Dr. Martin Schrön

Martin Schrön


Permoserstraße 15
04318 Leipzig

Building 7.1, Room 226
Phone +49 341 235 1995


I am a postdoc scientist exploring the nature of cosmic-ray neutrons and their potential to do good for the environment and society. The research field of "Cosmic-Ray Neutron Sensing" (CRNS) exploits the response of omnipresent background radiation to water. Our goal is to reliably monitor cosmic-ray neutrons at various spatial and temporal scales, and to use this information to improve the quality of predictions of earth system models.
More information

Research News

June 2020: Measuring high-resolution soil moisture dynamics of a 1x1 km2 area? Together with the DFG research unit "Cosmic Sense" we published a unique dataset of 25 CRNS probes in a small Bavarian catchment. Read more at ESSD.

Feb 2020: The uncertainty of mobile CRNS rover measurements depends on detector size, speed, and aggregation time. We contributed to a recent paper in Frontiers in Water showing how error propagation from neutrons to soil moisture could be done.

Oct 2019: Can drip irrigation be scheduled with cosmic-ray neutron sensing? It can, but only under dry conditions and if the irrigated area and water quantity is significant -- a study supported by URANOS neutron simulations. Read more at VZJ.

Sep 2019: Let's apply cosmic rays where they are most needed: our BMBF Joint German-Israeli Water Technology Research Project kicks of this month, aiming to challenge CRNS in arid regions in order to improve water and food security. Apply for your PhD adventure here!    

Nov 2018: There is synergy in using multiple sensors for soil moisture monitoring, as shown in our recent WRR paper! We found how local networks can help to calibrate remote sensing algorithms, and how remote sensing data can help to remove the influence of vegetation in mobile CRNS soil moisture products.

Aug 2018: Uncertainty analysis of cosmic-ray neutron data with a General Probabilistic Framework: vertical soil moisture profile, bulk density, and incoming radiation among the major factors influencing the CRNS soil moisture product. Read more in Journal of Hydrology.

Jun 2018: New in Nucl Instrum Meth in Physics Section A: CRNS detectors are sensitive to a larger range of neutron energies than previously thought (0.1 eV--10^6 eV). And angular sensitivity is highest for vertical fluxes from above (incoming background) and below (e.g., roads).

May 2018: We found a way to make data from mobile CRNS rover surveys more reliable. When driving on roads, the typically dry material biases the neutron measurement and leads to unrealistic soil moisture products. Together with the University of Bristol and the University of Heidelberg we were able to quantify the road effect using the URANOS neutron simulator, and to provide an analytical correction function. The approach was successfully tested at the TERENO intensive monitoring site "Schäfertal" and at the Sheepdrove Organic Farm in England. Check out our paper in WRR!

Apr 2018: Meet us at EGU in Vienna! Together with colleagues from all over the world, we will be convening an interdisciplinary session on "Cosmic rays across scales and disciplines: the new frontier in environmental research".

Mar 2018: Neutron detector signals are not comparable per se, there is statistical noise, technical differences, and locational effects. We found out what it takes to make CRNS consistent in time and space in our recent paper on GI.

Dec 2017: Meet us at AGU in New Orleans for a dedicated session on cosmic-ray neutron sensing. I'll be giving an invited talk and presenting two posters.

May 2017: The University of Potsdam published my PhD thesis, it is also available as a book from the Dr. Hut Verlag. It contains a broad review of cosmic-ray neutron research and explores new ways for its applications in hydrologcal research.


In my earlier years I studied Physics at the University of Heidelberg and ended up simulating the formation of stars in our universe. Our newborn child then brought me back to the roots of nature at the University of Greifswald, contributing to research about pattern formation of mires in Siberian wetlands. At the Helmoltz Centre for Environmental Research I realised that both worlds are interconnected. So I started a PhD on cosmic-ray neutron sensing to monitor water content in soils and obtained my degree from the University of Potsdam. For the following six months, I learned to know the fine English way of neutron sensing at the University of Bristol, before continueing the research at the UFZ Leipzig ever since.


I am currently supervising Mandy Kasner (PhD thesis) and Johannes Brenner (PhD thesis) at UFZ, and I am mentoring several more.

Completed supervisions: Kalindi Shah (Internship, 2018, SVNIT India), J. Weimar (Master thesis, 2017, Uni Heidelberg), L. Piussi (Internship, 2016, Uni Bolzano), M. Köhler (Master thesis, 2016, Uni Halle), J. Weimar (Internship, 2015, Uni Heidelberg)

Visit me on Google Scholar


Science Communication

My research was also mentioned in some press articles from Zeit Campus, Die Welt, and in an interview at Radio DLF "Forschung aktuell". There have also been a UFZ Newletter article, a UFZ press report, and a TERENO Newsletter article.

One of my posters received the 1st price at the HIGRADE Conference 2015. I gave a stage performance at FameLab Saxony 2013 which received 1st and audience prize, and also most of my Science Slam presentations were awarded. In 2015, I happened to win the German Master Award at the Science Slam German Finals. In 2018, I received the Klartext-Award for science communication from the Klaus-Tschira Stiftung.

Software Development

As a software developer I am working closely with Markus Köhli to establish the URANOS neutron simulation for environmental research. I am also involved in the development of the mesoscale hydrological model mHM, for which our team received the UFZ Research Award 2017. Besides the science, I love to develop productivity tools for writing, organizing, and data analysis. You can catch a glimpse on my GitHub account.

I am working with Interpreter- (Perl, Python, R, JavaScript, Bash), Compiler- (Fortran, Visual Basic), and Markup- (Latex, HTML, Markdown) languages.


2020/2019/2018 Apr/May: Together with colleagues from all over the world, I convene a dedicated session on "Cosmic rays across scales and disciplines: the new frontier in environmental research" every year at EGU in Vienna.

2018 Oct: As a member of the TERENO steering committee, I am currently organizing the TERENO International Conference in Oct 2018.

I was invited to give a talk at AGU in New Orleans (2017), at the Neujahrsempfang of the Helmholtz Society (2016), and at the EGU in Vienna (2016).

Back in the old days, I convened a session at the TERENO workshop (2016), organized the 4th international workshop on Cosmic-Ray Neutron Sensing (2014) and supported the organizers of the conference on Galactic Scale Star Formation (2012)