Federal Council, 04 June 2021

The Federal Council appointed Beate Jessel as the new director of the Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) on 4 June 2021. She will assume her role on 1 September. The 59-year-old currently serves as president of the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation in Bonn. 

Professor Beate Jessel succeeds Professor Konrad Steffen, who suffered a fatal accident in Greenland in August 2020. Professor Jessel studied landscape management at the Technical University of Munich, where she later received her doctorate. She was a professor of landscape planning at the University of Potsdam Institute of Geoecology from 1999 to 2006, before taking up the chair of strategy and management in landscape development at the Technical University of Munich. She was appointed president of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation in 2007. 

In accordance with the ETH Act, Professor Jessel was appointed at the proposal of the ETH Board. The Board received 30 applications as part of its international search for Professor Steffen’s successor, six of which came from women. ETH Board President Michael Hengartner chaired the committee that conducted the multi-phase appointment process. 

Professor Jessel’s main research areas include landscape development, landscape management and nature conservation. She focuses primarily on ecological planning procedures and methods, how new technologies and land uses impact cultural landscapes and conservation strategies as well as river basin management and landscape aesthetics. Her role as director of the WSL also includes a professorship at ETH Zurich and EPFL.

Researchers at the WSL investigate environmental changes, as well as the use and protection of natural habitats and cultural landscapes. They monitor the condition and development of landscapes, forests, biodiversity, natural hazards, and snow and ice.

The WSL occupies a leading position internationally in these research areas and provides the groundwork for sustainable environmental policies. The Institute employs more than 550 people in Birmensdorf, Davos (WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF)), Cadenazzo, Lausanne andSion. It is a research centre of the Swiss Confederation and part of the ETH Domain.