Environmental Sensing and Modelling

Triggered by a galloping socio-economic development for more than a century, changes in climate and land use are now unfolding at an unprecedented pace. There is tangible evidence of an increase in extreme weather events and a subsequent cohort of impacts on (agro-)ecosystem functioning and associated services. But, environmental systems are of intricate complexity and anticipating their response to global change poses manifold challenges – with conventional environmental monitoring, forecasting and prediction tools being increasingly applied close to and even beyond their design limits. There is an urgent need for overcoming prevailing technological limitations in both environmental monitoring and modelling. By improving the mechanistic understanding of environmental systems under change, LIST's researchers will better anticipate complex feedbacks in the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum and eventually design and implement sustainable management strategies of natural resources.


The Environmental Sensing and Modelling (ENVISION) unit carries out impact-driven research, geared towards monitoring, forecasting and predicting environmental systems in a changing world. An interdisciplinary team of around 50 scientists, engineers, post-docs and PhD candidates supports the public and private sectors by developing new process understanding, alongside new tools and technologies – operating at unprecedented spatial and temporal scales.

The unit is structured in three research groups : 

  • The Agro-environmental systems group investigates in 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.


  • Technological innovation in water resources monitoring (field deployable devices for monitoring eco-hydrological processes at high temporal resolution; new monitoring and impact assessment schemes for water administrations and syndicates)
  • Determination of water age and water transit time modelling
  • Improved operational flood forecasting tools
  • Decision support tools for pesticide & fertiliser management in drinking water protection zones
  • Decision support tools for controlling diseases and pest insects in agriculture and viticulture ¥ High-resolution regional climate simulations
  • Local and regional impact studies of climate effects
  • Information extraction for environmental applications (new Earth observation (EO) missions; high spatial/temporal resolution acquisition)
  • Multisensor data fusion
  • Integrated space-based exploitation platforms, integrating the three space assets : imagery, communication and positioning


  • Water resources management
  • Crop protection and precision agriculture
  • Natural disaster management
  • Climate mitigation and adaptation


Dr habil. Laurent PFISTER
Dr habil. Laurent PFISTER
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