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M.Sc. Climate and Environmental Sciences

Environmental processes and dynamics encompass many aspects of physical systems on global, regional and local scales. Accelerating climate change alters hydrological processes and biogeochemical turnover rates, affect landscape dynamics and ecological systems.

These changes impose fundamental research challenges and, as a consequence, increase the volume of spatial data. These changes are studied by the Institute of Geography in Erlangen from different research perspectives.

Research foci of the Physical Geography branch of the Institute of Geography are climate research, environmental studies, and geoinformatics, each with various sub-fields. Our institute is internationally recognized and involved in many international collaborative projects and has a special focus on high mountain regions (e.g., in the European Scandinavian Mountains, the Alps, the Andes, High Asia and the Himalayas, East Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean), but also on polar regions and drylands. Besides, we are active in various projects inside Germany and the province of Bavaria. A strong link exists to Cultural Geography via the research field society-environment-interactions.

The institute has excellent research facilities in electronic data processing systems and laboratories which are intensively involved in student training to warrant a modern, practical, and applied education. In detail, the institute disposes of a soil and sedimentary lab, adendroecological lab, and a stable isotope lab. In climatology, you are trained in various meteorological measurement techniques and climate modelling, and in the field of GIS and remote sensing, you learn advanced methods of special functions, concepts, and implementation of modelling algorithms.

Please see UnivIS for an overview of all the courses offered by the Erlangen Institute of Geography.

The MSc programme offers the opportunity to specialize in one major subject area of Physical Geography by designing an individually tailored Master’s programme. This programme allows for a clear specialisation and qualification in an individual field of interest. In-depth modules and topics for Master thesis mirror the three research pillars of the Physical Geography branch of the Institute of Geography in Erlangen, which include:
  • Climate Research
  • Geoinformatics
  • Environmental Analysis

Each of these pillars is studied within the institute in manifold facets, for example glaciology, physical climatology, climate modelling and paleoclimatology in climate research; soil science, biogeography and dendroecology in case of environmental studies; and hyperspectral remote sensing, radar remote sensing and modelling and simulation in the geoinformatics. The theoretical seminars as well as the practical courses convey knowledge and skills to analyze and assess processes and effects of environmental changes in different environmental contexts, with special focus on environmentally sensitive regions like high mountain areas, polar regions and deserts, or tropical environments.

Climate & Environmental Sciences is a two-year (4 semesters) degree programme that in taught in English and comprises 120 ECTS credit points. All students start with a thorough education in scientific writing as well as with a graduate seminar on one of the three research topics. The first three semesters are dedicated to the individual specialisation, in particular due to state-of-the-art as well as novel methodological training. These modules are offered as „traditional“ lab courses but also as hands-on courses in methods of geoinformatics and climate research (data modelling and analysis, programming).

Students acquire further methodological knowledge by choosing elective modules. One (ungraded) elective module can be replaced by an internship of at least six weeks. They also attend courses in elective subjects that may be chosen freely from the offerings at the FAU but that should usefully supplement their knowledge in their field of specialisation. As such, students are free to shape their individual elective study programme in a highly flexible way. Students apply knowledge and skills gained in the course of study to date in the regional context of a field trip. Another essential part of the programme is an advanced training research course: due to their work in a mini-project (usually integrated in ongoing research activities of the institute), the students are actively involved in organisation and logistics of research, data acquisition and analysis, knowledge generation and knowledge transfer.

The fourth semester is dedicated to the Master’s thesis, which focuses on one of the chosen major topics. Semesters abroad are not compulsory, but can be arranged (e.g. through the ERAMUS programme and partnerships with universities).

The Master’s programme has a clear research focus and qualifies participants for a PhD at a University or for scientific work in research institutions or governmental agencies. Graduates also qualify for a large variety of exciting and challenging positions in consulting, management, data analysis, or public services.

Research at our institute covers an unusually wide spectrum of climate science. It comprises the “reading” of climate proxy data (e.g., tree rings, soil properties), the access of climate phenomena from space, and the simulation of climate processes with the help of supercomputers. These areas are mirrored in the teaching program, yet the pivotal part of the climate research specialization is the practice of a modern, physical climatology: numerical modeling of mechanisms and processes, with a focus on the atmosphere and cryosphere of Earth; the analysis of large climate data sets through state-of-the-art statistics; and direct meteorological measurements span up an exciting framework that unifies empirical evidence and the value of computer models.

The courses put these methods in the light of topical issues, for instance, understanding the interplay of climatic subsystems in the challenging environment of high mountains (atmosphere, glaciers, hydrology); practicing seasonal predictions; or sharpening the sense for future climate projections.

The master program offers a profound modular methodological education with an emphasis on different remote sensing and GIS techniques. Our classes are closely linked to applications in the research foci in glaciology and climatology as well as in biogeography and spatial ecology. You will learn to process and analyze various Earth observation data types, ranging from optical multi- and hyperspectral to radar data. The classes will introduce you in hands-on exercises and practical applications to analysis techniques such as radar interferometry and machine learning algorithms. We provide cross-links to numerical modelling and field measurements.

With our course program we aim at current and future demands and challenges in regard to processing of large data amounts (“big data”). All classes provide the opportunity to acquire versatile programming and scripting skills that enable efficient data processing as well as the customization and the development of new algorithms. This combination of geoinformatics modules with thematic knowledge links modern data analysis and acquisition techniques with an in-depth process understanding that is required and demanded for data interpretation in the respective research fields.

Our institute comprises excellent facilities to acquire multiple kinds of data on the environment. The generation of environmental data is a key qualification in basic and applied research to study effects of climate change on different components of the physical environment, including soils and sediments, water, and plants or other organisms. In the teaching program, we offer various lab courses in the soil lab, the tree-ring lab, and the stable isotope lab.

Here, you are trained in sampling strategies, preparation techniques and state-of-the-art analyses methods, and data assessment and interpretation. The lab courses are embedded in practical research applications like the impact of climate change on trees and forest ecosystems, climate reconstruction from natural archives, and environmental changes caused by human impact.

Applicants are required to have a Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent qualification) in Physical Geography or an adjacent scientific discipline (e.g. bio and environmental sciences, climate sciences, meteorology, geoinformatics, landscape ecology, ecosystem research and ecosystem management, agricultural sciences, and forestry), which was awarded with „good“ or „very good“. However, for a successful application, a documented basic knowledge of physical geography is required.

Applicants have to proof intermediate knowledge of the English language (level B2) according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages or an equivalent score in an internationally recognised test. The proficiency of a basic knowledge of German (A1) has to be proven within the first academic year.

Applications for the M.Sc. Climate & Environmental Sciences shall be submitted online via the Campo web portal.

All documents required for the application must be sent by post to the Master’s Office (Masterbüro):

Referat L 4 – Masterbüro
Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Schloßplatz 4
D-91054 Erlangen

The application deadlines are 31 January for the following summer term (starting in April) and 15 July for the following winter term (starting in October). It is therefore possible to start studies either in the summer or winter semester.

For more information about enrolling for the Masters program, please visit the FAU website.

For questions regarding application and admission, please contact our student advisor:

Dr. Birgit Schwabe

  • Tätigkeit: Studien-Service-Center / alle Geographie-Studiengänge
  • Adresse:
    Wetterkreuz 15
    91058 Erlangen
  • Telefonnummer: +49 9131 85-25791
  • E-Mail: birgit.schwabe@fau.de

Dr. habil. Thorsten Peters

  • Tätigkeit: Fachstudienberatung Physische Geographie / Lehramt, ERASMUS
  • Adresse:
    Wetterkreuz 15
    91058 Erlangen
    Deutschland
  • Telefonnummer: +49 9131 85-22635
  • E-Mail: thorsten.peters@fau.de

Please also refer to our information on study registration.

Please always note our current information, dates and announcements. There you will find important information about introductory and teaching events.

Masterseminar (MAS)

Hauptseminar (HS)