Interests and current work
We are living in tumultuous times. Societies and environments are changing at unprecedented rates. Agricultural production and research must be adapted to maintain the fullfilment of our most basic human need, access to food for living a healthy and productive life (see IFPRI vision 2020). According to the FAO, half of global child deaths result from hunger, two billion people are food-insecure and 820 million people are chronically malnourished today (FAO 2019 PDF 9.2MB). In a civilized world community this is unacceptable. Natural science is a treasure trove of solutions. Having been educated in practical farming, agronomy, environmental physics and plant ecology I see it as my obligation to contribute to developing solutions for sustainable plant production. Transitioning from “science for people” to “science with people” is a necessary requirement to make these solutions effective and socio-cultural sustainable. Transdisciplinary research approaches must be developed to reach this goal. Together with 11 plant physiologists I recently published a review article on linking integrative plant physiology with agronomy to sustain future food production applying transdisciplinary research principles. I also developed a transdisciplinary research framework for studying imagined social ecologies among rural African farmers bridging natural science with the humanities. My most recent work concentrated on developing a decision framework for balancing humanitarian needs against wetland conservation. It is based on 16 years of experience in East-African wetland research and integration at the science-policy interface. Applying the concepts of these three frameworks is my current research interest and I am seeking opportunities for implementing them in the near future.
I collected my first research experience in 1984 as a field worker on a reconstructed ancient rainwater harvesting farm. The system was studied from different disciplinary view-angles including botany, archeology, agronomy, cultural history, soil science, geology, hydrology and meteorology. The operating principles of the farm could only be fully understood by integrating the findings of these disciplines. I am interested in integrated studies since then. I actively worked in different disciplines encompassing irrigation engineering and scheduling, limnology, plant ecology, agrometeorology, international agriculture, forest ecology, and agroecology . I apply modelling techniques to formulate research hypotheses and to understand functional aspects of agroecological systems. This includes assessing options for model fusion, scaling studies, and pattern analyses. Modelling human and hydrological effects on the agroecology of East-African wetlands, understanding the evolution of soil-vegetation-atmosphere patterns in the Rur valley of Germany, and quantifying hybrid performance in rapeseed breeding were my recent research activities.
I was a principal investigator in several collaborative research projects and entrusted with research integration and establishment of science-policy dialogues.
Social Ecology of Rural Farming
Understanding the social ecology of rural African farming is my current research activity. During the course of my scientific work in the last 23 years I became increasingly interested in understanding the human side of farming systems. That motivated me to join the transregional research center Future Rural Africa at the Universities of Bonn and Cologne in 2019. Having been considerably rubbed between the two cultures of science and humanities in this project I developed a new transdisciplinary framework for understanding imagined social ecologies of rural African farmers which interfaces methodologies of both cultures. The corresponding publication is currently under review.
Analyzing the effects of absence or presence of water in agroecological systems is a major interest. I worked in irrigation practice and engineering, studied plant-water relations in different contexts, conducted energy-balance studies, analyzed and modelled light-distribution patterns in forest streams, assessed the microclimate and heat fluxes in crops and forests and determined plant and tree water-uptake patterns with different thermoelectric methods. I studied the effects of spatio-temporal soil-moisture patterns on the formation of crop ecophysiological and vegetation patterns in Germany and East-Africa. Another important activity was the parameterization and coupling of water transport and crop growth models to better understand interrelations between hydraulic plant architecture and growth. The aim was to improve the plant functional type characterization in land-surface models.
Decision support in Environmental Policy Making
Understanding East-African wetland characteristics and policy-making is a research area I became increasingly interested in during my involvement in the collaborative research “Wetlands in East Africa: Reconciling future food production with environmental protection“. Based on extensive exchanges with policy-makers in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania we are jointly developing a decision tool.
Listening to concerts and playing music, walking, swimming, novel reading, art, theatre, movies