Christian Huggel: Geography

For geographer and glaciologist Christian Huggel, Humboldt’s greatest achievement was his holistic perspective toward nature. Huggel researches the impact of climate change and potential adaptation actions in tropical regions of the Andes, primarily in Colombia and Peru. Just like in the Swiss Alps, glaciers are also melting at an alarming rate in South America, bringing about changes in water levels from the continent’s snow-covered peaks to its coastal regions. “Climate change adaptation actions require an interdisciplinary perspective and the inclusion of everyone who is impacted,” explains Huggel. This quickly becomes a complex affair when you consider that changing water flows affect many people all the way down to lower-lying, heavily populated areas where water is scarce. “To me, Alexander von Humboldt is a role model in the sense that he laid the foundation for our work that allows us to include all stakeholders and perspectives,” says Huggel, who also carries out research in other mountain regions such as the Himalayas and the Swiss Alps. However, it was the mountains of South America that captured his heart during a stay in Ecuador before he started his studies. Huggel is now an active member of various professional networks and takes part in the fight against natural hazards and other threats brought about by climate change. He didn’t fail to notice that his research area in South America roughly corresponds with Humboldt’s second South America expedition from Cartagena to Lima. And like Humboldt, Huggel also surveys glaciers and collects meteorological data to improve our understanding of water cycles. Humboldt was a pioneer in this regard too, remarks Huggel: “He was one of the first researchers to consistently work in a quantitative manner.”

Stefan Stöcklin; English translation by Gena Olson