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Dr. Jens Martin Turowski



visiting scientist


Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL
Zürcherstrasse 111
8903 Birmensdorf


Birmensdorf Bi LG D 06


Research Interests

My interest lies broadly in geomorphology and the interaction between climate, tectonics and erosion. I try to understand physical processes on the earth surface and how these processes interact with the landscape and shape it.

My previous research focused on bedrock channel morphology and its response to various boundary conditions (namely climate, sediment supply, substrate and tectonics).

Specifically my interests are:

  • bedrock channel morphology and dynamics in response to climatic, tectonic and lithological boundary conditions
  • river planform morphology
  • fluvial sediment-driven bedrock erosion processes (cover and tools effect)
  • bedload transport
  • channel-hillslope coupling
  • upstream sediment supply and sourcing
  • extreme events
  • scaling of physical processes across time scales


At the moment I mainly work on bedload transport in steep streams (bedload transport is the transport of coarse material in a river channel). My particular interest is the variability of transport rates under constant hydraulic conditions. Some of the scientific questions I am investigating are:

  1. Why do bedload transport rates fluctuate as strongly as they do?
  2. Can these fluctuations be described with a generally applicable distribution function? Can such a function be derived from theoretical considerations?
  3. Can we obtain extreme value statistics of sediment yields, which can be used as a basis for designing protective structures?
  4. What is the relationship between sediment transport and channel stability?

To (partly) answer these questions, I use several exceptional data sets. In the Erlenbach, Canton Schwyz, Switzerland, the WSL maintains a hydrological observatory. Sediment yield measurements have been made there since 1982. End of 2008 new infrastructure was installed, allowing to sample bedload with automatic basket samplers.

A second sediment transport data set with high temporal resolution was taken in the Pitzbach near the village of Imst in Austria in the years 1994-95. In addition, the bedload transport was measured with indirect sensors.

Check out my publications and the project descriptions for further information.

We offer Diplom and Master's projects on various subjects. Other student's assignments and work experience are also possible.


In the subjects bedload transport, channel stability and natural hazards I work closely with Dieter Rickenmann and Alexandre Badoux at the WSL. In addition, I help to supervise two graduate students, Manuel Nitsche and Johannes Schneider. We also work with Peter Molnar (ETH Zürich) and Elowyn Yager (University Idaho).

In the subjects bedrock erosion and channel morphology I keep close contact with Niels Hovius (Cambridge University, UK) and Dimitri Lague (Geosciences Rennes, France).


At the moment I am involved in the supervision of the following doctoral students:

Manuel Nitsche

Johannes Schneider

Florian Heimann

Alexander Beer

Education and Employment

Since 2010: Research scientist at the WSL, Switzerland

2007-2010: Postdoctoral researcher at the WSL, Switzerland

2003-2007: Graduate Student (bedrock channel morphology) at the Department of Geosciences, Peterhouse, University of Cambridge, UK

2002-2003: Master's dissertation about physical properties of polymeres

1999-2003: Degree studies in experimental and theoretical physics, University of Cambridge, UK

1998: Abitur at the Altes Kurfürstliches Gymnasium Bensheim, Germany