Meet the Lab

The Crowther Lab at ETH Zürich is an interdisciplinary research group which aims to generate a better understanding of global ecology in order to inform and address biodiversity loss and climate change.

We are theoretical ecologists, restoration experts, and data scientists studying global ecosystems and our work is helping create the scientific foundation for ecosystem restoration.

We’re optimistic problem solvers and communicators, students and teachers, partners and parents. We’re the Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich!

Portrait Prof. Dr. Thomas Crowther Lead scientist and lab founder

Prof. Dr. Thomas Crowther

Lead Scientist and Lab Founder

Thomas Crowther is an ecologist studying the connections between biodiversity and climate change. He is a professor in the Department of Environmental Systems Science at ETH Zurich, chair of the advisory council for the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, and founder of Restor, an online platform for the global restoration movement. In 2021, the World Economic Forum named him a Young Global Leader for his work on the protection and restoration of biodiversity. Read more.

Fundamental Ecology

What is diversity and how did it even arise? We don’t know, yet! This group studies the core mechanisms, processes, and principles that give rise to biological diversity and ecosystem function. They focus on levels of organization ranging from the individual organism to landscape level dynamics, identifying how species interactions and environmental conditions interactively shape the composition, structure, and function of natural ecosystems.

The Fundamental Ecology group is led by Dr. Lalasia Bialic-Murphy. Learn more about her resesarch.

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Dr. Lalasia Bialic-Murphy

Lead Scientist

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Dr. Xianyu Yang

Postdoc

Understanding the role of demographic strategies in maintaining species distributional patterns and diversity.

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Dr. Yohana Jimenez

Visiting Postdoc

Fascinated by how humans shape the landscape and, in turn, are impacted by environmental changes.

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Kathi Runge

PhD student

Puzzled by the complexity of ecosystems' dynamics and trying to solve the puzzle of thresholds to guide nature conservation.

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Wenna Tu

Guest PhD student

Exploring ecosystems under human influence.

Microbial Ecology

What is happening belowground and how does it drive what we see aboveground? This group is interested in understanding microbial influence on plant diversity and biogeography. We also study human impacts on plants, microbes, and plant-microbe relationships, such as land use change, nutrient deposition and invasion. We study all plant associated and soil microbes, but have a strong focus on mutualistic mycorrhizal fungi. To do this, we use multiple types of data and tools, from greenhouse experiments to global data, and wet lab analyses to large models.

The Microbial Ecology group is led by Dr. Camille Delavaux. Learn more about her resesarch.

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Dr. Camille Delavaux

Lead Scientist

Understanding how invisible soil microbes shape forest diversity and plant biogeography.

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Dr. Laura van Galen

Postdoc

Exploring the below-ground world of hidden diversity.

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Matilde Bragadini

PhD student

Lover of nematodes exploring soil microbes.

Global Vegetation Ecology

Plants play a crucial role in maintaining life on Earth, regulating the climate, and providing a home to countless organisms. Our research team studies how plants respond to global warming and the vital role their ecosystems play in tackling climate breakdown and biodiversity loss. To explore the intricate feedbacks between global vegetation and the climate system, we use a balanced approach, integrating experimental, meta-analytical, and modeling methods. Our primary goal is to gain a deeper understanding of ecosystems and their capacity to cope with climate change. Through our research efforts, we aspire to contribute to the development of strategies aimed at addressing climate change, safeguarding the balance of nature for future generations.

The Global Vegetation Ecology group is led by Dr. Constantin Zohner. Learn more about his resesarch.

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Dr. Constantin Zohner

Lead Scientist

Solving the mysteries of phenology and other stuff trees do in response to climate change.

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Dr. Lidong Mo

Postdoc

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Yibiao Zou

PhD Student

Badminton lover who tries to hit the shuttlecock of macro-ecology.

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Dominic Rebindaine

PhD Student

Animal conservationist turned vegetation ecologist.

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Yan Zhang

Visiting PhD Student

Tracking soil microorganisms under climate change.

Restoration Ecology

Ecological restoration projects can often be ineffective or inefficient, not for lack of effort, but for a lack of ecological and socio-economic information to guide implementation. For example, forest restoration efforts may fail or meet with limited success due to improper species selection or failure to address underlying environmental or socio-economic barriers to forest establishment and retention. Restoration efforts can be made more efficient by understanding the conditions where assisted regeneration vs natural recovery are necessary. Research to develop an array of effective approaches for assisted regeneration that meet different objectives such as carbon sequestration, conserving biodiversity, or providing ecosystem services, and that address site-specific challenges, is critically needed.

As we enter the UN’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, it is our responsibility, as scientists, to ensure that ecological restoration efforts are guided by access to the best science, underpinned by rigorous and innovative research, long-term monitoring and assessment of outcomes, and local- to global-scale analytics.

The Restoration Ecology group is led by Dr. Daisy Dent. Learn more about her resesarch.

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Dr. Daisy Dent

Lead Scientist

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Dr. Carolina Bello

Postdoc

Understanding how animals can help us to restore ecosystems and counter climate change.

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Dr. Alex Elsy

Postdoc

Understanding how tropical tree and liana communities recover in late succession.

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Dr. Rebecca Cole

Restoration Ecologist (Costa Rica)

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Dr. Leland Werden

Restoration Ecologist

Identifying and finding solutions to restoration and conservation challenges around the world.

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Giacomo Delgado

PhD Student

Environmental activist using cutting-edge technology to monitor the impacts of policy on biodiversity and ecosystems.

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Matilde Bragadini

PhD student

Lover of nematodes exploring soil microbes.

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Gerald Quirós

Restoration Project Coordinator

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Hubert Szczygieł

Research Assistant

Landscapes

What is a landscape? A place? A genre of painting or photography? A printer orientation? In the Landscapes Group, we investigate different ways of looking at the Earth and the things that live there, especially (but not exclusively) humans and plants. We are interested in measuring patterns in physical, geographic landscapes and exploring what these patterns mean for the things that humans might like landscapes to do. We also seek to explore landscapes of thought and sentiment, since such expressionistic landscapes form the foundation for the realist landscapes taking shape on the ground.

The Landscapes group is led by Dr. Gabriel Smith. Learn more about his resesarch.

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Dr. Gabriel Smith

Lead Scientist

Finding facets and functions of figures and flora to foster formation of flourishing futures.

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Josephine Reek

PhD Student

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Gayoung Yang

PhD Student

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Qingzhou Zhao

Visiting PhD Student

Delving into the depth of plant roots, working with soil fungi in a changing world.

Lab & Data Science

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Dr. Johan van den Hoogen

Lab Manager, Research Scientist

I make maps.

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Thomas Lauber

Data Scientist

Making the scientists' dreams come true.

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Felix Specker

Geospatial Data Scientist

Remote sensing for biodiversity.

Communications & Operations

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Emily Clark

Group Manager

Scientist whisperer, human Siri, and overseer of work-life balance.

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Elizabeth Rembelska

Project Manager

I work behind the curtains while our researchers are on stage.

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Charlotte Roberts

Project Assistant

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Samantha Suarez

Communications Director

Focusing on digital engagement, science communication & social media for social good.

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Stella Tandhika

Digital Marketing and Content Strategist

On the way to make ecology as cool as NASA, one reel at a time.

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Millie Timms

Impact Communications Lead

Driven by her love for the ocean and the mountains, Millie is on a mission to tell stories that inspire action.

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Chrysa Chouliara

Visual Communications Specialist

Visual storyteller in love with science.

SEED

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Alexa Firmenich

Co-Director SEED

Making the world fall in love with complexity, one SEED at a time.

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Dr. Robert McElderry

Product Manager SEED

Sensible science for practical solutions.

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Dr. Ian Brettell

Biodiversity Policy Officer

Translating science into effective policy.

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Charbel El Khoury

Geospatial Deep Learning Specialist

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Prof. Dr. Anna Schweiger

Remote Sensing Ecologist (USA)

Remote sensing biodiversity and ecosystem function.