Meet the Lab

The Crowther Lab is a collection of researchers, scientists and technical staff with a range of expertise from microbiology to digital marketing,  all working with one thing in mind – the climate. We study the ecological processes that influence the climate to help us predict and combat anthropogenic climate change. There will be a media team working alongside the scientists with the aim of publishing their findings as well as promoting climate change as a whole, on easily accessible public forums. This will be to encourage more conversations on and awareness around the environment and climate change.

We are not focussed on one academic field. We are Earth Scientists, Remote Sensing Experts, Community Ecologists, Ecosystem Ecologists, Earth System Modelers, Programmers, Physiologists, Mathematicians, Molecular biologists, Physicists and Biochemists. Most labs in the world focus on one of each of these, but our interdisciplinarity allows us to identify the most important questions and to come at questions from different angles.

Prof. Dr Thomas Crowther

Assistant professor of Global Ecosystem Ecology

Tom’s research aims to generate a mechanistic understanding of the ecological processes that drive the carbon cycle and climate system at a global scale. An ecologically-informed understanding of Earth system dynamics is necessary to understand and address global climate change.

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Dr Kailiang Yu

Expert in global ecology and ecohydrology

Kailiang is a global ecologist whose research examines the response of terrestrial ecosystems over a range of spatial and temporal scales to global environmental change, especially drought, rainfall variability and CO2 enrichment. Kailiang uses a variety of experimental, observational, and processed-based approaches with the central goal of improving how we understand and predict the effects of global environmental change on vegetation range shift, ecosystem critical transitions, ecosystem carbon and water cycling, and land-atmosphere interactions. Before Kai joined Tom’s lab, he worked at University of Utah on forest carbon cycling and plant nighttime transpiration. Kailiang completed his PhD in the Department of Environmental Science at University of Virginia in Dec 2016. His Ph.D. research focused on ecohydrological and ecophysiological controls on changes in dryland vegetation under global environmental change.

Dr Jean-François Bastin

Expert in Remote Sensing and Global Change Ecology

JF is a researcher from Belgium, studying the effect of global change on terrestrial ecosystems from remote sensing and big data. JF specializes in Global Forest Systems studies, where he focuses on the link between forest functioning and climate change at global scale, with a particular attention on the development of restoration/adaptation strategies.  In parallel, JF collaborates with a team at NASA-JPL in the assessment of tropical forest carbon stocks from SAR/LiDAR technologies, and is involved in Belgium at ULB in teaching activities and research in forestry.

JF is a forest ecologist using remote sensing to better understand global ecosystem functioning. Using passive and active signals, he is studying forest extent, biodiversity, dynamics, structure and carbon stocks on multiple scales, with a particular focus on the most important ‘gap of knowledge’ in tropical regions, i.e. Central Africa. Concerned by climate change issues, he is also involved in projects assessing forest resilience toward external forcing and investigating opportunities/potentialities of ecosystem restoration.

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Dr Constantin Zohner

Expert in phenology, ecosystem ecology and global change

Constantin believes it is critical to understand how changes in the physiology and composition of plants will alter biogeochemical cycles, to improve our confidence in future climate projections. To address these issues, in 2014 he started a PhD in an evolutionary-ecological lab led by Susanne Renner at the University of Munich (LMU). In his PhD thesis “The biogeography, evolution, and function of leaf-out phenology studied with experimental, monitoring, and phylogenetic approaches” he studied the effects of climate change on plant functioning and productivity and aims to continue this line of research using experimental, meta-analytical and modelling methodologies as a postdoctoral fellow in the Crowther lab.

Constantin’s current research focuses on the impacts of climate change on the ecology of temperate woody plants. He is integrating phylogenetic information, biogeographic parameters, and data on plant functional traits from in situ observations and experiments to study the evolutionary forces underlying plant’s growth strategies and forecast the behavior of plant communities under ongoing climate warming. In his ongoing projects he aims to (i) forecast spring onset of temperate trees under different climate change scenarios, (ii) use common garden observations to study biogeographic differences in plants’ responses to climate warming, (iii) predict plant invasions based on functional traits and test how environmental filtering affects the phylogenetic structure of species invasions, (iv) predict biogeographic changes in late frost risk, and (v) study the evolution of autumn leaf coloration in temperate species.

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Sabiha Majumder

Sabiha Majumder, from India, is a Physicist by training. Her research focuses on understanding ecological systems having multiple stable states and the impact of external drivers on their dynamics. Specifically, she focuses on understanding the mechanisms promoting multistability and testing the early warning signals of abrupt transitions between alternative stable states, using both modeling and data analyses. She was formerly an Integrated PhD student in the Department of Physics at llSc where she contributed extensively to to our understanding of dynamic ecosystems.

Johan van den Hoogen

Expert in soil biodiversity and ecosystem functioning

Johan’s  academic career started in 2007 in Wageningen, The Netherlands, with a BSc in biotechnology. Being interested in medical biotechnology, Johan spent a semester in Trondheim, Norway. Later his interest shifted more towards plants, so he began a specialization in cellular and molecular biotechnology for his MSc, and spent six months in New Zealand for an internship. Johan’s  MSc concluded with two master theses, both addressing root nodule formation. The second thesis focused on the only non-legumes that can establish nitrogen-fixing nodules with Rhizobium, tropical trees from the genus Parasponia. In 2013, Johan started a PhD in the group of Prof. Dr. Francine Govers at the Laboratory of Phytopathology at Wageningen University, focussing on cellular signalling in the potato late blight pathogen Phytophthora infestans. Here he discovered that Phytophthora species, and other eukaryotic microorganisms contain unique cellular signalling components. This sheds light on the signalling pathways that may have been present in ancient microorganisms that existed millions of years ago.

After finishing the experimental work for his PhD Johan changed gears from molecular biology on the sub-cellular level, to microbiology on a global scale. Since January 2018, Johan works at ETH Zürich as a postdoctoral researcher and laboratory manager in the Crowther Lab. By assessing the microbial composition of soils across the globe we aim at understanding biogeographic patterns of soil microbiota. Including this information will allow us to create spatially explicit maps of these soil organisms, which will be crucial to feed Earth system models. Ultimately, this will help us to understand the role of microorganisms in global carbon cycling and unravel global patterns of the soil microbiome that drive ecosystem functioning.

Johan is a microbiologist with an expertise in soil biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. He looks at microbiology on a global scale, mapping the global soil biodiversity. Johan is also the manager of the three laboratory facilities we have at ETH Zurich, monitoring equipment and overseeing experiments. Currently Johan, Devin and Tom are working on a global map of soil nematode abundances.

Iris Hordijk

PhD Student

Iris finished recently the master programme Forest and Nature Conservation with a major in ecology at Wageningen University. She studied for her master thesis the factors influencing the regeneration of the palm species A. phalerata in a Bolivian forest-savanna mosaic. She will be looking at the dominance of tree species in the tropics.

Thomas Elliott

Business Development and Strategy Officer

Thomas has been a trained chartered accountant for over 10 years, so is equipped with the expertise to ensure that our larger than usual lab will have the funding necessary to produce their work. We hope this will encourage even more efficient work, with less time being spent searching for grants. It frees up more time to be spent working on the most important thing – the science. Tom will be managing the infrastructure and finances of the group and regularly report to the our funding organizations and partners.

Julia Maschler

PhD Student

Julia, from Germany, is a PhD student with a diverse scientific background: Julia holds a BSc in Medical Biology from the University of Duisburg-Essen and a MSc in Environmental Sciences from the University of Copenhagen and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna. Julia is dedicated to producing research that helps provide insights into the complex issue of climate change, with strategies to directly address some of our key uncertainties in the field. The focus of her PhD at the Crowther specifically looks at changes in plant growth under elevated C02 that may alter the global carbon budget and climate over the rest of the century.

Haozhi Ma

Masters student from the Department of Biology ETH Zurich

Haozhi was trained in biological sciences (genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, cancer researches and ecology) in School of Life Sciences, Nanjing University. Focusing on landscape ecology and macroecology, his bachelor training took humans into ecological account. Not only regarding human behaviors as an influential force to change environmental conditions and ecological processes, his work also heavily disentangled how human communities, rural settlements and language diversity shape by the impact of environmental conditions. Apart from that, Haozhi’s studies during bachelor were also captured by alpine meadow in Qinghai and Tibet Plateau. The focus was on plant-animal interactions especially how abiotic factors could affect sedge consuming caterpillars who may change the percentage of herbs and sedges in local community (top-down control).
Haozhi’s current researches and future topics are combining community ecology and broad scale analyzing approaches. Discrete empirical studies have checked fundamental ecological theories but few reached consensuses since heterogeneous environmental conditions and species assemblages. Broadening up community ecological theories will help us have a general understanding of how species interactions, species coexistence, biodiversity-ecosystem function relationship will change along environmental gradients and how they react to environmental shifting.

Website: Haozhi is a masters student finishing his research project in the Crowther Lab. After 4 years’ comprehensive undergraduate training in Nanjing University, China he was interested in how biodiversity was formed, spatial patterns emerged from self-organization and undermined organism-organism or environment interactions and biogeographic views on human related features (i.e. linguistic diversity and rural settlements) regionally and globally. For his research, he is now attempting to analyze global patterns of tree species interactions and relationships with ecosystem functions and biodiversity.

Devin Routh M.A., M.F.S.

Research Scientist in Geospatial mapping, Programming and Remote Sensing

Devin originally hails from his family’s multigenerational farm in the foothills of the southeastern United States. For his education, he pursued his first master’s degree at Dartmouth College in Liberal Arts—studying subjects ranging from systems science to socioeconomic globalization. He then ventured to the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies for a master’s degree in forest science. In the lab, he provides support on any project that requires geospatial data analyses, remote sensing, and/or statistical programming.



Emily Clark

Emily has a diverse background in management, organizational development, and public health. She successfully helped start and run two small businesses, and was the development director for a non-profit organization before arriving at the Crowther Lab. Within the lab, Emily works as a project manager, identifying and overseeing conference & event opportunities, helping with the submission of proposals/grants, and handling research, content and editing for the media and communications team. In addition to her desk job, Emily is passionate about maternal-infant health and is active in humanitarian projects to improve community services during crisis. She believes that efforts to understand and mitigate the influence of climate change on a global scale is fundamental in protecting vulnerable populations.

Ariane Nake

Administrative Assistant

Ariane is a German native who has lived in Switzerland for more than 11 years. Before starting at ETH,  Ariane worked in human resources, overseeing an international crew onboard river cruise ships all over Europe. With a background in hospitality, Ariane’s main role at the Crowther Lab is to manage all administrative details, human resources and accounting. Essentially, Ariane is the person who makes sure that everybody is feeling comfortable at work and can do their job properly.

Lidong Mo

PhD Student

Lidong’s interests are focusing on macroecology researches with big data. Using modeling approaches to investigate the global climate change patterns in different time episodes (past, present, future), and the impact of climate changes on different organisms (distribution, migration, evolution etc.). His PhD research topic is predicting the global forest communities’ dynamics under climate change scenarios in the future. He is applying two approaches, Probability Species Pool and Joint Species Distribution Modelling (Joint SDM), to project the  global landcovers and global forest communities to the future. Based on the predicted landcovers and global forest communities’ composition, the carbon stock pattern and map will be generated, which can donate a lot to the human beings fighting against climate change.

Felix Finkbeiner

PhD Student

Felix is interested in understanding forest restoration potential at a global scale as well as which areas should be prioritised to maximise the impact of biosequestration in addressing anthropogenic climate change.

Previously, Felix studied International Relations in London. He also founded the tree-planting organisation Plant-for-the-Planet ( in 2007. The organisation has 70,000 members and 150 employees in 76 countries involved in tree-planting and climate change advocacy. In May 2018, German President Steinmeier awarded Felix the Federal Order of Merit, making him the youngest ever recipient.

Joe Wan

PhD Student

Joe is a PhD student studying how forest trees and soil organisms interact with each other, and how these relationships affect the global carbon cycle. In his PhD work, he aims to use mathematical models to unite perspectives from the fields of community and ecosystem ecology. Applying these insights, he will design experiments and global analyses that predict how ecosystems will respond to global change. Joe is originally from the United States and received his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Biology from Stanford University in 2016. Check out his personal website here:


Hiring at the Crowther Lab

Equal Opportunity Hiring – We are actively looking to hire dynamic and competitive Post Docs and PhD students to join our team.

At the moment we have more men than women working and we would like to balance this out. We have been working with the 500 Women Scientists to initiate a gender neutral hiring process and we are particularly looking for applications from female scientists.

We are also hoping to promote racial diversity within our lab which we are confident will greatly benefit our research.

If you are interested in applying, please email your CV and cover letter to: