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Earth Sciences at the University of Fribourg

Bern-Fribourg Master in Earth Sciences


Master Specialty in Environmental and Resource Geochemistry (ERG)

Master Speciality in Environmental and Resource Geochemistry (ERG)






Career Perspectives:

Environmental and resource geochemistry has become a large sector of professional activity for Earth Science graduates. The reason for this development is that virtually any exploitation of geological resources impacts on the environment. Industry and governmental authorities throughout the world now require geoscientists who are trained to deal simultaneously with both sides of this conflict of interests. Experts are particularly sought in fields such as exploration and evaluation of mineral and energy resources, geochemical assessment and protection of groundwater reserves, geological disposal of toxic or radioactive wastes, clean-up of polluted industrial or mining sites, alternative resources from recycled industrial and construction waste, and development of geothermal energy and underground storage of anthropogenic CO2. Many graduates of the Institute of Geology at the University in Bern are currently working in one of these fields in small or large companies, in the private, public or academic sector in Switzerland and abroad.



From a scientific point of view, all of the above applications are linked by a common theme: the chemical and physical interaction between some kind of water, on the one hand, and some kind of solid material (rock, mineral, solid waste etc.) on the other. The curriculum of the Specialty in Environmental and Resource Geochemistry spans this realm of ”water–rock” interaction, in order to prepare students to tackle the huge variety of problems that are encountered in professional practice.



This Specialty aims to provide graduates with the scientific basis to find and evaluate natural resources (whether mineral, fluid or heat) and at the same time to assess and mitigate the environmental impacts of their exploitation. These include a broad understanding of geochemical processes; an ability to integrate diverse scientific information into concrete problem-solving strategies; hands-on expertise with modern field, analytical and computational methods; and practice at communicating ideas and results in a professional manner, both in written and oral form.


Core courses for the Specialty in Environmental and
Resource Geochemistry (30 ECTS in Module B)

Course title (35 courses): ECTS:
Advanced Computer Programming for Geosciences 2
Applied geochemistry and thermodynamic modelling of cement hydration 1.5
Aqueous Environmental Geochemistry 2.5
Atomistic simulations of fluids and solids 2.5
Diagenesis of Sediments 3
Electron Beam Microanalytics: Theory - EMPA, SEM, TEM CL 2
Electron Microprobe Analysis - EMPA: Practical course. Theory course Electron Beam Microanalytics required. (prer) 1
Excursion Volcanology 2.5
Field Logging of Tunnels and Boreholes 2.5
Field Trip: Oceanic Lithosphere and subducted equivalents (Liguria) 2.5
Fluid Inclusions 2
Fluids in the Crust 2.25
From Waste to Resources - and the Challenges in between (Excursion) 1
Geochemical Analysis of Rocks. Four-day block course 2
Geochemical Modelling I. : Equilibrium Approach (prer) 2.5
Geochemical Modelling II: Reactive-Transport Modelling (prer) 2.25
Geological Disposal and Remediation of Non-Radioactive Waste 1.5
Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste 2.5
Geostatistics 2
Groundwater Sampling and Analysis 1.5
Internship in industry 5
Laser-ablation inductively-coupled-plasma mass-spectrometry - LA-ICP-MS. Two days short course 1
Low Temperature Isotope Geochemistry 3
Mapping of Rock Alteration and Permeable Structures 3
Methods of Mass Spectrometry. Short course with practical; introduction to research practical. Upon request. (prer) 2.5
Mineral Resources. Lecture and Practical 2.25
Mineral Surface Characterization by Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) 1.5
Natural Zeolites 2
Reflected-Light Microscopy 1.5
Rock and Paleomagnetism 2
Rock Deformation: Brittle regime (prer) 2.5
Scanning Electron Microscopy -SEM: Practical course. (Fribourg). (prer) 1
Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM): Practical course. (Bern) on request (prer) 1
Waste Materials & Circular Economy 1.5
X-Ray Powder Diffraction. Three-day short course. 1.5


Masters Thesis Project (60 ECTS in Module D)
Each student writes a guided research thesis on a topic of on-going investigation at the University of Bern or at partner institutions (university, government, industry). This project may involve any combination of field, laboratory and/or computational work. The thesis work is conducted over the entire 20-month period of the MSc curriculum, parallel to coursework, thereby allowing time for in-depth understanding of the research problem and methods. One or more supervisors are drawn from the team of lecturers or from partner institutions. During the first semester the student studies the literature and presents an oral and written research proposal. The remaining 3 semesters and one intervening summer period (free of coursework) are devoted to collecting and analysing data and to writing up the results. The thesis work terminates with oral and written presentations at the end of the fourth semester. The MSc thesis may be written in English or German. Other languages may also be permitted depending on the supervisors involved.

Examples of topics in which MSc projects may be conducted include field sampling, analysis and geochemical modelling of contaminated groundwaters; experiments on water-rock interaction involving infiltration or exchange apparatus; experiments in underground field laboratories; characterisation of pore fluids and of fluid flow in various rock types; field mapping, geochemical analysis and modelling of hydrothermal ore deposits; isotopic tracing and dating of water–rock interaction; field and analytical studies of soil contamination; experiments related to disposal and recycling of solid wastes. The Institute of Geology at the University of Bern currently has field projects in water–rock interaction running in Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Canada, Italy and Oman. Long-term projects are also underway for international organisations, such as the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and the Consortia steering the work in the Mont Terri and Grimsel Underground Rock Laboratories.

Available Thesis Topics in Speciality Environmental and Resource Geochemistry (ERG)

(this list is updated in December each year)


ELE EM ERG GEOL PAQS Uni. Thesis topic Advisors:
x x BE 3D Evolution of Cockade Structures in the Grimsel Breccia Fault: An Earthquake proxy, Details Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Alfons Berger, Prof. Thomas Pettke
x x BE Advanced pore scale geochemical modelling using machine learning algorithm, Details Prof. Sergey Churakov
x x BE Alkali-aggregate reaction (AAR) and cracking mechanisms of concrete structures (applied research project), Details Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Alfons Berger
x x BE Characterization of fluid accompanied deformation along thrust faults , Details Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Alfons Berger
x x BE Geometries of 3D Flow paths in fault-related hydrothermal systems, Details Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Alfons Berger, Prof. Beda Hofmann
x x x BE Microstructural analysis in sedimentary rocks of the Mont Terri Rock Laboratory subjected to high-pressure squeezing experiments, Details Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Martin Mazurek
x x BE Mineral surface speciation at an atomic scale, Details Dr. Konstantinos Karalis, Prof. Sergey Churakov
x x BE Multiscale 3D Fault Patterns and their Role for Seismic Activity in Switzerland, Details Prof. Marco Herwegh
x x BE Regression analysis of sorption data for evaluation of experimental uncertainties., Details PD Dr. Georg Kosakowski, Prof. Sergey Churakov
x BE Research topics in Environmental & Resource Geochemistry, Details Prof. Larryn W. Diamond
x x BE Structural investigation of layered- and framework-structures phosphates, Details Dr. Georgia Cametti, Prof. Sergey Churakov
x x BE The fate of ophicarbonates from seafloor to beyond antigorite dehydration and the subduction zone carbon cycle, Details Prof. Thomas Pettke, Prof. Jörg Hermann
x x BE The geochemistry of chromium (Cr) in major Western European rivers, Details Prof. Samuel Jaccard, Dr. Christoph Wanner, Dr. David J. Janssen
x x BE The subduction plate interface: Geodynamics, chemical cycling and more, Details Prof. Thomas Pettke
x BE The thermal anomaly in the Gotthard highway tunnel, Details PD Dr. Niklaus Waber, Dr. Christoph Wanner
x x x BE Tracking the nature of the continental crust with modern analytical techniques, Details Prof. Nicolas Greber, Prof. Klaus Mezger
x x x BE Tracking the source and mineralization mechanism of Mo-deposits with in-situ Mo isotope measurements of molybdenite using Femtosecond-Laser Mass-Spectrometry, Details Prof. Nicolas Greber


Current master students in Speciality Environmental and Resource Geochemistry (ERG)

Student Thesis topic Advisors
Amacher Florian Rutile as a thermometer and chronometer Prof. Klaus Mezger, Dr. Tanya Ewing
Cardenas Bocanegra Miguel Alejandro The solubility of basaluminite from 0 to 25 °C and its implication for the mobility of aluminum in high alpine catchments Dr. Christoph Wanner
de Doliwa Zielinski Ludwik Maria Prof. Larryn W. Diamond
Kasikci Enes Occurrence of Massive Sulfide (VMS) Deposits in the Semail Ophiolite, Oman Prof. Larryn W. Diamond
Kuhn Raphael Giant Quartz-Hematite veins in the Oman Ophiolite: sub-seafloor or obduction origin Prof. Larryn W. Diamond
Lachavanne Carole Source rocks of orogenic gold deposits Prof. Larryn W. Diamond
Maeder Pascal Combining chemistry and physics: Geochemical reaction feedback on heat-transport in the vicinity of heat producing radioactive waste repository Prof. Sergey Churakov, PD Dr. Georg Kosakowski
Manikkapoody Ahathian Investigation of the architecture of USM sandstone bodies in the Bern area for geothermal applications Prof. Larryn W. Diamond, Dr. Daniela Van den Heuvel
Mercurio Romano Basaluminite traces from acid rock drainage in high alpine lake sediments: a possible permafrost thawing proxy? Prof. Flavio Anselmetti, Dr. Christoph Wanner
Richards Joshua Paris Silica precipitation in geothermal power plants in Iceland Dr. Daniela Van den Heuvel, Prof. Larryn W. Diamond


Former master students in Speciality Environmental and Resource Geochemistry (ERG)

Student Thesis topic
Bossart Lorenz Gossans above massive sulphide deposits in Oman
Buckingham Thomas Geochronology and Fluid Inclusion studies in Helvetic thrust faults.
Caviezel Anina Hydrothermal activity in the Valle del Cervo Pluton, Biella (Italy), W. Alps
Federspiel Nadia Meteorites and metorite weathering in Arabia
Gilbert Marie-José Evolution of the Waldheim Cave
Gilgen Samuel Mineralogical and Isotopic Studies on the REE-deposit in Thor Lake, NWT Canada
Hämmerli Johannes Gas-rock interaction at the Olkiluoto Investigation Site, Finland
Hess Manuela Subduction zone magma geochemistry; Kos, Greece
Laudanski Peter Late Holocene climate variability recorded in Stalagmites
Laureijs Christiaan Thomas Gossans on massive sulphide deposits in the Oman Ophiolite
Maeder Jonas Tungsten in the environment at contaminated sites
Martin Lukas Magma evolution beneath island arc volcanoes traced by melt inclusion analysis, Nisyros, Greece.


Laboratory Facilities
MSc students have access to a wide range of modern analytical facilities at the host institute, including petrographic microscopy, cathode-luminescence, scanning-electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, electron microprobe, Laser-Raman and FTIR spectroscopy, Laser-ablation-ICP-MS, fluid inclusion microthermometry, rock porosity and permeability apparatus, wet-chemical laboratories with atomic-absorption and ion-chromatography, mass-spectrometers for stable isotopes of C, O and H, and for radiogenic isotopes of the K-Ar, Rb-Sr, Nd-Sm, U-Pb, Ca, Mo and He systems. Experimental equipment includes porewater extraction devices, flow-through reaction vessels, exchange columns and hydrothermal autoclaves for high P–T studies. Computational facilities include computer clusters for geochemical modelling and GIS applications. Additional facilities are available at the BeNeFri partner universities and at collaborating research institutes.


Teaching of the specialised courses on Environmental and Resource Geochemistry and supervision of MSc thesis projects is carried out by a team with extensive experience in applied and theoretical water–rock interaction:


Further information:

Prospective students for the specialty in “Environmental and Resource Geochemistry” should contact the course coordinator , or .


University of Bern | Institute of Geological Sciences | Baltzerstrasse 1+3 | CH-3012 Bern |
Tel.: +41 (0)31 684 87 61|

University of Fribourg | Dépt. Géosciences ; Ch. du Musée 6 - Pérolles ; CH-1700 Fribourg |
Tel:  +41 (0)26 300 89 70 ; Fax: +41 (0)26 300 97 42 |
© University of Bern 29.11.2019