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Beate Jessel appointed as new WSL Director

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The Swiss Federal Council has appointed Professor Beate Jessel as the new Director of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL). Professor Jessel is currently President of Germany's Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN). She will take up her new post on 1 September 2021, succeeding the late Professor Konrad Steffen.


Professor Beate Jessel will become WSL's new Director on 1 September 2021. Professor Jessel has been President of Germany's Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) since November 2007. She previously held the Chair of Strategy and Management in Landscape Development at the Technical University of Munich and was Professor of Landscape Planning at the University of Potsdam.

What appeals to her most about her new job as WSL Director is the breadth of topics covered by WSL and the link made between basic and applied research, she says. She is looking forward to working with WSL's staff to build on these strengths: "WSL is a world leader in many areas, such as snow and avalanche research. The aim now will be to raise its international profile still further and, above all, strengthen its links with other European institutions." She also wants to further expand knowledge transfer and promote exchanges between research and practice. "We should focus our research even more strongly on topics of social relevance. As well as adaptation to climate change and the transition to renewable energies, such topics definitely include demographic change, settlement development and changing needs in terms of tourism and recreation."

Professor Jessel studied landscape management at the Technical University of Munich (Weihenstephan campus), where she gained her doctorate. Her research interests encompass concepts and strategies for nature conservation, landscape development and land use management, environmentally oriented planning, river basin management and landscape aesthetics. "I see myself as a generalist, which is why I think it's important to strengthen the ties between WSL's five research areas and their integration into the ETH Domain." She believes that forging closer relations between WSL and the two federal universities, ETH Zurich and the Lausanne-based EPFL, has great potential: "It will enable knowledge from WSL to be incorporated directly into teaching while, in return, allowing WSL to attract highly qualified young talent."

Beate Jessel succeeds Konrad Steffen, who died in an accident on a research trip to Greenland in August 2020. As well as taking up the role of WSL Director, she will become a professor at ETH Zurich and EPFL, subject to confirmation by the ETH Board.