Ecologist Anita Risch elected to the WSL directorate

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On 21 September 2023, the ETH Board elected Anita Risch to the WSL Directorate. The ecologist and private lecturer at ETH Zurich researches the interactions and functions of animals, plants and soil organisms in ecosystems around the world.

With Anita Risch, another internationally active scientist joins the WSL Directorate. Her research revolves around the impacts of global change on biodiversity, ecosystem functions and processes. The focus is on human-induced global change drivers such as land use change, habitat fragmentation, and soil overexploitation and eutrophication. She conducts her experiments in a wide variety of world regions and ecosystems - from the Swiss National Park to Yellowstone National Park and the African Serengeti to the South American Pampas.

Risch published over 130 papers in scientific journals, but also repeatedly published for the general public. For example, on the "fence experiment" in the Swiss National Park, she wrote both a technical article in the prestigious journal Nature Communications and a nonfiction book for everyone. In this experiment, researchers used fences of various mesh sizes to exclude herbivores of all sizes from experimental plots in subalpine grasslands to study the influences of deer, marmots, grasshoppers and the like on vegetation. Risch has also studied termite mounds in Tanzania and soil microbes under deer carcasses killed by wolves in Yellowstone.

For her research, Risch often works in international networks, demonstrating her talent for bringing together and leading colleagues from diverse backgrounds. Risch holds a master’s degree in biology from ETH Zurich and in forestry from Michigan Technological University, USA. She habilitated as a private lecturer at ETH Zurich. At WSL, she supervised numerous master’s students, doctoral students, and PostDocs.

As a member of the directorate, Risch wants to "ensure that excellent research continues to be conducted at WSL," she says. For example, in biodiversity research, which is particularly close to her heart, since the loss of biodiversity and its associated functions and processes is a huge, unresolved problem. "I want to help stop these losses and, as far as possible, reverse them."

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