doctoral candidates overview

Get to know our project affiliated doctoral candidates.

The International Doctorate Program M3OCCA hostst a diverse group of doctoral candidates with a broad variety of scientific backgrounds to tackle the multitude of interdisciplinary challenges related to measuring and modelling mountain glaciers and ice caps in a changing climate.

Below you have the opportunity to get to know the doctoral candidates. Visit the Team page for more info on principal investigators and other colleagues.

Katrina Bartek

Katrina Bartek

katrina.bartek@fau.de

Working in SP2.1

Originally coming from Michigan in the United States, I received my bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan in April 2017. After subsequently working in the aviation field for a year, I moved to Munich to pursue my master’s degree in Earth Oriented Space Science and Technology at the Technical University of Munich. This program explored the uses of remote sensing, the technology behind it, and the geophysical processes to be observed. Through this, my desire to pursue research in the cryosphere was inspired and I started research in the Institute of Geography at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg in May 2021.

This research focused on using deep learning techniques to detect supraglacial lakes in Northeast Greenland using Sentinel-2 data. Having been accepted to the IDP M3OCCA program, I am excited to now pursue my doctoral degree with the focus on the improvement of glacier outline segmentation using various remote sensing data while using the strengths of artificial intelligence.

Alexandre Becker

Alexandre Becker

alexandre.campos@dlr.de

Working in SP2.2

I am a Ph.D. student both at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), being supervised by Prof. Matthias Braun (FAU) and Dr. Paola Rizzoli (DLR).

I have a bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering and a master’s in Telecommunications, both from universities in Brazil (where I came from!). The goal of my research was to develop methods for target detection and pattern recognition in synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images, mainly in military applications. After I received my master’s degree (March/2021) and seeking to work in a field in which I could see my work impacting people’s lives, I worked as a data scientist for a startup in Brazil, tackling problems in the agribusiness market. The company was heavily driven by how to improve the sustainability of medium- and large-sized companies and farmers in agriculture, which was a great learning experience and provided a lot of personal growth.

In this scenario, I heard about the IDP M³OCCA project and its ambition to be an interdisciplinary and international environment aiming at understanding and solving problems that can truly impact society. I am glad to be part of the project and thrilled to continue my research career in such a place.

Jorge Berkhoff

My name is Jorge Berkhoff, I am from Chile.
I studied a bachelor in geography (2015 – 2020) and a master of science in water resources (2020 – 2022) at Austral University of Chile.
Since I graduated from my bachelor’s degree in 2020, I have studied and worked in different glaciers in Chile.
My main research interest is understanding the formation, evolution and dynamics of glacial lakes and their relationship with the glacier itself.
My research also links to the assessment of natural hazards in mountain areas conditioned by glaciers and glacial lakes, the glacier mass balance, glacier-climate interaction, geodetic mass balance, glacier hydrology. For such purposes, I am highly skilled in the use of remote sensing and geographic information systems for high mountain monitoring.

Nora Gourmelon

Nora Gourmelon

nora.gourmelon@fau.de

Hello, I am a doctoral candidate at the Pattern Recognition Lab in the FAU Department of Computer Science. My research focuses on deep learning techniques for segmenting radar imagery of glaciers. The number of available glacier radar images has steadily increased in recent years, reaching a point where purely manual interpretation is no longer possible.
This is where my work comes in – with deep learning, I can automate the image interpretation so that geographers around the world can simply use the outputs of my algorithms.
Outside work, I love to go hiking and experiment with different sports like bouldering, swimming, or dancing.

Oskar Herrmann

Oskar Herrmann

oskar.herrmann@fau.de

I studied computer science right after I finished high school. I had no idea what I wanted to do for a living, but I knew having a deep understanding of computers and algorithms will be beneficial in every field. During my study, I was particularly interested in pattern recognition and machine learning. Algorithms that identify objects in an image or generate new images based on a caption fascinated me. In the scope of my master’s thesis, I used machine learning algorithms to segment glaciers and detect their calving front in satellite images. Now I am looking forward to extending my research in glaciology together with the other PhDs candidates on the M3OCCA project.

Moritz Koch

Moritz Koch

moritz.koch@fau.de

Hi, my name is Moritz Koch, i‘m an affiliated PhD student in the IDP MOCCA project. I work at the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen Nürnberg‘s department of geography in the working groups AG Glacier (Dr. Fürst) and AG GIS (Prof. Braun). In my PhD project, called ITERATE, i combine several remote sensing techniques and helicopter borne ground penetrating radar measurements to build a state of the art 3D numerical ice flow model. By doing so i hope to increase insight into the climate sensitivity of large outlet glaciers of the southern patagonian icefield. Outside my PhD i try to spend as much time on snow and ice or on some bare rock since mountaineering are one of my biggest passions. I am looking very much forward to connect with my like minded peers and whats to evolve from the project.

Lena Krabbe

Lena Krabbe

lena.krabbe@fau.de

Working in SP1.1

During my Master studies at FAU in the field of Electrical Engineering I specialized in radar technology which has various fields of application such as autonomous driving, industrial automation, and medical sensor technology.
Moreover, analyzing snow and ice structures of glaciers with radar is an extremely exciting and important application as we currently face challenges like climate change and environmental pollution.

During my PhD studies within the scope of the IDP M3OCCA I will develop a high performance, flexible and easy-to-transport radar system in order to retrieve detailed insights into glacial structures and their variations. In my free time I enjoy playing Volleyball, making music on my flute or guitar as well as working in my private garden at home or in the student garden at our faculty.

Elena Kropac

Elena Kropac

elena.kropac@fau.de

I am an atmospheric modeler in the Climate System Research Group at the FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg. I use high-performance computing and multi-dimensional (statistical) data analysis to study atmospheric processes in mountainous regions, and to investigate atmosphere-glacier interactions and atmospheric drivers for mass balance variability.

During my studies in Physical Geography (BSc) and Climate and Environmental Sciences (MSc) at the FAU, I have worked in the fields of glaciology, climatology and meteorology, with a methodological focus on physically-based numerical modeling (energy balance, mass balance and atmospheric modeling). In my PhD project, I am now working at an interdisciplinary interface between paleontology and climatology with the goal of using geochemical proxies from coralline algae to improve atmospheric modeling in the New Zealand region and to explore the atmospheric dynamics that control glacier mass responses in the Southern Alps of New Zealand to chances in sea surface temperature.

As an affiliated PhD student in the IDP M³OCCA, I look forward to connecting with PhD students from related research areas and having exciting scientific and non-scientific exchanges. Outside of work, you can find me on the (beach) volleyball court, hiking or climbing in the mountains, or enjoying a few drinks in a cozy bar.

KC Mamta

KC Mamta

mamta.kc@fau.de

Working in SP3.2

After graduating with a master’s degree in Environmental and Natural Resources from Kathmandu University, Nepal, I opted for the second master’s program in Climate and Environmental Science at the FAU Institute of Geography to broaden my horizon and enhance my environmental data analysis knowledge. During my master’s program, my interest in glacier environment, climatology, and machine learning grew.

The potential of deep learning applications to understand real-world physical phenomena captured my attention. Using efficient deep learning-based models to learn physics-based glacier models is a promising field of research. Thus, I look forward to incorporating machine learning into glacier modeling during my Ph.D. in the IDP M3OCCA program. My research will focus on developing physics-based deep learning emulators that will learn to predict the glacier dynamics. The emulators will be trained using the simulated data generated from the different glacier-based physical models.

Akash Patil

Akash Patil

Room 320,

Geodesy and Glaciology,

Bavarian Academy of Science and Humanities,

Email: akash.patil@badw.de

Phone: +49-(0) 89230311201

Working in SP2.3

I am a PhD student working at BAdW Munich in collaboration with FAU Erlangen. My working research project is mainly on the density profiling of the snow to ice on the Alpine glaciers.  My fascination with researching glaciers has come from my time during my master’s in Applied & Environmental Geoscience (AEG) at the University of Tuebingen Germany. Where I have attained enough knowledge on the application of GPR to subsurface hydrogeology as my Master’s thesis under the supervision of Prof. Dr Reinhard Drews. My push towards nature science can be attributed to my bachelor’s studies in Civil engineering and my working experience in the construction industry and with the NGO as an Environmental and Civil engineer.

In my PhD, research is on the quantitative study of the variation of density with the depth from Snow to Ice in the Alpine Glaciers mainly on the Vernagtferner glacier. Application of GPR to attain spatial and temporal data at the accumulation zone during different seasons of the year, to track the boundary between firn and ice and to understand the dynamics of the glaciers with the regional climate change. This work is supervised by Dr Christoph Mayer at BAdW Munich and Prof. Dr Thomas Mölg from FAU Erlangen.

Felix Pfluger

Felix Pfluger

felix.pfluger@tum.de

Working in SP3.3

I am Felix. My research focuses on understanding the interaction between glaciers and permafrost in alpine environments. During paraglacial transition phases, as the landscape changes from ice to ice-free states, geomorphic activity is higher than usual. The relatively rapid and drastic change in thermal and hydrological characteristics predisposes rock slopes to a more fragile state. Furthermore, the evolution of permafrost in space is critical for the assessment of rock slope stability and potential hazards.

 

My aim is to develop a rock-ice mechanical model suitable to predict rock mass failure concomitant with changing cryospheric conditions. Besides rock mechanical laboratory experiments I will take advantage of the capabilities of the MOCCA group by having a joint field campaign using geophysics to explore glacial and permafrost conditions at a study site in Kaunertal. The knowledge of seismic, geoelectric and radar measurements will complement the permanent temperature monitoring of rock surface temperature to gain insights into the thermal characteristics at the study site. By coupling the mechanical model to a dynamic thermal model, we will be able to assess and predict rock mass failures in time.

 

Besides scientific goals you can hang out with me to blues rock music, even better to play some music together, to do some rock climbing or go fishing. As growing up in the Alps I am happy to work on a local study site in my home region.

Manuel Saigger

Manuel Saigger

manuel.saigger@fau.de

Working in SP3.1

My name is Manuel Saigger and within the IDP MOCCA I will be working on the influence of snow drift and internal refreezing on the glacier mass balance. Before I started working in Erlangen,  I studied atmospheric sciences at the University Innsbruck. There I mainly focused on weather forecasting and weather simulations in alpine terrain and got really fascinated by the complex nature of flow fields in the surrounding of mountains. These complex wind patterns can in return lead to very complex patterns in snow accumulation, for example by redistribution of the snow.

Here my project comes into play. Because despite possibly being very important, this redistribution is not reflected in most glacier mass balance models, which on the one hand creates uncertainty in these models, but on the other hand gives us the opportunity to work on this problem and learn more about these fascinating processes.

Patricia Schlenk

Patricia Schlenk

Patricia.Schlenk@dlr.de

Working in SP1.2

I am a PhD student both at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), being supervised by  Prof. Gerhard Krieger (FAU/DLR) and Prof. Irena Hajnsek (DLR).

I studied environmental engineering at the Technical University of Munich. Furthermore, I specialized in hydraulic engineering and water management as well as hydrology. The goal of my master thesis was to build, to adapt and to automate an existing Wet Snow Mapping Algorithm by Thomas Nagler in order to get detailed information about snow as well as glacier melt. This thesis really peaked my interest in SAR and snow/ glacier research and I believe to provide a contribution to the further development in this field of study.

In addition to my academic interests, I have always been interested in other cultures and foreign countries. I went to high school in the U.S. and New Zealand for a total of eight months, studied French for a year at the Université inter-âges in Paris, and spent a semester at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne. I was able to put the experience and knowledge I gained during my time abroad to good use as a student representative and in my work at the TUM Center for Study and Teaching for five years. There I advised mostly international students on problems within their studies. The IDP M³OCCA with its interdisciplinary and international approach is an excellent continuation of my previous work.

Antonia Warnstedt

Antonia Warnstedt

Antonia.warnstedt@fau.de

During my bachelor’s and master’s programs I recurrently studied the climate change impacts on the cryosphere in high mountain areas. Especially mass-movements related to a sudden water release f.i. meltwater from glaciers were the center of my work. To understand and retrace these events different mass-movement e.g. glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) or lahars, different simulation tools and software were utilized: r.avaflow, LAHARZ, and MSF. For my Ph.D. studies, I want to shift my focus to the glaciers and their dynamics themselves.
The Climate sensitivity of western Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves (CSAPIS) is a subproject within the DFG Priority Program ‘Antarctic Research with Comparative Investigations in Arctic Ice Areas’. The main research subjective is to constrain the sensitivity of the ice shelves and their tributaries along the western Antarctic Peninsula to the influence of upwelling, warm circumpolar deep water. Doing so by analyzing time series of remote sensing data and retrieving glacier surface velocities for consecutive ice dynamic model assimilation and updating further glaciological variables such as surface elevation change, grounding line, ice front positions as well as structural conditions. Furthermore, the above-mentioned data will be used in forward simulations to improve the current mass change and ice shelf retreat estimates.

Marcel Dreier

Marcel Dreier

marcel.dreier@fau.de

Working in SP1.3

Hi, I am Marcel, and I studied Computer Science at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen Nürnberg. I finished my master’s degree in August 2023, and I am currently a PhD student at the Pattern Recognition Lab at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen Nürnberg under the supervision of Prof. Andreas Maier.
My research in the M3OCCA project focuses on the segmentation of glacier radar images using deep learning. Since glacier radar images are usually segmented by hand, geographers spend many hours dividing the glacier into different sections. Especially with the increase in data in recent years, this task has become very expensive. Hence, my research aims to alleviate that problem by using deep learning to speed up and automate the segmentation of glacier radargrams.
In my free time, I enjoy going for walks and bouldering.

Dakota Pyles

Dakota Pyles

dak.pyles@fau.de

Hello, my name is Dakota Pyles and I moved to FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg from the Rocky Mountains of west Montana, USA. Born in Budapest, Hungary to a native Hungarian family on my mother’s side, my parents raised a multicultural family, which inspired a permanent relocation to Europe. I completed a B.Sc. in Geosciences at the University of Montana (2016-2019) and a M.Sc. in Geology at the University of Idaho (2020-2022). My academic interests include the cryosphere, glacier dynamics, geophysics, climatology, meteorology, and geomorphology. During the master’s project, I numerically modeled surface mass loss in the ablation zone on the west coast of Greenland by integrating satellite observations, modeled, and in-situ datasets into the 2-D mass continuity equation.

My doctoral research project aims to quantify annual/seasonal frontal ablation, climatic mass balance, and total mass budget for marine terminating glaciers across the Arctic, with the project supervised by Dr. Thorsten Seehaus. To identify and evaluate external drivers of glacier change, the above calculations will be combined with atmospheric, oceanic, and sea ice datasets. Through multivariate statistical analyses between these datasets and mass balance components, we look to provide an improved understanding of dynamic glacier processes, their spatio-temporal variability, and the influence of glacier geometry on observed changes throughout the Arctic. The interdisciplinary nature of this research is very exciting and it will be fun to see how the project develops! I am grateful to be working towards a doctoral degree as a M3OCCA affiliate within FAU’s Institut für Geographie, and excited to connect with other M3OCCA Ph.D. students. Outside the office, I enjoy lots of sports, cooking, traveling, and the mountains!

Vijaya Kumar Thota

Vijaya Kumar Thota

vijaya.kumar.thota@fau.de

I am Vijaya Kumar Thota, an affiliate of the IDP M3OCCA. I work as a Ph.D. researcher in AG GIS (Prof. Braun) working group at the Institute of Geography, FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg within Dr. Thorsten Seehaus’ UNLOC project. My research focuses on estimating long-term glacial changes in the Antarctic Peninsula, mainly using 1. Historical photography combined with modern photogrammetric techniques, 2. SAR missions of recent times. Findings in my PhD will implicatively contribute to SP 2.2 of the M3OCCA project. Also, as an affiliate, I would be working on the other objectives of the M3OCCA project through a collaborative journey with others directly involved.

Happy to share my PhD journey together in this IDP. Excited to see our results!

Veena Prasad

Veena Prasad

veena.prasad@fau.de

Hello. I am a doctoral student at Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen Nürnberg’s department of geography in the working group AG-Glacier. In my Phd-Project, I am working on the development of a regional-scale 3-D glacier forecast framework for Marine- and Lake- terminating (MALT) Glaciers. Calving rate perturbations and calving front dynamics strongly influence the glacier dynamics and feedback mechanisms of MALT Glaciers. My research aims to establish accurate sub-grid tracking of calving-front migration, a crucial aspect for achieving realistic behavior in glacier models. The initial development is conducted on well-surveyed marine-terminating glacier complexes of Svalbard (e.g., Kronebreen) and is then applied regionally.

I am enthusiastic about the collaborative opportunities within the IDP M³OCCA, where I can contribute and learn from diverse perspectives to further enrich my research experience.

Luisa Wagner

Luisa Wagner

luisa.wagner@badw.de

I am a PhD student in the Geodesy and Glaciology working group at the Bavarian Academy of Science and Humanities in Munich.
Previously, I studied Physical Geography and Earth Observation at the University of Würzburg. In seminar projects, internships and my Master’s thesis, I focused on cryospheric topics, especially on glaciers.
With my doctoral studies, I want to continue on this thematic path and extend my methodological skills from remote sensing data analysis to numerical modelling.
I will pursue this within the framework of the DFG project ‘Climate sensitivity of western Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves (CSAPIS)’ in cooperation with the FAU. Based on remote sensing products, I will model ice dynamics with the aim of contributing to process understanding and optimised projections. A particular focus will be on the evolution of ice shelves and their interactions with the ocean.
Outside of science, I also spend a lot of time exploring glaciers and mountains through mountaineering, climbing and kayaking.