Swiss Institute for Speleology and Karst Studies
CH-2301 La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
Phone +41 32 913 3533
CH-3323 Baeriswil, Switzerland
Phone +41 77 426 2390
Who am I?
I’m a german-speaking Swiss cititzen from Berne. Already as a kid, I got interested in nature and its related subjects, so I declared I wanted to be an “animal researcher”. Farming and wood-cutting at my grandparents’ and my Cousin’s increased this wish, so I completed all the necessary schools. By then I came into contact with the world of caves, and at the very last day of inscription to the University, I decided to try geology instead of Forestry engineering (wich was closest to the living world). I soon became aware that the Earth is living, breathing and as fascinating as any other critter could be – only with timescales that are somewhat different. So, I never since regretted this choice.
Between 1991 and 1998 I was at the Institute of Geological Sciences of the University of Berne. In 1997, I finished my diploma in the field of Mineralogy and Petrology: Evolution and metamorphism of the rocks in Val Vergeletto (Ticino), under supervision of Martin Engi and Larryn Diamond. Many people find it strange that I was on the mineralogic side since I am also a keen caver! But right now, I consider myself as a “Earth scientist” rather than a Mineralogist or a Sedimentologist. This also has to do with my PhD: “Cave Genesis and its relationship to surface processes: Investigations in the Siebenhengste region”, a work under supervision of Michel Monbaron and Pierre-Yves Jeannin. The thesis was carried out 1998-2002 at the University of Fribourg Switzerland.
Between 2002 and 2003 I was at my PostDoc stay with Darryl Granger at EAS, Purdue University, USA. Here, I dated the oldest phases of the Siebenhengste caves with cosmogenic isotopes. Thus, this work was in a certain sense the continuation of the PhD. The results are excellent, the oldest cave sediment is 4.4 Ma old!
Then, I was working for the BOKU Vienna (Markus Fiebig), and dated the classical Bavarian Deckenschotter, the famous Günz and Mindel glaciations. We plan to do some comprehensive terrace and cave dating in the Eastern Alps, in Austria and Slovenija, maybe also in Italy. The aim would be the temporal and spatial reconstruction of the geomorphological evolution during the last some million years.
Due to different unlucky reasons, my stay in Vienna ended prematurely. That’s why I returned to Switzerland and am now working at the Swiss Institute for Speleology and Karst Studies. There are a lot of different tasks waiting for me… and with my spare time I continue my research on cave genesis, datings, and surface evolution.
Since 2007 I am again partly occupied at BOKU Vienna for supervision of the cosmogenic lab and for lectures in hydrogeology. So my university side continues…
What do (or did) I do?
- Caving research: The main object are the cave systems north of Lake Thun.
- Genesis of St. Beatus Cave and Baerenschacht in relation with valley deepening, glaciations and surface morphogenesis (This was my PhD project). We found that the cave system north of Lake Thun contains at least eleven distinct speleogenetic phases that are in connection with ancient valley floors. The work allowed to better define the six lowest phases, to construct a framework of relative chronology (erosion-sedimentation cycles) and to date this by U/Th on speleothemes. The ages obtained for these phases are in good agreement with the known glacial stratigraphy outside the cave. The end result of the PhD was the temporal and spatial succession of valley deepening phases and glacial cycles within the last 400’000 years. Integrated within this PhD is the understanding of the paleogeographic (Cretaceous to Eocene) and paleotectonic evolution of the region north of Lake Thun. The PhD is sometimes available in print (before it is sold out again) and in PDF.
- dating of the oldest Siebenhengste caves by cosmogenic isotopes. Due to an important content of undesired elements, I tried to evaluate different chemical cleaning methods. Now, the chemistry is done, and the samples are measured! The oldest sediment is 4.4 Ma – thus the PostDoc work was a great success. The paper is now out – check the February 2007 issue of Geology!
- I dated the Günz and Mindel Deckenschotter by burial age determination with cosmogenic isotopes: a technique that is in development
- Date other caves in the Alpine Arc with cosmogenic isotopes…
- Lectures on Karst and karst geomorphology in University of Vienna, together with Lukas Plan, 2009-2010.
- Lectures on general hydrogeology, from 2013 onwards.
- mapping caves for several applications
- scientific work for conservation purposes and for hydrogeological applications
As a summary, my work is divided into three main points:
- mapping (the base for all scientific work)
- speleogenesis (the role of floodwater, morphology of the caves)
- Past President of the Section of Berne of the Swiss Speleological Society SSS
- Past President of the Scientific Commission of the SSS, member of the Swiss Academy of Natural Sciences
- Chairman, International Union of Speleology Working Group Topography & Mapping(UISIC grp)
- Responsible for the Electronic Archive of the SSS
- Community counselor in Bäriswil, for water, energy, and infrastructure