PostDoc Projects Biodiversity in cultural landscapes

Project lead

Steffen Boch


Christian Rixen

Project duration

2022 - 2023


Two projects to investigate and mitigate the loss of biodiversity due to changes in land use (intensification and extensification) in cultivated landscapes.

In Switzerland, traditionally managed grasslands are part of the Alps’ cultural landscape. Both intensification and abandonment are among the major drivers of biodiversity loss in the past decades. Mitigating the loss of biodiversity is a challenge for policy and conservation given current unprecedented rates of environmental change.

Two closely related projects on this topic, both for a Post-doc (f/m/d; 80–100%) and for the duration of one year start in autumn 2022. As the two projects are partly using the same data sets, have the same stakeholders and are both carried out in cooperation with the WSL Biodiversity Center, the Post-Docs of both projects will work in close collaboration with each other. With the project team’s close contacts to the Swiss Federal Agencies for the Environment and Agriculture, the results can directly be used for developing management strategies for the conservation of biodiversity, the preservation of natural resources in Switzerland and impact conservation policy and rise attention of authorities, politics and the public.

The first project “Impacts of woody encroachment on habitat structures and biodiversity in Switzerland” by the Research Group Mountain Ecosystems at the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF in Davos, will focus on analysing the relationships between tree and shrub expansion, habitat diversity and plant species diversity in Switzerland. Modelled vegetation height based on historical aerial stereo images, covering 40 years of woody encroachment and forest expansion with a 1-m-resolution, will be combined with existing biodiversity data.

The second project “Effects of land-use intensification on biodiversity dynamics in Swiss grasslands” by the research group ‘Habitat dynamics’ at WSL Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research in Birmensdorf, repeated remote-sensing data for quantifying land-use changes will be linked to multi-taxa time series data (e.g. vascular plants, bryophytes, butterflies, molluscs, birds) from the major national monitoring programs to explore nationwide biodiversity changes along environmental gradients over the past two decades.

Who we are looking for

You have acquired a doctorate in an ecological science field and you are familiar with statistical analyzes that relate temporal changes to environmental factors. You have experiences in managing large data sets. You are motivated and skilled in writing scientific publications. You feel comfortable communicating with mostly national stakeholders. You have a good command in German or French and you are fluent in English. A well-structured, conceptual and independent working attitude is your strength, as well as teamwork and the capability for communication.

How to apply

There is the opportunity to apply for both projects. In that case, please apply to one of the advertised positions (see links below) and indicate in your cover letter that you are interested in both projects.

Application Link to Project 1: Impacts of woody encroachment on habitat structures and biodiversity in Switzerland
Clemens Güdel, Human Resources SLF, or Christian Rixen will be happy to answer any questions or offer further information.

Application Link to Project 2: Effects of land-use intensification on biodiversity dynamics in Swiss grasslands
Michèle Bucher, Human Resources WSL, or Steffen Boch will be happy to answer any questions or offer further information.

Applications via email will not be considered (instead: follow the instructions in the links above). Applications will be reviewed starting 1st of June 2022 and interviews be held ca. at the end of June. The WSL strives to increase the proportion of women in its employment, which is why qualified women are particularly called upon to apply for this position.