technical-biological elements to create recycling solutions in accordance with the principles of Ecological Engineering. In the future, the resources of water, nutrients and biomass should be fed into systems which are as closed as possible. Pollutants are to be avoided or eliminated. To this end, we operate several of our own test facilities. Creative ideas, inventiveness and the desire to experiment are highly valued within our team." Andreas Schönborn, Head of Research Group


Research areas:

  • Circulation systems for the purification and reuse of water (e.g. grey water and bath water )
  • Soil-independent food production in circulation systems
  • Biochar and nutrient cycles

Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology Research Group

"In cooperation with other research groups, we investigate microbiological processes of ecotechnological relevance. The focus is on molecular biological methods. The results are compared with environmental parameters in order to deduce biological processes." Theo Smits, Head of Research Group


Research areas:

  • Molecular ecology using population genetic methods including metagenomics
  • Identification of (microbial) processes in biogas, aquaculture or aquaponic plants
  • Biological control of plant and fish pathogens in aquaponic plants

Environmental Biotechnology Research Group at the Institute of Chemistry and Biotechnology

"For us, biomass, refuse and waste water are valuable materials. With the help of biotechnology they can be utilised both for energy and materials. In this way, we support the completion of cycles and the production of renewable energy." Urs Baier, Head of Centre


Research areas:

  • Biomass and organic waste, food waste, bioplastics
  • Bioenergy, especially biogas, biomethane and methanisation
  • Waste water (sewerage) and sludge treatment
  • Exhaust air and exhaust gas

ZHAW Institute of Sustainable Development (INE)

"The interdisciplinary Institute for Sustainable Development (INE) focuses on issues related to the transformation of socio-technical energy and transport systems. These include influencing individual behaviour, identifying new business models and designing Smart Cities & Regions." Armin Eberle, Head of Institute


Research areas:

  • Transformation of cities and municipalities into smart sustainable cities and communities
  • Encourage sustainable behaviour in Living Labs with the support of digital community platforms.
  • Future developments and resilience engineering in energy and transport systems