You have received a "PRIMA Grant" from the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF. What does it mean to you to receive this Fellowship?
I am extremely happy to be granted the PRIMA because this will allow me to continue and expand my research beyond anything I have ever done so far due to limited work contracts and available resources. In addition, it will help to stablish myself as a researcher, follow my research interest and address my own research questions. This grant gives me the opportunity to manage my own team, expand collaborations, and it will give me the means to advance further in my career.
You have been selected from the SNF for your research project « Tracing plant protection products across the environment – Source, transport, sink, and relevance for risk assessment (TraPPP) ». What is the project about?
My project studies the fate of pesticides, more specific, plant protection products (PPPs). PPPs not only pose a local threat to the arable soils on which they are applied, but also to other ecosystems and human health, through transport into the atmospheric and aquatic environment. The dispersal of PPPs into the environment is receiving increased local and international attention and raises several scientific questions.
So far, many studies have focused on the occurrence of plant protection products in surface waters like rivers and streams and groundwater, but a comprehensive picture of the application, transport, and deposition (e.g. sediments) of currently used PPPs in the environment is still lacking. High concentrations of PPPs in sediment pose a threat to the entire freshwater environment because sediments are in constant exchange with the freshwater system. The goal of the TraPPP project is therefore to better understand the transport and transformation of currently used PPPs in the environment from the sources to nearby or distant sinks.
What made you chose the University of Bern for your Project?
I have decided to conduct my research at the University of Bern because I have received enormous support and interest for my research there: The contact with interdisciplinary scientists within the Institute of Geography, the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research and the interfaculty research collaboration "One Health" enables me to collaborate with, for example, the Institute of Plant Sciences and the University Hospital Bern Inselspital. At the University of Bern, I can also develop my teaching skills and interdisciplinary communication at the University. In addition, the University of Bern has been very supportive in organizing summer schools and international conferences. These activities have led to closer collaboration with various Swiss research institutions and fostered national and international networks.
What is the social relevance of your project?
The obtained results will assist in the current political debate on the use or ban of plant protection products as sound scientific basis is the foundation for many informed decision-making and policy design. Since political decision making is upfront and will be so in the foreseeable future, my research is essential and has practical implications of societal and environmental health relevance.