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Earth Sciences at the University of Fribourg

Bern-Fribourg Master in Earth Sciences


Master Specialty in Earth and Life Evolution (ELE)

Master Speciality in Earth and Life Evolution (ELE)







The Master Specialty in Earth and Life Evolution explores two complementary aspects of Earth Sciences – the evolution of the geosphere and that of the biosphere – linked by a common theme: the processes and the unique history that have produced our life-sustaining planet. It is a curriculum dominated by curiosity-driven pure science, based on the subdisciplines of paleontology, sedimentology, stratigraphy and geochemistry. Owing to the diversity of the underlying scientific approaches and techniques, a broad-based training is an essential feature of this Specialty. It requires that the students already have – or are prepared to acquire – sound basic knowledge in Earth history, palaeontology, and (isotope)-geochemistry. During the Master studies, students may choose specific areas in which increased expertise can be gained.


Career Perspectives

The breadth of the training acquired in this Specialty leads to a correspondingly wide choice of later professional opportunities in academia (PhD studies and advanced careers at universities, research institutions, museums, space agencies) as well as in applied Earth Sciences (hydrocarbon exploration, resource management, scientific journalism), in Switzerland and abroad. Graduates are especially prepared to work in interdisciplinary projects involving both Earth and biological sciences (e.g., biogeochemistry, astrobiology).



This Specialty aims at equipping graduates with a combination of different skills: understanding of the interaction between chemical, physical, and biological factors that have shaped and still shape the face of our world; expertise in state-of-the-art field and laboratory methods; analysis and interpretation of environmental changes at various timescales; understanding the factors that led to mass extinctions; definition of relative and absolute ages in Earth history; integrating scientific information into sound geological models; ability to formulate and execute a research project; communication of data and results in a professional manner, both in written and oral form; cooperation in national and international research projects.


Core courses for the Specialty in Earth and Life Evolution (30 ECTS in Module B)

Course title (30 courses): ECTS:
Advanced Carbonate Sedimentology 2.5
Chemical Evolution of the Earth 3
Diagenesis of Sediments 3
Evolutionary Paleontology 3
Fossil Lagerstaetten of Southern Germany 2.5
General Micropaleontology 3
General Micropaleontology (practical course) 2
Geochronology and Isotope Geochemistry 3
Geology, Sedimentology and Paleontology of the Swiss Jura 3
Geology, Sedimentology, and Paleontology of the Molasse Basin 3
Geostatistics 2
Internship in industry 5
Internship in Paleontology or Sedimentology 3
Laser-ablation inductively-coupled-plasma mass-spectrometry - LA-ICP-MS. Two days short course 1
Low Temperature Isotope Geochemistry 3
Marine Geology 3
Methods of Mass Spectrometry. Short course with practical; introduction to research practical. Upon request. (prer) 2.5
Noerdlinger Ries Excursion 1.5
Palaeoceanography and Pelagic Microfacies 1.5
Palaeoclimatology and Palaeoecology 3
Paleontology of Mammals 3
Quantifying Palaeobiology 3
Quaternary Dating Course 3
Rock and Paleomagnetism 2
Scientific Methods in Sedimentology and Paleontology 3
Seminar in Paleontology 1
Stratigraphical Micropalaeontology 2.5
Stratigraphy and Chronology 2.0
Taxonomy, Nomenclature, and Morphological Systematics 3
Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution 3


Master thesis project (60 ECTS in Module D)

Each student writes a research thesis on a topic related to on-going investigations at the Universities of Fribourg or Bern. The project may involve any combination of field, laboratory and/or computational work. The thesis work is conducted over the entire period of the MSc curriculum, parallel with coursework, thereby allowing time for in-depth understanding of the research problems and methods. One or more supervisors are drawn from the team of lecturers or from partner institutions. The thesis work terminates with a manuscript written according to international standards and an oral presentation at the end of the fourth semester. The MSc thesis may be written in English, French or German.

Available Thesis Topics in Speciality Earth and Life Evolution (ELE)

(this list is updated in December each year)


ELE EM ERG GEOL PAQS Uni. Thesis topic Advisors:
x x x BE Archean mountain building processes in 3D tectonic experiments, Details Dr. Frank Zwaan, Prof. Nicolas Greber, Prof. Guido Schreurs
x x x BE Magnetic properties of iron oxide exsolutions in silicates, Details Prof. Andrea Biedermann
x x x FR New projects in Carbonate Sedimentology, Details Prof. Anneleen Foubert
x x FR New projects in Macropaleontology, Details Prof. Walter Joyce
x x FR New projects in Micropaleontology, Details Dr. Silvia Spezzaferri
x x BE Trace element distribution in garnet: growth and diffusion, Details Prof. Daniela Rubatto, Prof. Pierre Lanari, Prof. Jörg Hermann

Current master students in Speciality Earth and Life Evolution (ELE)

Student Thesis topic Advisors
Andrey Marine Prof. Walter Joyce
Bornet Bastien Dating and mapping of fluvial conglomerates and terraces at the western margin of the Danakil Depression Prof. Anneleen Foubert, PD Dr. Naki Akçar
Buckley Andrea Nature and significance of Fe-rich ooids in the Passwang Formation Prof. Anneleen Foubert
Haberditz Xenia Paleo-environmental characterization of lacustrine deposits in Lake Afdera (Afar, Ethiopia) Prof. Anneleen Foubert
Künzi Pia When did Planetesimals form? Prof. Klaus Mezger, Prof. Beda Hofmann
Sapia Léo Prof. Walter Joyce
Schmid Nicole Reconstruction of Antarctic Circumpolar Current dynamics in South-West Indian Ocean during the last glacial cycle using sortable silt Prof. Samuel Jaccard
Vuadens Simon Facies and architecture of carbonate mounds from the Callovian in the Vocontian Basin (SE France) Prof. Anneleen Foubert
Zimmerli Geraldine Subfacies heterogeneity within the Opalinus Clay: a multidisciplinary approach (Mont Terri Rock laboratory, Switzerland) Prof. Anneleen Foubert


Laboratories and related facilities

Master students have access to a wide range of analytical facilities at the host institutes, including petrographic microscopy, grain-size analysis, micropalaeontological preparation, cathodo-luminescence, scanning-electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, electron microprobe, laser-Raman spectroscopy, laser-ablation-ICP-MS, fluid inclusion microthermometry, wet-chemical laboratories with ICP-OES and ion-chromatography, mass-spectrometers for stable isotopes of C, O, H, He, Ca, Mo, and for radiogenic isotopes of the K-Ar, Rb-Sr, Nd-Sm, and U-Pb systems. Computational facilities include computer clusters for numerical modeling and GIS applications.
Access is also offered to museum collections (mineralogy, palaeontology, petrography, meteorites) and to ongoing scientific excavations (e.g., Paleojura team project).



Supervision of MSc thesis projects is carried out by a team with extensive experience in the field, including:


Further information

Prospective students for the Specialty in Earth and Life Evolution should contact one of the following professors for further information:
Prof. Thomas Nägler (Bern):
Prof. Walter Joyce (Fribourg):



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