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Master Research Unit Biodiversity & Ecosystems for MSc Environment and Natural Resources

Are the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem performance important to you? In the MRU Biodiversity and Ecosystems you engage yourself in balanced use and protection concepts.

This specialisation (Master Research Unit MRU) examines and explores terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. In terrestrial systems, the enhancement of biodiversity in urban and rural areas is becoming increasingly important. The sustainable development and revitalisation of bodies of water, as required by the Swiss Water Protection Act, requires a fundamental understanding of complex aquatic-terrestrial links.

Knowledge of the factors affecting biodiversity and their interactions is in demand for the practical implementation of measures that form part of the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for Switzerland.


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


Would you like to know the career paths which might be open to you following your graduation? Go to our careers page for an overview.

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

The central aspect of your master’s degree is your participation in the research group you have chosen. Around half of your time will be spent in this group, delving into your specialisation according to your interests and gaining in-depth insight into research and development work. Participation the research group's projects enables you to benefit from the network with partners from industry and research, and to establish contacts for your professional future. In the research group you choose, you will complete your Master's Studio (Project Work I and II, as well as your Master's thesis).

"We are committed to the sustainable use of soil as a resource and to the long-term preservation of soil fertility. We deal with the ecology of soils and their protection against pollution. Our research group is well-networked and works on practical projects with various external partners." Beatrice Kulli, Head of Research Group


Research areas:


  • Soil organisms and their reaction to disturbances
  • Protection of the soil against contamination and compaction
  • Raising awareness of the soil resource in public and spatial planning

"Urban green spaces and biodiversity are essential components of a livable city. Climate change, building densification and loss of biodiversity are putting increasing pressure on the urban environment and quality of life. We research and develop sustainable solutions for cities and green spaces of the future - in close cooperation with practice partners from (landscape) architecture, horticulture, environmental departments and nature conservation agencies." Reto Hagenbuch, Head of Research Group


Research areas:


  • Urban ecosystem design and climate change adaptation
  • Sustainable open space management and biodiversity promotion
  • Nature-oriented design and maintenance of urban green spaces

"80% of all information has a spatial reference, which is particularly relevant in the environmental sciences. We research geoinformatics solutions for the digital future of environmental sciences. In collaboration with our partners from other research groups, we use geoinformatics and spatial data science to develop tailor-made solutions for the collection, storage and analysis of spatiotemporal information. This, for example, includes practical applications for recording the spatial patterns of tick bite occurrences, modelling the risk of car accidents involving wild animals and examining the historical development of river landscapes." Patrick Laube, Head of Research Group


Research areas:


  • Geodata collection and ecological monitoring with drones / remote sensing
  • Location analyses with geographical information systems and geodatabases
  • Data science and application development for the processing of spatio-temporal information

"We deal with urban green spaces from a socio-spatial perspective and with their contribution to the promotion of health, quality of life and social integration. In particular, we deal with socially sustainable outdoor living spaces, urban gardening, care farming, social agriculture and garden therapy. In doing so, we use a broad spectrum of mainly qualitative research methods such as participant observations, qualitative interviews, local, spatial and social analyses, as well as participatory processes." Petra Hagen Hodgson, Head of Research Group


Research areas:


  • Potential of green spaces and the use of green spaces for social, mental and physical health
  • Urban gardening, social agriculture (care farming)
  • Garden therapy

"The state of biodiversity and ecosystem services depends on human activity. We analyse what motivates people to take action and how this can be changed in a sustainable direction. In order to find effective solutions, 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

"The protection and sustainable management of aquatic ecosystems requires the integration of various interests such as biodiversity, land use, hydropower production and flood prevention. With this goal in mind, we research and develop foundations and solutions at the interface of science and practice - together with internal and external research partners, companies and authorities." Michael Döring, Head of Research Group


Research areas:


  • Structural and functional relationships in aquatic ecosystems
  • Spatial analysis, modelling and monitoring of rivers and floodplain landscapes
  • Renaturation and sustainable use of water bodies

"We develop new strategies and methods for biological crop protection and seek application-oriented solutions for practical use.  We work with beneficial and harmful organisms in the micro- and macrocosm, and focus on agricultural crops and horticulture." Jürg Grunder, Head of Research Group


Research areas:


  • Development of new biological pesticides and control strategies against diseases and pests
  • Optimised use of pesticides through monitoring and new consulting concepts 
  • Monitoring and regulation of harmful organisms using traps and fragrances

"We examine cities and the challenges they are currently facing, such as climate change adaptation, biodiversity and involving their residents in future-oriented solutions. We work with authorities and other stakeholders to monitor the success of initiatives to promote biodiversity, which are vital to the development of the "green cities" of tomorrow." Stephan Brenneisen, Head of Research Group


Research areas:


  • Conservation biology and biodiversity in urban areas
  • Climate change adaptation in urban areas
  • Biodiversity concepts in urban areas

"Modern techniques have made conservation genetics an integral part of research today. Together with other research groups, we investigate the biodiversity of wild animals, plants, fungi and bacteria so that we can draw conclusions about their distribution or to prove ecological relationships." Theo Smits, Head of Research Group


Research areas:


  • Population genetics of wild animals, plants, fungi or bacteria
  • Molecular ecology using metagenomics and eDNA-based methods
  • Identification of plants or wild animals using barcoding methods

"The expansion of our settlement and infrastructure areas, new technologies, the increase in leisure activities in nature, the 24-hour society, etc. raise the pressure on nature and the environment. Partly in cooperation with other research groups, we explore socio-ecological systems where there are conflicting interests between construction, nature and leisure/tourism, and seek sustainable solutions for the protection and use of our habitats." Reto Rupf, Head of Research Group


Research areas:


  • Entomological monitoring as a basis for habitat management
  • Use of new technologies in environmental planning (e.g. drones, augmented reality)
  • Behavioural analyses in outdoor sports as a basis for the development of environmentally and socially compatible management concepts

"We deal with the analysis of vegetation, condition and changes in botanical diversity, as well as efficient measures for species protection, nature conservation management and renaturation. In doing so, we use a wide range of methods of vegetation surveys and other observational data, experiments, large databases (ecoinformatics) and statistical modelling, and work regionally, nationally and internationally." Jürgen Dengler, Head of Research Group


Research areas:


  • Evidence-based nature conservation
  • Plant diversity and its change
  • Ecoinformatics and vegetation database

"Wildlife and humans live in close proximity in Central Europe. This means there are differing demands, often leading to resource conflicts for the same space. We analyse underlying ecological processes and develop practical solutions." Roland Graf, Research Group Leader


Research areas:


  • Roaming and activity patterns, as well as habitat selection, of wild hooved animals as a basis for resolving conflicts of use
  • Monitoring of mammals and birds - method development and application
  • Promotion of endangered vertebrate species