News & Highlights

Text-as-data in Hydrology, Natural Hazards, and Climate Change Research

Bild: Deva Charan Jarajapu
Bild: Deva Charan Jarajapu

Exploring challenges and opportunities

Workshop Summary:

Understanding public opinion on climate change, how people deal with a heatwave, or what impact droughts have on agriculture, forestry, tourism, or energy systems is a daunting task. Surveys offer one avenue to address this challenge, but the wealth of existing information in newspapers, social media, government reports, and scientific literature present an invaluable resource waiting to be tapped. As climate change intensifies natural hazards, leveraging the extensive volume of text data becomes increasingly urgent.
Enter text-as-data – a suite of methods, including cutting-edge language models like ChatGPT, designed to sift through unstructured text data, extracting insights and patterns. While the community of experts applying these methods in hydrology, climate change, and natural hazards research is small, it's steadily expanding.
The inaugural workshop on "Text-as-data in Hydrology, Natural Hazards, and Climate Change Research," hosted by the University of Potsdam's Analysis of Hydrologic Systems Group, in collaboration with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change, marked a milestone in this upcoming field. Gathering researchers from diverse backgrounds, the event fostered networking and interdisciplinary dialogue.
Following keynote presentations spotlighting recent technical advancements, participants delved into in-depth discussions. They explored the myriad opportunities text-as-data presents in environmental sciences while delineating barriers and biases that must be overcome to realize its full potential. Real-world strategies for advancing the field were also hot topics.
Overall, the workshop proved to be a fruitful platform for scientists to collaborate and explore the potential of text data analysis in tackling critical societal challenges related to water resources, climate variability, and disaster risk management. Looking ahead, future meetups are already being planned, including the next workshop for spring 2025, which will take place at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig.

New project on transdisciplinary raw materials research

Since January 2024 Henriette Rutjes and Dr Diana Ayeh are responsible for the research project "GeRohTrans – Public Engagement in Raw Materials Research in the Ore Mountains: Transdisciplinary Cooperation and Global Responsibility". As part of the WIR! initiative “recomine”, the research project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for a period of two years. It focuses on the temporality of public engagement in transdisciplinary raw materials research projects in the Ore Mountains. There, technologies and concepts are currently under development for the combined remediation of old mining legacies and the extraction of raw materials. Based on the case study of the Bielatalhalde near Altenberg (Saxony, Germany), GeRohTrans analyses the interests and expertise of the actors involved, as well as the temporality of potential conflicts and public engagement. Guidelines for timely participation formats, which are applicable across locations, will be developed.

Workshop in the mFUND Project RadFuß+

Handbuch Umweltsoziologie
Workshop im mFUND Projekt RadFuß+

The mFUND project "Identification of environmental stressor hot/cold spots in pedestrian and bicycle traffic with the help of mobile measurements - RadFuß+" organised a (hybrid) user workshop at the UFZ VisLab on 12th March. Together with representatives from Leipzig’s city offices, start-up companies, NGOs, the BMDV and the project holder, the project team (Zora Reckhaus, Himanshu Setia, Uwe Schlink) discussed, how environmental trackers can help to raise awareness of personal pollution exposure and promote cycling and walking as a means of transport. For the measurement campaign carried out in cooperation with the project "Neue Nähen – SUPERBLOCKS Leipzig" (district around Eisenbahnstraße in Leipzig’s east) the gathered data were visualised. During the intensive exchange, possibilities were worked out for incorporating data of personal exposure into strategic planning of cycle and pedestrian traffic.

New project on CO2 capture and storage (CCS)

Dr Danny Otto has been awarded a new research project on the capture and storage of CO2 as part of the EU "CETP - Clean Energy Technology Partnership" call for proposals. The project entitled "RamonCO - Risk-based framework for assessing CO2 storage monitoring" started on 1 December 2023 and will run for 3 years. The focus of the social science research will be to investigate the risk perception of publics and stakeholders along the entire carbon capture and storage (CCS) process chain (capture, transport, storage, monitoring) using case studies in Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, Romania and Greece. Appropriate risk governance strategies will be developed in a participatory process. The team of the Urban and Environmental Sociology Department (Danny Otto and Matthias Groß) will be in charge of the transdisciplinary research process to develop these strategies.

Himanshu Setia in the project RadFuß+

In September, Himanshu Setia has joined the SUSOZ department. He is working in the Project RadFuß +, whose goal is to develop a 3D visualization and analysis application (3DVAA). This will help urban and traffic planners to increase the attractiveness of cycling and pedestrian traffic (less noise, cleaner air, protection against heat). Himanshu had already written his master thesis at UFZ in 2019 as an exchange student from IIT Madras, India, on forecasting and classifying air pollution scenarios using different machine learning techniques. Until September 2023, Himanshu worked as a data science associate consultant at ZS Associates, a large consulting firm in the pharmaceutical industry, advising clients on data-driven decisions. In RadFuß+, he will now develop and apply AI techniques for the analysis of personal exposure in cities.

The Resilient City. Concepts Conflicts, Solutions

Die Resiliente Stadt
Die Resiliente Stadt

Our academic book The Resilitent City. Concepts, Conflicts, Solutions is published by Springer Publishing House, edited by Sigrun Kabisch, Dieter Rink and Ellen Banzhaf. It is based on the intensive collaboration of the authors in the platform project Resilient Cities, presents the current state of the discussion and reflects the spectrum of research on this topic at the UFZ. The volume contains conceptual and empirical contributions and also builds bridges to municipal practice. The natural and social science contributions focus on contradictions, trade-offs, conflicts and potential solutions.

The book was funded by the UFZ Library's Open Access Fund.

Guest researcher until September 15th

Julianna Colonna Valevski Cardial
Julianna Colonna Valevski Cardial

Julianna Colonna joins our department as a guest researcher until September 15th. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Pau, located in the French Southwest. With a background in Environmental Science and Management from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, her journey has been characterized by an interdisciplinary approach.

Julianna's doctoral thesis focuses on the exploitation of the underground, particularly the concept of "emptiness", a concept that she is developing in order to understand how the underground comes to be a disposal and what does it mean to be “empty”.

Her case study, C4000, investigates the injection of industrial fluid "things" into the underground. Choosing to refer to “things” is more than a semantic decision; it underscores Julianna's recognition of the significant impact that naming has on the knowledge and ignorance production. During her stay in the department, Julianna will be happy to engage in the exploitation of underground dynamics and the concept of "emptiness."

Additional team player in the EU project REGREEN

Sebastian Elze
Sebastian Elze

Sebastian Elze

In the REGREEN project, the interactive walkable floor maps have gained high visibility for which reason the UFZ acquired additional funding from the coordinator. This added budget feeds nicely to engage our colleague Sebastian Elze as a scientist in the third-party funded project and as a team player in the department. Sebastian’s expertise is in urban remote sensing and Geoinformatics. He will present the interactive floor maps on an international conference and steer the guidance on how to benefit from walkable floor maps in an interdisciplinary way. The expertise gained so far encompasses researchers from governance and education to apply walkable floor maps in workshops in an interactive way. Sebastian will further elaborate the tools like QR codes, overlay transparencies, photo elicitation, etc. to create the floor maps as dynamic visualisation products for social sciences.

Project heat stress at neighbourhood level

The task force of the DBU project "Planetary Health Model for the Reduction of Heat Stress at Neighbourhood Level" hold the second meeting in the VisLab of the UFZ on April 19, 2023. At the end of this project (, 20 representatives of various stakeholder groups (housing sector, Leipzig city offices, Health for Future, Ökolöwe, university, DBU) discussed the results: (i) the application of the Planetary Health concept to heat stress in neighbourhoods, (ii) the presentation of the method kit developed in the project, and (iii) the application of the kit to the improvement of heat resilience using the example of Grünau-Nord. Of particular interest were the simulations of different scenarios and their presentation in virtual reality. In the intensive exchange, the new possibilities for urban planning and the integration of the topic into systemic processes for improving urban living conditions were highlighted. (U. Schlink)

Urban-Rural-Partnerships − Sustainable and Resilient

Open Access

Stephan Bartke and Sigrun Kabisch, Eds., 2023, printed edition of the Special Issue published in Land

The volume consists of 16 papers by speakers attending the international conference „Sustainable & Resilient Urban-Rural Partnerships - URP 2020“. The papers represent novel urban-rural imaginaries, integrated strategies and projects which explore current and future potential in terms of sustainability and resilience. They include conceptual and methodological considerations, as well as case studies dedicated to striking examples and providing transferable knowledge and solutions.


Sungju Han completed her PhD project

Sungju Han achieved a milestone in her academic journey as she successfully completed her doctorate. Her dissertation on "Perceptions of nature-based solutions in the context of floods" was defended in December 2022, and it was subsequently published in the University of Potsdam library. The project was funded primarily by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), which awarded her a doctoral scholarship. She was supervised by Prof. Dr. Annegret Thieken (University of Potsdam, Institute of Environmental Science and Geography) and Prof. Dr. Christian Kuhlicke (UFZ and University of Potsdam, Institute of Environmental Science and Geography).

Sungju's work was particularly focused on understanding the factors that shape perceptions of nature-based solutions in the context of flooding. Her research followed an integrative approach that analyzed attitudinal and contextual factors that are critical in determining people's perceptions of nature-based solutions. She stressed the need for a more comprehensive understanding of the meanings and values attached to a particular place before implementing any flood control project. She also highlighted the importance of how these attributes interact with individual and community risk profiles and other contextual factors.

Sungju keeps her work on perceptions of nature-based solutions in the EU Horizon project RECONECT in the department.

Link to dissertation

URBIO Book of Abstracts published

Cover Urbio Book of Abstracts

The 7th Conference of the International Network Urban Biodiversity and Design (URBIO) with the theme “Integrating Biodiversity in Urban Planning and Design Processes” took place on 28–30 Nov. 2022 at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Leipzig, in close cooperation with the Humboldt University of Berlin, the University of Western Australia and the University of Missouri. It was sponsored by KOMIPO (South Korea).

The conference acknowledged the growth in and understanding of the critical role of biodiversity in our cities and the necessity of its integration with practical applications such as planning and design. It highlighted the necessity of inter- and transdisciplinary collaboration and the importance of advanced research on urban biodiversity and its implementation to the planning, design and management of urban landscapes to promote integrated and multifunctional urban blue-green infrastructures for sustainable and resilient cities.

This book of abstracts comprises 62 abstracts of oral presentations and eight posters from the Conference. It is concluded by the Leipzig URBIO 2022 Declaration. The full version can be found here:


Anika Schmidt, Janine Pößneck, Diana Dushkova, Sigrun Kabisch, Sonja Knapp (BZF)

The Department Urban and Environmental Sociology was represented by five colleagues at this year's Dortmund Conference on Spatial and Planning Research under the title "If possible, please turn!" Researching and Planning for the Sustainability Turn (13-14.2.2023). The approximately 400 participants could engage in eight thematic tracks with 41 sessions, two keynotes and four roundtables.

Janine Pößneck, Anika Schmidt, Diana Dushkova, Annegret Haase and Sigrun Kabisch were involved with presentations and as session leaders. Janine gave a presentation on her experiences from the Living Lab approach in the context of the redevelopment of existing neighbourhoods. Diana moderated the session on Nature-Based Solutions and Urban Resilience and presented her own results on participatory approaches. Annegret and Janine led a session on the relevance of the neighbourhood scale for sustainable urban development. Therein, Anika gave an insight into the current status of a pilot project in Leipzig dedicated to the transfer and adaptation of the Superblock approach, and Sigrun pleaded in her contribution for a precise potential analysis on the neighbourhood level. A wide and highly interested audience from practice and science followed the presentations. Overall, the conference offered numerous opportunities for scientific exchange, critical questioning, stimulating contacts and networking.

Daniel Hertel completed his PhD project

With the defence of his dissertation in September 2022 on the topic of "Optimisation of urban heat adaptation measures" and its publication in the Leipzig University Library in November 2022, Daniel Hertel has successfully completed his PhD project. This research work was largely supported by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU) as part of a doctoral scholarship. In addition to Prof. Dr Johannes Quaas (University of Leipzig, Institute of Meteorology), Prof. Dr Uwe Schlink (UFZ, Leipzig) was the main supervisor.

Daniel Hertel's work focused on assigning causes to urban overheating. Based on micrometeorological simulations, the developed algorithm generates maps to identify the biophysical factors responsible for local overheating. As a result of the new attribution algorithm, recommendations for more effective and targeted adaptation measures could be developed.

Link to dissertation

Risk Communication to support property level adaptation

In January 2023, the final report of the project "PIVO - Private Eigenvorsorge" was published. The project was funded by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA). Under the coordination of Prof. Dr. Christian Kuhlicke, PIVO investigated how different communication formats (a serious game on flood protection, a simulation and a precautionary information campaign) affect the motivation of citizens to take precautions against the consequences of climate change. This report provides a detailed and illustrative overview of the developed communication formats and the results of an extensive evaluation. A longitudinal survey was conducted in 11 municipalities, with six cities serving as control municipalities in order to draw controlled conclusions on the effectiveness of the communication formats. You can find the report here (it’s in German and includes a English summary).

New project on resilience planning in German municipalities

In December, the one-year project “Resilience in municipal practice – How about resilience?” started with the collaboration of Prof. Dr. Christian Kuhlicke, Prof. Dr. Dieter Rink, Janine Pößneck und Anika Schmidt. Financed by and in close exchange with the German federal association on housing and urban development, called vhw, the team will elaborate a survey of debate, knowledge and planning related to urban resilience in German municipalities. Based on literature analysis and interviews a synthesis report will be published at the end of the project. The overall goal is to further refine the concept of urban resilience and elaborate suggestions for municipal planning. The project is part of the platform project „Transformations towards resilient cities".

New edition: International Handbook of Ignorance Studies

International Handbook of Ignorance Studies

The new edition of the Routledge International Handbook of Ignorance Studies, edited by Matthias Gross and Linsey McGoey, is a seminal text in the field of studies in ignorance, secrecies, and nonknowledge. It is now fully revised and includes new and expanded chapters on religion, domestic law and jurisprudence, gender studies, memory studies, and colonial history, among many others.

International Handbook of Ignorance Studies, Routledge

New video online: Matthias Groß in Portrait

New video online: Christian Kuhlicke in Portrait