How we conduct our research

Environmental scientitst at WSL and SLF observe and experiment, model and acquire information about forests, landscapes, biodiversity, natural hazards, and snow and ice. They use this work as the basis for developing solutions to problems faced by society.

Climate change, globalisation and population growth are giving rise to new problems, such as increased drought, invasive organisms and the proliferation of built-up areas. To ensure that society is able to respond to these problems effectively, our researchers monitor the condition and ongoing development of forests, biodiversity, snow and ice, natural hazards, and semi-natural and cultivated landscapes.

Environmental monitoring, which involves us essentially acting as transcribers of our environment, plays a key role in this. For the associated long-term research, we take action for experimental purposes, e.g. by maintaining forests in line with specific guidelines and evaluating long-term effects. Some of the WSL's data series go back more than 100 years. We evaluate millions of data points that are gathered every year and make them available to interested users.

Better understanding leads to better protection

Our environmental scientists research natural and cultural phenomena with the aid of scientific experiments on a small and large scale (see 'Large-scale research facilities'). They share the results in journals with colleagues all over the world.

Using the data gathered, our environmental scientists create and optimise computer models, e.g. in order to calculate the likely path and force of rockfalls or debris flows. Models like these help to protect human lives and infrastructure. They also prove that there is now less snow than before.

The WSL acts as a liaison between research and practice. We communicate our findings and expert knowledge in the form of reports, consultations, guidelines and advanced training and courses at universities. We provide taxpayers and authorities with information on how we use public money and regularly open our doors to visitors.