Environmental Research Prize

The Environmental Research Prize of Fribourg University aims to promote disciplinary and interdisciplinary research in the field of environmental sciences and sustainability. The prize is awarded to young researchers whose innovative and outstanding scientific word contributes significantly to a better understanding of environmental problems and their solution.

Environmental Research Prize 2020

The winner of the 2020 Environment Research Award is Anna Geiser. The prize commission congratulates her on her Master's thesis entitled Changing agriculture – Southland farmers’ struggles to reconcile neoliberal production demands with increasing environmental regulation.

In her Master's thesis, Anna Geiser analysed the view and situation of farmers in Southland, New Zealand, in a changing environment. To this end, she conducted a series of interviews with affected people, using a Bourdieusian approach, to highlight the paradoxical situation of the farmers.

They are in conflict with, on one hand, the need to maintain profitable farms without state support. On the other hand, they are forced to massively question their practice of sheep farming under public pressure and progressive state regulation. Anna Geiser has carefully and soundly identified a central challenge of many environmental problems. For one central polluter - in this case the farmers of the Southland - a dilemma arises between economic necessity and environmental protection. The work stands out for its scientific quality and its contribution to a better understanding of a specific environmental conflict. 

The prize commission and the UniFR_ESH Institute thank Pro Natura Freiburg for the generous financial support of this year's prize.

The winners of previous editions

  • 2018: Dr. Basil Oberholzer

    In 2018 the prize was awarded to Dr. Basil Oberholzer for his doctoral thesis with the title "Monetary Policy and Crude Oil: the Impacts of the Financial System on Economic Stability and Environment". On 15 November 2018, the young economist had the honour of receiving the prize, endowed with 5,000 francs, from the Rector Astrid Epiney at the Dies Academicus.

    His work can be summarized as follows:

    "This Ph.D. thesis provides an analysis of the relationships between monetary policy and the global crude oil market. It finds that expansive monetary policy causes speculative investment in the oil market giving rise to price volatility and higher oil consumption. Based on the resulting conclusions, a new policy approach is proposed: the oil price targeting system. It is a framework, which establishes financial and economic stability in the oil market while reducing oil consumption. The new policy proposition thus shows how monetary policy can be employed to pave the way out of fossil energy and set the conditions for the mainstreaming of green finance, renewable energies and energy efficiency. Potential criticisms of the oil price targeting system are addressed and taken into account."

  • 2016: Naomi Vouillamoz

    The Environmental Research Prize is awarded to Naomi Vouillamoz for her thesis entitled «Microseismic characterisation of Fribourg area (Switzerland) by Nanoseismic Monitoring» 

    in which she analyses very weak earthquakes, referred to as nanoseismicity, in the Canton of Fribourg, along a seismically active area called the Fribourg Zone. Using innovative methodologies, she was able to interpret the data to obtain an image of the spatial distribution and magnitude of earthquakes. These results provided a better understanding of the relationship with regional tectonic structures.

    The Jury stresses that "this study is a major milestone in our knowledge of the evolution of constraints in the foreland of the Alps. It will also serve as a basis for future feasibility studies in the field of hydrocarbon exploration or deep geothermal energy, particularly in the Canton of Fribourg".

    Mrs Vouillamoz carried out a thesis work at the forefront of research and the 6 members of the thesis jury unanimously noted the excellence of the work. She has demonstrated through her scientific, but also personal and enthusiastic qualities that she is a talented researcher.

  • 2014: Raphaël Mahaim

    The University of Fribourg awards the 5th Environmental Research Prize to Raphaël Mahaim for his doctoral thesis entitled "Le principe de durabilité et l'aménagement du territoire - Le mitage du territoire à l'épreuve du droit: utilisation mesurée du sol, urbanisation et dimensionnement des zones à bâtir". With a rigorous multidisciplinary approach, the author shows that ecological sustainability requires the establishment of rigid mechanisms for the protection of natural resources and that article 73 of the Federal Constitution, in which the principle of sustainability is enshrined, contains directly applicable normative elements. The revision of the law, which entered into force on 1 May 2014, also goes in this direction. This award, worth CHF 10,000, is offered by the Société anonyme pour l'incinération des déchets du Canton de Fribourg et de la Broye vaudoise (SAIDEF) and awarded every two years by the University of Fribourg. This award is given first and foremost to excellent scientific work on relevant topics related to the environment.

  • 2012: Sandra Daguet

    The winner of the 2012 Prize and Fribourg are extremely close. The young economist Sandra Daguet was born in Fribourg and studied economics and social sciences there. After her bachelor's degree in 2005, she worked in Geneva in a design office in environmental and applied economics. Since 2008, she has been working in Prof. Dafflon's Chair of Public Finance and received the title of Doctor for her work "Environmental Taxes: Institutions, Implementation and the Use of Revenues" in June this year.

    The prize, financed by SAIDEF (Société anonyme pour l'incinération des déchets du canton de Fribourg et de la Broye vaudoise), was solemnly awarded by Rector Guido Vergauwen on 14 November 2012 at the Dies Academicus.

  • 2010: Anna Lewis and Odile Bruggisser

    The commission for the 2010 Environmental Research Prize of the University of Fribourg has decided this year to award two of the proposed works.

    Anna Lewis: Global learning in high school. Design and evaluation of a teaching concept related to the theme "Sustainable Tourism". This Master's work is of excellent quality. The commission rewards in particular the applicability and feasibility of this teaching concept.

    Odile Bruggisser: The conservation of spiders in agro-ecosystems: a diversity of approaches. This work is the result of meticulous and high quality scientific research. The results are remarkable and of major interest for organic viticulture.

  • 2008: Martine Poffet

    The GIF (Groupement Industriel du Canton de Fribourg), the commission of the 2008 Environmental Research Prize and the Environmental Sciences team warmly congratulate Mrs Martine Poffet on obtaining the Prize for her brilliant doctoral thesis.

    Her thesis is an excellent example of the importance of collaboration between industry and universities, economics and science, particularly in the field of environmental protection.

  • 2006: Thomas Spiegelberger

    The Fribourg Environment Prize was awarded for the first time in 2006 to biologist Thomas Spiegelberger. In his doctoral thesis, the scientist analyses the consequences of human interventions on alpine ecosystems and presents new methods to restore species diversity.

    In the opinion of the jury, Thomas Spiegelberger's doctoral thesis "Land use, soil nutrient availability on conservation of biodiversity on mountain grassland" is an important contribution to a better understanding of environmental problems and their solution. The jury particularly praised the successful creation of a bridge between fundamental and applied research. The Environment Prize, endowed with 10,000 francs, was financed by the Groupement industriel du canton de Fribourg (GIF).