Inaugural Lecture - Prof. Meret Aeppli


Event details

Date 31.05.2023
Hour 17:3019:30
Speaker Prof. Meret Aeppli
Location Online
Category Inaugural lectures - Honorary Lecture
Event Language English
Date: 31 May 2023
Time: 17:30 - 19:30
Introductions by the Dean, lectures by Prof. Meret Aeppli, Prof. Ianina Altshuler and Prof. Sara Bonetti. Followed by an Apero.
Place: CO 1
Zoom link

Shedding light on the dark side of terrestrial ecosystems: assessing biogeochemical drivers of element cycling in soils

Soils are the living skin of the Earth. They play a crucial role in many of today’s environmental challenges ranging from climate change and water pollution to biodiversity loss and food supply. The capability of healthy soils to ameliorate these challenges is governed in part by biogeochemical processes taking place within the soils. These processes occur the interface of living (e.g., microbes) and non-living (e.g., minerals) soil components and are main drivers of element cycling. Reduction-oxidation (redox) reactions are of particular importance because they are directly linked to the transformation of energy and thus the sustenance of microbial life. In the context of climate change, soil biogeochemical processes are a crucial but partly missing piece in our understanding and predictive capability of the soils‘ response to climate change and feedbacks thereof on climate: soils host a dynamic carbon pool that is around three times larger than the atmospheric carbon pool. Climate-driven changes in microbial oxidation and mineralization of soil organic carbon can result in potentially large greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere as well as a loss in soil fertility.
At SOIL, we aim to understand the fundamental biogeochemical processes that drive the cycling of critical elements such as carbon. We experimentally assess these processes in the laboratory and field by integrating approaches traditionally used in soil science with novel (geo)chemistry and microbiology approaches. In this talk, I will illustrate mechanistic insights from our past work on redox reactions involving soil minerals and their relevance for iron and carbon cycling within soil aggregates and profiles. I will further showcase ongoing research in the group aimed at i) elucidating microbial and mineral controls on carbon turnover in alpine watersheds and agricultural soils and ii) resolving the fundamental mechanisms that govern microbial electron transfer and energy transformation in model soils. These examples illustrate how SOIL contributes to an improved understanding of the functioning of the Earth’s skin by shedding light on the biogeochemical drivers of element cycling.

About the speaker
Prof. Meret Aeppli joined EPFL in September 2022 as tenure track assistant professor and head of the Soil Biogeochemistry Laboratory (SOIL). Her group aims to understand the fundamental principles and processes governing the biogeochemical cycling of critical elements in soil. Meret was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University in the department of Earth System Science from 2019 to 2022 where she investigated biogeochemical controls on carbon turnover in soils and sediments. She holds a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Environmental Sciences from ETH Zurich and obtained her PhD from ETH Zurich in 2019. She was awarded the ETH Medal for her dissertation work in which she developed novel approaches to quantify the redox properties and reactivities of iron minerals.

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