Welcome back Karen!

Karen Viacava completed her Engineer’s degree in Biochemical Engineering at the Morelia Institute of Technology, Mexico. She continued her studies at the TU Dresden where she obtained a MSc degree in Molecular Bioengineering. She recently obtained her doctoral degree at the Environmental Microbiology Laboratory (EML) at EPFL where her research focused on the methylation of arsenic by soil microorganisms. As a Postdoc, Karen is going to work together with Ursina on the release and speciation of antimony in soils upon flooding and in flooded soils, with a special focus on the biomethylation and biovolatilisation of antimony.


Group Hike to Frienisberg

On the 25th of March 2021 a group hike was organized by Adrien to Frienisberg, one of the highest hills around Bern. A highlight was the observation tower (Chutzentrum) at 858 m.a.s.l. that offered a 360-degree view of the Alps and the Jura mountains. Another one were the Lobsigen caves (Höhlen Lobsingen) which were impressive caves carved into sandstones and were historically inhabited until the beginning of 20th century. The visit to these caves turned the hike into a geological excursion and initiated interesting discussions about soil and trace metals. The hike was about 10-12 km and ended at Radelfingen.


Animal experimentation permission granted

Sabnam’s animal experimentation permission has been granted. Congratulations! Sabnam has been successfully trained for wild animals and bird handling. She can now proceed with her barn owl sampling this Summer to study the biomagnification of mercury in the terrestrial food chain. The project will run for 2.5 years starting this March and is a collaboration with the Vogelwarte.


Congratulations Ursina

Ursina Morgenthaler is going to start her PhD in our group soon. She is a physical geographer interested in the environmental fate of pollutants and organic matter and nutrient cycling of the plant-soil system. After her graduation, she worked at the Competence Center Soil at Armasuisse, where she dealt with the investigation, remediation of contaminated sites and with the general management of military-derived pollutants. In her PhD she is going to investigate the release and speciation of antimony in soils upon flooding and in flooded soils, with a special focus on the biomethylation and biovolatilisation of antimony. The studied soils will be originating from Swiss shooting ranges, Chinese rice paddies of Xinkuangshan and a mine impacted floodplain in Australia.


Welcome Liv

Liv Klemm is going to write her master thesis with the soil science group. Her aim is to create an online teaching tool to bring soil science topics to a broader audience.


Lorenz's Paper in Interactive Public Peer Review

Lorenz submitted his most recent manuscript “Mercury mobility, colloid formation and methylation in a polluted fluvisol as affected by manure application and flooding-draining cycle.” as a preprint to Biogeosciences. In this interactive journal, the process of peer review and publication differs from traditional scientific journals. It is a two-stage process involving the scientific discussion forum Biogeosciences Discussions (BGD), and it utilizes the full potential of the internet to foster scientific discussion and enable rapid publication of scientific papers. So we would like to invite you to join the discussion and post your short comments until 15 March following the link below. Do not hesitate to share this link.


Job opening!

We are looking for a motivated student for a four year PhD position in our group. The successful candidate will investigate the release and speciation of antimony in soils upon flooding (and in flooded soils). The overall project also tackles biomethylation and biovolatilisation of Sb. The studied soils will be originating from Swiss shooting ranges, Chinese Rice Paddies of Xinkuangshan and a mine impacted floodplain in Australia (Macleay catchment). This project includes fieldwork to all these locations (if situation allows). More details about the job and details for the application can be found in the PDF here.

UniBern_PhDposition.pdf (PDF, 101KB)


Jaime obtained funding for 500WS

Jaime got a promotion fund grant from the University of Bern to fund the networking and science outreach events from 500 Women Scientists Bern-Fribourg. We are looking forward to further interesting events next year!


Zooming into soil aggregates

Klaus was recently participating in an experiment to analyse soil aggregates of Amazonian Dark Earth at the European Synchrotron (ESRF). He is very much interested on how changes in environmental conditions changes the availability of nutrients in soil. In this project he was looking together with colleagues from Germany and France into the co-location of carbon with other nutrients in soil. Read more about this exciting project and hear how it feels doing an experiment remotely from your bed-side.


Karen’s paper on arsenic methylation just got accepted

Karen’s paper on arsenic methylation just got accepted in ES&T! Congrats Karen! This new and exciting study presents a systematic investigation of active As methylation by pure cultures of seven arsM-harboring microbial species with varying metabolism and phylogeny that were selected to represent some of the diversity of soil microbes. Her results led to the following conclusions: (i) encoding a functional ArsM enzyme does not guarantee that a microorganism will actively drive As methylation in the presence of the metalloid and (ii) there is an inverse relationship between efficient microbial As efflux and its methylation, because the former prevents the intracellular accumulation of As.


Adrien obtained a grant from the SNSF

Adrien obtained a grant from the SNSF to study the release, biomethylation and biovolatilisation of antimony in soils. This new project will focus on polluted soils from Switzerland, China and Australia. A postdoc and a PhD will be hired to conduct the work which combines lab and field experiment with advance analytical techniques such as SEC-ICP-MS, AF4-ICP-MS and HPLC-ESI-QQQ-MS. The expected start is in early 2021.


New publication on the effect of organic matter amendments on the mobility and methylation of arsenic in Bangladeshi rice paddies

Adrien just co-authored a publication on the effect of organic matter amendments on the mobility and methylation of arsenic in Bangladeshi rice paddies. This work was done in Bangladesh and Aberdeen UK, during his PhD in 2009/2010 with his colleague Mahmud Hossain who first authored the publication. The title is “Arsenic dynamics in paddy soil under traditional manuring practices in Bangladesh”.


Talk about The Ethics of Environmental Justice by Prof Ivo Wallimann-Helmer

Prof Ivo Wallimann-Helmer from the Department of Geosciences, University of Fribourg gives a talk about the ethics of environmental justice within the cluster environmental pollution seminar series. This talk takes place at the GIUB, Hallerstrasse 12, in seminar room 001 at 4.00 pm – 5.15 pm on the 19.10.2020.

Cluster EP Seminar Series_Prof Ivo Wallimman-Helmer.pdf (PDF, 126KB)


Adrien and Caroline de Meyer obtained a Seed Money Grant

Adrien and Caroline de Meyer obtained a Seed Money Grant from the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation to characterise the occurrence of arsenic in ground water in the Bolivian Amazon. This project, called “Assessing geogenic arsenic and other potentially toxic trace elements in groundwater resources of the Bolivian Amazon” is a collaboration between our group and colleagues from the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz – Bolivia.


Christa defended her Master thesis

Christa has successfully defended her Master thesis! Congrats Christa! Christa’s thesis was a joint project between SL-SLM and our group. The title of her Master thesis is: “Do effective microorganisms (EM) affect the decomposition of organic matter? Results from a soil incubation experiment”.


Gaby and Milo defended their Master thesis

Milo and Gaby have both successfully defended their Master thesis! Congrats Gaby and Milo! Milo and Gaby worked both on Microplastics. The title of Gaby’s Master thesis is: “Microplastics in Swiss agricultural soils – Detection of microplastics using a combined method considering different agricultural land applications”. The title of Milo’s Master thesis is: „Mikroplastik im Drainagewasser: Identifikation und Quantifikation von Mikrokunststoffen im Wasser von landwirtschaftlich drainierten Böden“.


Teresa obtained two grants!

Teresa obtained two grants in June! Congrats Teresa!! One is a grant from the University Research Foundation to go and visit Prof. Feldman’s laboratory in Graz (AT) and learn more about extraction and high-resolution analysis of arsenolipids from world leading experts in the field. The second one is a Seal of Excellence Fund (SELF) which is an internal grant of the University of Bern to employ excellent international researchers at postdoctoral level whose MSCA IF applications with the University of Bern were (just) not funded but were awarded the “Seal of Excellence”. The award is worth approx..50 kCHF to pay Teresa’s postdoc salary (50% for a year).


Karen defended her PhD

Karen has successfully defended her PhD! Congrats Karen!! Her PhD was jointly supervised by Prof. Bernier-Latmani from the Environmental Microbiology Lab at EPFL, and Adrien. Karen worked in both EPFL and the GIUB. The title of her thesis was: “Methylation of arsenic by single-species and soil-derived microbial cultures”.


Gruppenphoto eines Zoom-Meetings

Bodenkunde im Homeoffice

Auch die Gruppe Bodenkunde musste sich in diesen aussergewöhnlichen Zeiten von Corona ins Homeoffice begeben. Die Forschung wird nun vom Homeoffice aus fortgesetzt mittels digitalen Meetings, Videokonferenzen und Online-Kolloquium.


Talk about the effect of organic matter on trace elements (TE) cycle (Dr. Julie Tolu, EAWAG) (Tuesday, 03.03.2020)

Investigating the effect of organic matter on trace elements (TE) cycle: role of OM molecular composition and quantification of organic TE in environmental samples (03.03.2020, 16.15 - 18.00 Uhr, Seminar room 228, Mittelstrasse 43)

Cluster EP Seminar Series_Dr. Julie Tolu.pdf (PDF, 286KB)


500 Women Scientists in the Pub - 11. Februar 2020

Um den Internationalen Tag der Frauen und Mädchen in der Wissenschaft zu feiern, organisieren Teresa Chávez-Capilla und Jaime Caplette, beide Teil der Berner Gruppe 500 Women Scientists, einen gemütlichen Abend im Zeichen der Frauen in der Wissenschaft. Zwei Vorträge erwarten das Publikum und vermitteln einfach und verständlich aktuelle Forschungsthemen. Dazwischen gibt es Spiele und gratis Snacks. Die Veranstaltung startet ab 18:30 im ONO Bern, Kramgasse 6. Der Eintritt ist frei, eine Kollekte sehr willkommen.


Probenahme von Rehwild

Das Bundesamt für Umwelt (BAFU) kontrolliert seit 2017 die Quecksilberbelastung in der Schweiz nach den Vorgaben der Minamata-Konvention über Quecksilber. Unsere Gruppe erhielt Fördermittel vom BAFU, um das Verhalten von Quecksilber im terrestrischen Ökosystem zu untersuchen und seinen Rückgang zu überwachen. Der erste Teil der Studie besteht darin, ein Überwachungsverfahren für Quecksilber- und Methylquecksilberkonzentrationen zu etablieren. Dafür sind Rehorgane ein idealer Bioindikator. Die Doktorandin Sabnam Mahat, die an dem Projekt arbeitet und Lucija Stanisic, begleiteten während der Jagdsaison verschiedene Jägergruppen einen Tag lang, um frische Proben von Muskeln, Leber und Nieren zu sammeln.



Adrien Mestrot und Lorenz Gfeller's Artikel über Quecksilbermobilität und Methylquecksilberbildung in kontaminierten Auenböden wurde für die "Emerging Investigator Series" des Journals "Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts" ausgewählt. Klicken Sie hier für weitere Informationen:


Portraitfotos von Andrea, Christa, Yannick und Tobias

Neue Masterstudiernde

Andrea Weber, Tobias Stalder, Yannick von Känel und Christa Herrmann schreiben ihre Masterarbeit in der Bodenkunde. Herzlich willkommen - rock it!


Lucija und Adrien bei der Probenahme in Liesberg BL

Probenahme in Liesberg BL

Der Boden um Liesberg weist hohe Arsenkonzentrationen auf, welche geogen bedingt sind. Adrien Mestrot und Lucija Stanisic haben in Liesberg BL Bodenproben und Proben von Maispflanzen genommen. Die Analyse der Maispflanzen soll zeigen, ob und in welchen Teilen der Pflanzen sich Arsen anreichern kann.


Einige Gruppenmitglieder während der Postersession

Jahrestagung 2019 der Deutschen Bodenkundlichen Gesellschaft und der Bodenkundlichen Gesellschaft der Schweiz

Vom 24. bis 29. August 2019 fand die grosse, gemeinsame Tagung der Deutschen und Schweizer Bodenkundlichen Gesellschaften statt. Die Gruppe für Bodenkunde war zahlreich an der Tagung vertreten.


Jaime und Lorenz neben ihren Poster, welche sie präsentierten.

Goldschmidt 2019 in Barcelona

Ein Teil der Forschungsgruppe nahm an der dieserjährigen Goldschmidt Konferenz teil. Jaime Caplette, Lorenz Gfeller, Adrien Mestrot und Moritz Bigalke stellten ihre Forschungsprojekte vor.


Gruppenaktivität: Langlaufen in Prés-d'Orvin


Neue Bodenkundegruppe seit 1. Januar 2019!

Am 1. Januar 2019 startete die neue Bodenkunde Forschungsgruppe. Sie vereint die ehemalige Gruppe für Allgemeine Bodenkunde und die Gruppe für Speziierung von Spurenelementen und wird geleitet von Prof. Dr. Adrien Mestrot.

Gruppenfoto vor dem Hauptgebäude der Universität Bern


Artikel im Schweizer Forschungsmagazin horizonte

Frau Caplettes Gespür für Antimon