ETH1 - Mountain Forests and Risk Management
1 July 2017 - 9 July 2017
Hosted by ETH Zurich
Collective transport to the seminar house will be organized from Zurich on July 1st 2017 at 15.30pm. Please plan your arrival in Zurich accordingly.
The ETH Sustainability Summer School 2017 goes back to the roots of the term sustainability: into the forest. More precisely, into the Swiss mountain forest.
Volunteers building wooden tripods in the Swiss Re protection forest to protect the settlements and infrastructure in the Tamina Valley against avalanches.
Participants of the ETH Sustainability Summer School 2014 “Future Health” during the case study work about the course of the Cybathlon, a championship for racing pilots with disabilities (i.e. parathletes) using advanced assistive devices.
(Photo: ETH Sustainability)
32 students from all academic levels, disciplines and cultures will get the unique opportunity to theoretically and practically experience mountain forests as environmental systems from an inter- and transdisciplinary perspective.
Mountain forests provide a multitude of services on which mountain inhabitants as well as downstream communities depend. They supply timber, store carbon, regulate climate and offer recreational opportunities, and – very importantly – protect settlements and infrastructure from natural hazards such as avalanches or rockfall.
Mountain forests are fragile, among others because only few tree species thrive under the harsh high-elevation conditions, soils often are shallow and prone to erosion on steep slopes, and biotic processes are slow due to short growing seasons. For example, the natural re-growth of forest after a blowdown event may take many decades. In addition, chronic anthropogenic changes of the climate as well as changes to the frequency and severity of extreme events (e.g. wet snowfall episodes, windthrow) constitute considerable hazards to these ecosystems.
Managing mountain forests and risks is a long-term and costly process and everything but trivial. In order to maintain the functionality of forest ecosystem services, economical, ecological, social and engineering perspectives need to be considered. This year’s Summer School topic is thus a sustainability topic “par excellence”.
In the theoretical part of the Summer School, participants will receive input by experts from academia, the private sector and NGOs that will cover all relevant perspectives. The acquired knowledge will be the basis for discussions as part of case study work as well as with local stakeholders on topics such as:
- What should future natural hazard mitigation look like: natural mountain forests vs. artificial structures?
- What is the future of economically marginal mountain settlements? How can the cost of maintaining human livelihoods in the mountains be reduced? Are these settlements on the verge of becoming “Alpine fallow land”?
- Do we need “climate-smart” forest management that adapts to a changing climate and to changing demands for ecosystem services by humans, or will current practices suffice?
- What is the role of (or need for) hunting to manage game populations in order to protect the forest against game damage, or is the re-immigration of carnivores like wolves and lynx a sustainable way to handle tree-herbivore interactions?
In the practical part of the Summer School, participants will experience three days of “hands-on” work in a Swiss mountain forest, i.e. the realities of practical forest management work, and will be better able to assess the ecological, economic and engineering challenges that are important in the context of mountain forest management. Under the guidance of trained forestry personnel, the participants will be active in planting, clearing, building snow and wildlife protection measures, constructing footpaths and maintaining avalanche and torrent controls.
Course location is the mountain seminar house Piz Alun in St. Margrethenberg (www.pizalun.ch) close to Pfäfers, a mountain village in the Swiss Canton St. Gallen. The practical work will take place in the nearby protection forest maintained by a Volunteering-Programm of Swiss Re Foundation in partnership with Bergwaldprojekt.ch.
At the end of the Summer School, a voluntary one-day field trip will take place to visit and discuss mountain forests “in action”, either by visiting a forest enterprise (Tamina Forst), and/or a primeval forest (Scatlè, Breil/Brigels).
Target Audience / Prerequisites
The ETH Sustainability Summer School 2017 will be open to 32 Bachelor, Master and PhD students from a wide range of nationalities and disciplines such as Architecture, Biology, Earth Sciences, Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Geomatics Engineering and Planning, Management, Technology and Economics, Public Policy, Law, Spatial Development and Infrastructure Systems, Computer Science, or Modeling.
The course aims to ensure a well-balanced mixture between science, technology and social sciences. Candidates will be evaluated on their academic record, previous work experience, their readiness to work actively in the mountain forest, as well as their dedication to sustainability topics.
- Excellent English skills (speaking and writing).
- High motivation for interdisciplinary team work.
- High motivation for practical work in mountain forests.
Please note: Even if you are selected by your university as an outgoing student, this does not guarantee a place in this course.
Delivery Method & Learning Outcomes
Methods: Input presentations, workshops, group discussions, case studies, excursion, practical work.
Based on your scientific work in the classroom and group work setting, you will…
- get to know a wide range of issues in the context of the ecology, management, and spatial planning of mountain regions and mountain forests;
- be able to critically reflect on the economic, ecological and societal relevance of mountain forests;
- apply the newly gained knowledge to critically assess practically relevant issues that will shape the future of mountain forests.
Based on the practical work in mountain forest management and restoration, you will…
- be enabled to connect theoretical knowledge gained via the scientific presentations and the group work with the practical dimensions of mountain forest management;
- experience the effort required to work in harsh terrain under difficult conditions, contributing to strenuous but pivotal efforts to maintain the protective function of mountain forests;
- be better able to assess the ecological, economic and engineering challenges that are important in the context of practical mountain forest management.
Attendance of 95% of the lectures; active participation on the case studies and practical work, contribution to the final presentation.
Credit equivalent at host university & contact hours
2 ECTS credits
(corresponding to a total of 60 work hours)
Please note that the summer school is an intense program. If you wish to combine your attendance of the Summer School with private travel, please arrange to do so before or after the program. Please also note that the course will often run late into the evening.
The practical work in the Swiss mountains is strenuous but doable for almost all fitness levels. Safety is very important, and all participants will receive a detailed safety briefing. Most important for safety are solid hiking shoes with grip soles.
The practical work will take place in most weather conditions. Please bring rain clothes.
Lecturer(s) / Tutor(s)
Prof. Harald Bugmann (D-USYS) and other faculty members of ETH; staff of Swiss Re; local forest management experts.
The participants are accommodated in the mountain seminar house Piz Alun St. Margrethenberg (www.pizalun.ch) in Pfäfers, a mountain area in the Swiss Canton St. Gallen.
Accommodation in simple multiple-bed rooms.
Participants are required to bring a sleeping bag and a towel.
Figures are estimates only. Click on each item for details.
Tuition FeesTuition fee: 250 CHF
• Board and lodging are included in the tuition fee.
• Transport is covered from Zurich to the seminar house and back, as well as transport in the mountains.
VisaEstimate of visa fee: depends on country of origin
Required and / or Recommended Insurance(s)
Participants are responsible for their own insurance.
- Health insurance covering a 9 day stay in Switzerland
- Third party liability insurance
- Personal accident insurance
Further Required Application Material
Students interested in ETH1 should apply simultaneously at their home universities for IARU GSP and on the website of the ETH Sustainability Summer School. Applicants are required to fill-in an online form on the ETH Sustainability Summer School homepage and upload a one-page CV and a one-page letter of motivation.
Please note: Even if you're selected by your university as an outgoing student, this does not automatically guarantee you a place in this course.