Environmental Sensing and Modelling

With the Earth system now operating in an unprecedented state, where unpredictable and harmful changes are more and more likely, there is a pressing need for understanding and anticipating the response of environmental systems to global change.

However, the limitations of conventional analytical tools to capture the uncertainties of climate/global change and its cohort of environmental catastrophes has policy makers and stakeholders facing the difficult task of anticipating evolutions and making decisions in a world of ‘uncertainty’ (i.e., where probabilities are unknown), rather than in a world of ‘risk’ (i.e., where probabilities are known).

With the support of LIST’s Observatory for Climate, Environment and Biodiversity, the Environmental Sensing and Modelling (ENVISION) research unit’s mission is to develop novel technological solutions and decision support tools, as contributions for decoupling natural resource use and climate change from economic development.

This stands as our value proposition – offering stakeholders new approaches, tools and solutions for navigating emergency response operations, immediate economic interests and long-term sustainable development objectives in an increasingly uncertain and rapidly changing context.


  • Long-term responses of soils, vegetation (e.g., crops, vineyards, forests) and water resources (e.g., surface, sub-surface and groundwater) to a changing climate
  • Short-term responses to extreme weather events (e.g., heat waves, droughts) and other threats posed by land use change or pollution of soils, [ground]-water, etc.
  • Threats and opportunities emerging from global change for economic sectors (e.g., agriculture, viticulture, forestry, disaster risk financing)
  • Natural resources monitoring technologies operating at unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution for matching accelerating nutrient, carbon and water cycles
  • Earth system data volume, velocity, variety and veracity, requiring disruptive collection, transmission, validation, storage and exploitation strategies for organising and leveraging the rapidly increasing flow of environmental data
  • Climate change mitigation and adaptation scenarios, based on robust simulations of short-, mid- and long-term trajectories of natural systems in a non-stationary context.


‘From stronger evidence, to informed decisions, for a better environment’ stands as our tagline –summarising our major research challenges, related technological innovation lines and product portfolio. We develop new sensors, data, information and knowledge of high value for public (e.g., agencies, policy makers) and private (e.g., farmers, winegrowers) stakeholders, as well as scientists (e.g., ecology, earth sciences). Application areas of our products relate to:

  • Agricultural monitoring – pests in oilseed rape; diseases in cereals; weeds in wheat, maize and oilseed rape; pest and diseases in viticulture; environmental impact of pesticides
  • Pesticide reduction – crop rotation, crop cultural management, disease forecast; use of less harmful or biological products; biological or biotechnological pest control
  • Precision agriculture – agroecosystem protection and management; digital decision support tools for agriculture and viticulture
  • Global change & agriculture – adaptation strategies to climate change in agriculture, viticulture and horticulture; pollinator decline; vegetation response to global change; water cycle-vegetation feedbacks; mitigation strategies to enhance soil carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural soils
  • Global change & water – (flash-)flood and drought monitoring and forecasting tools; water resources response to global change; quantitative and qualitative assessment and management of water resources
  • Global change, nutrient, carbon and water cycles – soil-biosphere-atmosphere interactions at multiple spatio-temporal scales under environmental and ecohydrological extremes; soil microbial controls over carbon and nutrient cycling in ecosystems
  • Environmental monitoring – high-frequency sampling and monitoring systems; real-time adaptive environmental monitoring; passive samplers; water extraction systems; geophysical tools for characterising groundwater resources
  • Soil erosion and sediment transport - fine sediment sources, composition and fluxes; origin and dynamics of nutrients and trace elements
  • Natural disasters – hazard and risk monitoring, modelling and prediction (e.g. floods & droughts, earthquakes, forest fires, etc.); early warning systems
  • Space resources and exo-hydrology – observation and modelling of water ice sublimation and related isotope fractionation in a lunar environment (high vacuum and low temperature)


  • The Agro-environmental systems group investigates with a holistic approach the bio-geophysical functioning of agro-environmental systems to better understand and manage the interactions of agriculture and natural resources under increasing societal demands and climate change
  • The Catchment and eco-hydrology group focuses on pressing questions related to (i) how eco-hydrosystems collect, store, mix and release water, solutes and matter, (ii) new environmental monitoring tools operating at unprecedented spatial and temporal scales and (iii) forecasting and predicting our water futures, as expressed through floods, drinking water availability, water for agriculture, or ecosystem services.
  • The Remote sensing and natural resources modelling group’s activities are centred on the combination and exploitation of remote sensing information obtained by multiple and complementary sensors installed on spaceborne and airborne platforms, together with in-situ monitoring, to produce information on the status of natural resources ranging from local or regional to global scales, with unprecedented accuracy and spatio-temporal resolution.




Dr habil. Laurent PFISTER
Dr habil. Laurent PFISTER
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