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Earth Sciences at the University of Fribourg

Bern-Fribourg Master in Earth Sciences


Master Speciality in Pure and Applied Quaternary Science (PAQS)

Master Speciality in Pure and Applied Quaternary Science (PAQS)








Career Perspectives:

Expected careers for Masters in Pure and Applied Quaternary Science are:

  • Consultant companies working in the field of engineering geology, hydrogeology or natural hazards.
  • Public agencies with responsibilities for environmental affairs such as landscape preservation and water protection.
  • International insurance companies with strong interests in risk assessments of global climate change and natural hazards.
  • Academic careers, through a sound preparation for PhD research in the fields of earth surface processes, palaeoclimate research, natural hazards, and geotechnics.



Unconsolidated sediments (gravel, sand, till, loess) are distinctively different from hard rocks due to their specific physical properties. Most such deposits were formed during the youngest part of Earth history, a period called the Quaternary or the Ice Age. Quaternary sediments cover most of the Earth surface. The heavily populated areas in the world are found in geological environments dominated by such unconsolidated rocks. As a consequence, most challenges regarding environmental geology and geotechnology are linked to unconsolidated Quaternary sediments. Gravel, sand and clay are among the economically most import resources not only in Switzerland. Unconsolidated sediments are usually much more sensitive to erosion than hard rocks and represent a high potential for geohazards such as mass movements and mud flows. Furthermore, Quaternary sediments reflect the environmental conditions during deposition and are important archives of past climate change.



The Major in Pure and Applied Quaternary Science represents an integrated approach for training students in all aspects concerning Quaternary sediments: sedimentology and human impact on earth surface processes, analyses and dating of sedimentary sequences to decipher climate change, actuo-glacial geological studies including polar areas, and physical properties of unconsolidated rocks. This approach guarantees a fundamental education that will enable graduates to face everyday challenges regarding unconsolidated sediments both scientifically and applied.


Core courses for the Specialty in Pure and Applied Quaternary Science
(30 ECTS in Module B)

Course title (24 courses): ECTS:
Advanced Computer Programming for Geosciences 2
Applied Sedimentology 3
Diagenesis of Sediments 3
Engineering and Quaternary Geology - Advanced Lab Course. 1.5
Environmental- and Limnogeology (incl. field course) 3
Field Logging of Tunnels and Boreholes 2.5
From Waste to Resources - and the Challenges in between (Excursion) 1
Geo-Information Systems. Lecture and practical 3
Geostatistics 2
Internship in industry 5
Interpretation of Seismic Profiles around the world 1.5
Laser-ablation inductively-coupled-plasma mass-spectrometry - LA-ICP-MS. Two days short course 1
Marine Geology 3
Natural Hazards: Process & Methods 3
Paleontology of Mammals 3
Quaternary Dating Course 3
Quaternary Paleoclimate and Paleoenvironment 2
Quaternary Sediments Field Week 3
Rock and Paleomagnetism 2
Rock Deformation: Brittle regime (prer) 2.5
Sedimentology of Glaciofluvial Deposits 1.5
Soil Mechanics 3
Surface Processes, Geomorphology (prer) 3
Unconsolidated Quaternary Sediments in Drillholes and Outcrops (incl. 1 day fieldcourse) 3


Available Thesis Topics in Speciality Pure and Applied Quaternary Science (PAQS)

(this list is updated in December each year)


ELE EM ERG GEOL PAQS Uni. Thesis topic Advisors:
x x BE Characterization of a sustainable building material made of raw earth and hemp, Details Dr. Guilhem Amin Douillet
x BE Environmental magnetism - Climate variation in lakes, Details Prof. Andrea Biedermann
x x BE Frost weathering of alpine limestone rock faces, Details Dr. David Mair, Prof. Fritz Schlunegger, Prof. Marco Herwegh
x BE General topics in paleoclimatology, paleoenvironments and sedimentary geochemistry, Details PD Dr. Hendrik Vogel
x BE General topics in Quaternary Geology and Paleoclimatology, Details Prof. Flavio Anselmetti
x x BE Geology, geomorphology, weathering and sediment transport in an Alpine drainage basin, Details Prof. Fritz Schlunegger, PD Dr. Naki Akçar
x BE Holocene rock avalanches and evolution of the polygenic cones in the Mont Blanc Massif, Details PD Dr. Naki Akçar
x BE Lake Van seismites documenting 600'000 years of tectonic activity in Eastern Anatolia, Details Prof. Flavio Anselmetti
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 BE Postglacial mass movements in the alpine valleys: a case study from Bernese Alps, Details PD Dr. Naki Akçar
x BE Quaternary glaciation reconstruction using drill cores from glacial overdeepenings in Northern Switzerland, Details Dr. Marius W.E. Büchi, Prof. Flavio Anselmetti
x BE Single-channel Airgun Reflection Seismics – Method opportunities and limitations in Austrian & Swiss Lakes, Details Dr. Stefano Claudio Fabbri, Prof. Flavio Anselmetti
x x BE The Clavaniev Zone: A recent seismic fault system?, Details Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Alfons Berger
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 Schwarzwasser fault system: Where is it? , Details Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Fritz Schlunegger, Prof. Flavio Anselmetti


Current master students in Speciality Pure and Applied Quaternary Science (PAQS)

Student Thesis topic Advisors
Affentranger Carlo Subaquatic Geomorphology of Lake Walen: Understanding subaqueous Slope and Delta Instabilities and its Implications in the perialpine realm Dr. Stefano Claudio Fabbri, Prof. Flavio Anselmetti
Ali Artin Environmental magnetism study of Lake Cadagno Prof. Andrea Biedermann, PD Dr. Hendrik Vogel
Bärenfaller Jonas Gian-Luca From Greenhouse to Icehouse- tracing continental paleoenvironmental changes across the Plio-Pleistocene transistion PD Dr. Hendrik Vogel
Graf Franziska Provenance of sand from Valgarola River in Val Müstair Prof. Fritz Schlunegger
Lustenberger Stefan Influence of geological precoditioning on rockfall activity in the Gasteren gorge. Prof. Marco Herwegh
Pellaton Jonathan Behaviour of molybdenum and sulfur isotope systems in a Swiss euxinic lake PD Dr. Hendrik Vogel, Dr. Martin Wille
Perler Dominic Postglacial sedimentological evolution of the Lake Constance shelf and its relation to archeological mounds Prof. Flavio Anselmetti
Zurbrügg Cyril Frost-cracking experiments on samples collected across a shear zone Prof. Marco Herwegh, Prof. Flavio Anselmetti


Former master students in Speciality Pure and Applied Quaternary Science (PAQS)

Student Thesis topic
Berther Rebecca Sedimentologische und geomorphologische Untersuchungen entlang der Entlen
Blaser Laura Rekonstruktion der Steinschlagaktivität im Täschgufer: raum-zeitliche Analyse und Auslösungsmechanismen
Bommer Bastian Dendrogeomorphologische Untersuchung der Rutschaktivität am Schimbrig (Entlebuch)
Caduff Rafael Das Diemtigtal- warum gefährdet? Eine Oberflächenanalyse


Further Information

Prospective students for the specialty in “Pure and Applied Quaternary Science” should contact the following professors for further information:

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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 |
© Universität Bern 29.11.2019