Eurac Research is celebrating its 30th birthday. To mark the occasion, 30 young researchers tell us in 30-seconds videos what they plan to do in their field over the next 30 years.


Becoming a Writing Expert

If we look around, we realise that writing is both a pervasive and indispensable means to performing innumerable actions: from the most mundane, such as writing a Whatsapp message to our mother to tell her we won't be back for dinner, to the most complex, such as applying for a job position by submitting a CV and a motivational letter, or launching a petition on Change.org. Writing is therefore fundamental. Yet, during our formative years, it is taught and practised too little, because it is often thought to be an innate talent.

For years, language experts have been denouncing the close correlation between socio-economic disadvantages and other obstacles in understanding and producing a text, and have been proposing new methods to teach writing in ain a collective and collaborative way, so that everyone can really master this complicated communicative tool.

Arianna Bienati Linguist


Overcoming the climate and biodiversity crisis requires profound change, a transformation that affects energy systems as much as societal processes.


Look Who’s Swimming

The Alps are also known as the “water towers of Europe”. Their aquatic habitats - wetlands, lakes and flowing waters - are particularly sensitive ecosystems. A variety of animal and plant species live here, inseparably linked to their habitats. They settle depending on various factors such as the morphology of a water body, the altitude and biogeographical region. Intact aquatic ecosystems are a prerequisite for clean drinking water.

With climate change, these natural bodies of water are under great pressure: nowhere else are so many species threatened or have already disappeared as in or around water. However, flora and fauna are also endangered by the direct impact of humans: for example, when we build up and straighten rivers. In order to understand how our alpine aquatic ecosystems function and what threatens them, we first need an inventory of the diversity of all plant and animal species which as yet does not exist in South Tyrol.

Magdalena VanekEcologist

Behaviour Change and Energy Poverty

Energy poverty is generally defined as the inability to access or afford energy services that are necessary for a good standard of life. In many ways it is a consequence of financial poverty, but it also has some very particular drivers inherent to the energy context. As such, this type of poverty also requires particular tools to tackle it, tools that are scalable, cost-effective, and address specific drivers.

Unfortunately, it is often the case that the exact people afflicted by energy poverty find themselves unable to make the kind of fundamental investments necessary to address it at its root, such as retrofitting their homes for example. Even when the government or someone else does invest in improved efficiency, often it can be difficult to align behaviour for the intervention to be impactful.

Nicolas CaballeroEconomist

Beautiful Photovoltaic

Photovoltaic technologies can be installed on all available surfaces of buildings, including façades. In this sense, they support the energy transition because they produce cleaner and fairer energy, in a variety of ways. Their aesthetics, however, are very defined by the materials used to make them. This is why photovoltaic panels are often considered suitable for use in modern, high-tech looking buildings, while they are rather hidden in more traditional ones. On the other hand, the architectural language used in buildings is an expression of the identity, culture and traditions of the local community, which must be protected and preserved.

To make it possible to combine the needs of energy transition and those of preserving architectural traditions, a new generation of photovoltaic technologies is being developed that feature shapes, colours and finishes that are compatible with traditional building materials, and are therefore able to harmonize, almost to the point of camouflage, with the existing built environment.

Martina PelleEngineer

Time is Life

The predominant way of life and economy in the Global North, and consequently also here in South Tyrol and Italy, is based on the systematic overuse of ecosystems and natural resources. This overuse is already threatening the long-term livelihoods of humanity. Moreover, our consumption and production patterns can only be sustained through everyday access to cheap labour, especially in the Global South. Social, economic and ecological costs are outsourced in this way - in space and time.

Many people, also here in South Tyrol, are aware of this. Nevertheless, it is difficult to change the dominant, non-sustainable way of life which is firmly anchored in our everyday life, for example through physical-material infrastructures (e.g. motorways, shopping centres), institutions (e.g. banks, ministries) as well as social norms and everyday practices. The dominant solution strategies for sustainability transformation (e.g. technological solutions, "green" growth) have also not led to fundamental change. They do not question the deep-rooted, systemic causes of current unsustainability (e.g. the capitalist growth economy) and thus contribute to its stabilisation.

Approaches of a so-called socio-ecological transformation aim to identify and analyse non-sustainable social structures, processes and behaviours. The aim is, among other things, to examine concrete solution strategies and to point out possibilities for sustainable, socially and ecologically more compatible forms of life and economy.

Felix WindeggerEcological Economist

On the Trail of Water Scarcity

Mountains are the water reservoirs of our planet. They supply the surrounding lowlands with drinking water. But more and more often, water runs dry on its journey from the heights to the lowlands, where most of the water is consumed. Even in water-rich regions such as southern Africa, many taps run dry, and people must rely on expensive water tankers to supply them with drinking water. Climate change is only part of the problem. Water scarcity in southern Africa is also caused by poor local infrastructure and by huge population growth. In addition, there are global, systemic causes, such as the detour of resources from underdeveloped to already developed areas, which in turn exacerbate inequalities locally and globally.

Jess DelvesPolitical Ecologist

Sustainable Future

In the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, the slowing down of many production activities and the limiting of transport had very positive impacts in terms of greenhouse gas reductions. But how plausible are these actions to mitigate climate change? Creating a more sustainable world does not involve a linear and shared pathway: on the contrary, it presents dilemmas and trade-offs that must be addressed. Our systems of production and consumption certainly need to be rethought, but not without taking into account the often counter-intuitive consequences this entails at a societal level. For example, the same interventions to irrigate organic agricultural products can be invasive to the ecosystem of a lake or river, or deprive other sectors of needed water. It is therefore crucial to anticipate and unravel the dynamic and complex interplay of human factors (and consequently also economic and scientific factors) in order to build shared visions of the future.

Matteo RizzariEnvironmental Economist and Political Scientist

Building Inclusive Healthy Futures

What do gender equality, respect for diversity, housing, work, and an intact ecosystem have in common? They are all social determinants of health, namely the factors that influence our health and well-being beyond purely medical parameters, following the WHO’s definition of health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being”. They are systemic, going beyond the individual person, and – at least to a certain extent – changeable. Combatting discrimination, implementing equal opportunities, and fighting climate change are all fields we must work on in an anticipatory and interdisciplinary manner, making our societies more inclusive, health literate and future-proof.

Katharina CrepazPolitical Scientist

Nature’s Highways

Regional politics shape our landscapes by developing building infrastructure or economic activities within defined administrative boundaries. However, by focusing on human needs, green spaces are sometimes only seen as residual areas and important ecological green connections are getting lost, especially in cross- border areas. Therefore, we make transboundary studies on open spaces and green interlinkages to connect important ecological areas. We present them mostly to politicians and spatial planning offices, to give them a basis for the conservation of green corridors in mountain areas.

Peter LanerSpatial Planner

A Road Map to Accessibility

In the last 50 years, transport planning has progressively shifted its focus from increasing “mobility”; the ability of people to move around, to increasing “accessibility”; the ability for people to get what they need. However, several future technologies and social trends may have very uncertain impacts on the accessibility of people and places, examples being the increase of digital work, suburbanization of the countryside, or the automation of transport. Our research tries to shed the light on such impacts, with a special focus on autonomous vehicles.

Alberto DianinBiologist

Forests of the Future

Forests cover vast areas of land in in Europe, spreading over 43% of the continent’s surface. Forests also provide a range of ecosystem services that are vital to modern society and human well-being. They provide protection against soil erosion; they regulate local and global climate; they provide wood and other products; they are places for recreation; and finally, they provide essential habitats for a multitude of animal and plant species. But there are increasing concerns on the state of forest ecosystems and their long-term provision of key services, especially due to rapid climate change, and natural and human-related disturbances.

Marco MinaForest Ecologist

The Sound of Muuuh

Alpine pasture management has played a major role in many regions of the Alps for centuries. The annual cattle drive to the summer pastures is an important contribution to landscape conservation, increases animal welfare and is part of local traditions. Economic and social upheavals in society also have an impact on agriculture and especially since the 1970s, a decline of farms and structural concerning them changes can be observed. The changes in the valley also have an impact on alpine pasture farming, which is struggling with a decline in livestock and the abandonment of alpine pastures. Added to this is the recent return of large predators, which poses new additional challenges for livestock farmers. But how should we classify this problem? What solutions are there? And what future prospects are there for alpine pasture farming today in an increasingly fast-paced and profit-oriented era?

Julia StauderWildlife and Conservation Biologist

The Collective Mountain

The collective management of forests, pastures, land and facilities has ensured the sustainable development of mountains and the livelihood of communities in difficult climatic and accessibility conditions. In Italy, 10 percent of the total area is managed collectively, and this figure reaches 76 percent in the provinces of Trento and Bolzano. These systems have been extensively studied under the concept of 'commons', and earned Elinor Ostrom the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2009. In order to continue to ensure the sustainable development of mountains and at the same time address global challenges such as climate change, loss of biodiversity and land consumption, and increasing economic and social inequalities, we need to investigate which innovations enable these areas of common land to meet new needs and collective uses and ensure the access of new and diverse stakeholders such as young people, women and new inhabitants to resources and decision-making processes. The hypothesis guiding the research is that only by transforming and adapting, can the commons continue to be collective and increase the quality of life and habitats they contain.

Cristina Dalla TorreEnvironmental Economist

Understanding Climate Change

According to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the average global temperature over the past decade is 1.1°C higher than pre-industrial values (1850-1900) and the highest in 125 thousand years. Scientific society is unanimous in attributing the main responsibility for warming to greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Intensification of extreme weather and climate phenomena, melting glaciers and rising ocean levels are some of the already evident consequences affecting natural and socio-economic systems. Any further increase in temperature will exacerbate these effects, requiring accelerated and collective action to mitigate the climate crisis, adapt to unavoidable changes and trigger sustainable development. Accurate climate data and targeted analyses are essential to understand the complex processes underway, to assess current and future risks, especially in the most vulnerable regions such as mountainous regions, and to support adaptation and mitigation at international and local levels.

Alice CrespiPhysicist, Data Scientist

It’s all about Snow

The winter snowpacks in the Argentinean Andes are the primary source of surface runoff and water supply in the adjacent lowlands. The socioeconomic, environmental, and recreational benefits provided by the mountain snowpacks are enjoyed by over 10 million people and include freshwater supply for human consumption, irrigation, various industries, tourism, and hydroelectric generation. Additionally, winter snow accumulation has been a source of information when studying weather dynamics and they are also used to estimate warm seasons and annual water supplies. They are indicators of environmental changes produced by anthropogenic actions. The effects of global warming over snow-cover, snow-packs and glaciers have a direct impact on water resources and ecosystem services, which leads into high social and economic costs. A fast thaw in mountain regions may cause several natural disasters such as landslides, slopes instability, flash floods, flooding, among others that may affect populations in the lowlands. Changes in snow packs, snow cover and glacier extent are predominantly linked to changes in meteorological conditions and it is well known that temperature rise is a major driver of glacier mass loss and rapid thaws however changes are also influenced by the presence of Light-Absorbing Impurities.

Giuliana Beatriz BeltramoneGeoinformatician

Visualizing Knowledge about Apple Variety Testing

Traditional mountain agriculture plays a crucial role in the socio-economic life of the European Alps. Demand for specific agricultural product quality characteristics and changing climate are significant forces behind innovation in the farming sector. To remain profitable, agricultural practices must continue to innovate and discover new crops and varieties able to adapt to the changing environment. The data-driven solutions programmed to answer "what" and "why" about crop-growing activities may serve as an essential response for adequate adaptation and mitigation, which provides society with alternatives to address the heterogeneity and uncertainty of climate change impacts using various data sources.

Ekaterina ChuprikovaCartographer

Preserving Biodiversity

In recent decades, biodiversity - that is, the variety of animal and plant species on Earth - has been disappearing at an ever-increasing rate. For example, in the last forty years Europe has lost around 600 million birds.

The main threats to biodiversity are mainly anthropogenic, e.g. changes in land use such as deforestation, intensive monocultures, urbanisation as well as pollution and climate change. A low level of biodiversity brings with it disastrous consequences for nature and humans: healthy and stable ecosystems provide services that are not only essential for the balance of the ecosystem itself but also for our lives. Just think of the pollination of crops, drinking water, clean air and species that can be hunted. Fortunately, this topic has been entering the agenda of government bodies, associations and also the everyday life of citizens for some years now. On an international level, the most relevant instrument for the protection of biodiversity is the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, created in 2010, within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity. In South Tyrol, for example, a permanent biodiversity monitoring system (Monitoraggio della Biodiversità Alto Adige) has been set up to understand the current state of ecosystems, the changes they are undergoing and the measures needed to preserve them. The project aims to study the evolution of the South Tyrolean landscape by focusing on species that are sensitive to human-induced environmental changes.

Matteo AnderleOrnithologist

For a Greener and more Efficient Energy Policy

The International Renewable Energy Agency ( IRENA ) estimates that renewable energy and energy efficiency measures can potentially achieve 90% of the required carbon reductions needed to keep global warming below 1.5 °C. To meet this drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions the decarbonization of residential sectors plays a major role, and only by reducing energy demand through energy efficiency measures in parallel with increasing the use of renewable energy sources can these demands be met.

Giulia ChersoniEnvironmental Economist

Vegetation Mapping from outer Space

Earth observation is the science of collecting information about our planet. It makes use of numerous data sources for this purpose: They range from satellites to drones to airborne sensors. They all collect information about our planet that can help us detect and understand changes on the Earth's surface relating to both chemical and physical systems. There are applications for Earth observation in everything from monitoring forests and vegetation to urban sprawl and developing early warning systems for disasters like floods and droughts. Eurac Research is participating in a European Space Agency (ESA) project to develop and analyze new methods for soil and vegetation mapping using satellite data (Sentinel-1). The advantage is that, unlike conventional vegetation mapping with optical data, they can be calculated in relatively short time intervals of only six days.

Basil TufailEarth Observation Scientist


We can only meet the major challenges of the future - social inequality, energy and food crisis, climate change and migration if we undergo a profound transformation as a society. The goal is a sustainable and fair life with equal accessibility and opportunities for everyone.


Re-discovering Linguistic Diversity: Beyond the Monolingual Bias

Migration phenomena have reshaped the way we perceive diversity in our society. In the field of language rights, migration-induced diversity has required a rethinking of existing forms of language protection in order to accommodate claims coming from the so-called new minorities. In such super-diverse societies linguistic boundaries are becoming less visible while plurilingual practices and multilingual belongings are more common than ever before. But is this any news? Indeed, minority, regional, autochthonous languages, as well as what we called dialects have always been the building blocks of a multilingual environment that has too long been overlooked outside the field of linguistics.

Mattia ZebaSociolinguist

What Makes a City Successful?

Cities are growing. In Europe, 74 percent of the population currently live in urban centres. By 2050, this figure is estimated to rise to 84 percent. Not only are more people moving into cities, cities are also expanding spatially beyond their administrative boundaries and forming an interconnected ecological, economic and social space with neighbouring communities in their catchment area. City administrations are trying to manage this multifaceted growth trend holistically within the framework of spatial planning: A large number of public and private actors at different administrative levels are involved in spatial planning. On the one hand, urban development processes have to be designed as openly and participatively as possible, on the other, they have to continuously be adapted to regional, national and European requirements. Cities must also coordinate their spatial planning with neighbouring municipalities since they are closely networked both economically and socially. In its spatial planning policy, for example, the city of Bolzano pays attention to better managing commuter flows from the surrounding municipalities. The institutional framework for spatial planning is therefore extremely complex and managing this complexity is an important prerequisite for success.

Theresia MorandellPolitical Scientist

Transformation of Tourism Destinations through Design

How does a holistic approach to tourism in South Tyrol, where the population is also involved in decision-making processes look? Tourism plays a major role in South Tyrol's economy. According to the result of the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) evaluation for 2005, it directly contributes more than 8.2% to the local GDP. This is the economic impact approach, but a holistic one also requires the environmental and social pillars of sustainability. Inhabitants can benefit from tourism, but they increasingly perceive its negative impacts such as increased traffic, price increases, increased consumption of resources and the number of visitors to particularly attractive places, to name just a few examples. At present, decisions concerning tourism in South Tyrol are mostly made by traditional actors such as the hotel industry, gastronomy, associations and interest groups in the destinations. Through the proactive design of tourism by non-traditional stakeholders from the fields of art, culture, commerce, science and the civil population, participatory processes should initiate a transformation that leads to acceptance and the maintenance of a sustainable tourism mindset.

Concepts and methods from design aim to include elements such as participation, transformation, complexity reduction and visualisation in a holistic approach and thus promote new approaches. Creativity plays a central role in this. The problem is not the wrong questions, but too few and too uncritical questions. Design thus changes the question itself. And it is precisely such refreshing questions that allow "lateral thinking" in which all trains of thought are permitted.

Greta ErschbamerEconomist

Public Administration 2.0

With advancing digitalization, citizens' demands on the services of public administration are also increasing. They should be convenient and personalised, ideally accessible on a smart device at any time of the day or night. 6.74 billion euros have been earmarked in Italy's National Reconstruction Plan (PNRR) for the digitalisation of public administration by 2026. A considerable sum, but one that also provides for much more than the purely technological part of the implementation. In the course of the digital transformation, established procedures and processes must be fundamentally rethought. The same applies to the service culture in public administration. In order to prepare for the upcoming generational and cultural change, employees must be involved in the change processes. Digitization must also be conceived and implemented in close cooperation with citizens. After all, what good is the best technology if no one can use it?

Davide MaffeiPolitical Scientist and Economist

Participate in Democracy

There are three pillars of democracy: representative, direct and participatory. In the past, elections were the only instrument through which citizens could influence politics. Today, with direct democracy, there is the possibility of voting. And participatory democracy which lets citizens be directly involved in shaping policy. If citizens are to get closer to political and social issues, the way HOW political decisions are made in the future should also be changed. There are many methods and instruments for this, which can also affect different policy areas. The innovative forms of citizen participation can complement and enrich representative and direct democracy. The goal is to make better and more consensual decisions.

Greta KlotzPolitical Scientist

Ethnic Minorities in Politics

It is estimated that around 150,000 Roma and Sinti live in Italy, some of them have lived there for centuries. About 50% of the Roma and Sinti living in Italy have Italian citizenship. Nevertheless, they are not recognised as a minority in Italy and therefore do not enjoy group rights. Rather, they are stigmatized and discriminated against. Roma and Sinti are also underrepresented in the political arena. For women who belong to a marginalized minority, access to politics is made even more difficult: they experience double discrimination on the one hand because of their gender, and on the other hand because of their ethnicity. Roma and Sinti women who seek to enter politics as politicians and activists are therefore particularly affected by this multiple discrimination.

Sophia Schönthaler Political Scientist

For a More Inclusive Society

Certain structural conditions are needed to analyze aspects of social sustainability that examine socio-economic inequalities with a special focus on gender. Current developments such as the transformation of working patterns towards more flexibility in terms of time and place need to be examined according to their potential to counteract societal imbalances such as the unequal distribution of care work within the family, women’s double shifts and their mental, emotional and physical load. This comprises the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on work patterns, habits and preferences as well as ongoing shifts in traditional family norms and values.

Linda GhirardelloPolitical Scientist


The human genome has been decoded and we are now learning to understand it. The more we learn about molecular patterns, the greater our understanding of associated disease patterns and their treatment options will become. With this knowledge, the long-term goal of personalized medicine can be achieved.


Links Between Heart and Brain

The autonomic nervous system regulates various functions of the heart, e.g. heartbeat frequency. In order to fully understand the different nervous mechanisms that are involved in the development of many heart diseases, it is essential to decipher in detail how the autonomic nervous system and the cardiac system interact and cooperate. This is possible thanks to neurocardiology - the science that studies these relationships in detail under physiological conditions in healthy people, and which also studies what happens when cardiovascular diseases such as atrial fibrillation, ventricular tachyarrhythmia, long QT syndrome, Brugada syndrome and arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy develop.

Unfortunately, the procedures to obtain human neurons and cardiac cells are very invasive, which makes it complicated to study how these two cell types interact in vitro. For this reason, during my PhD, I developed an in vitro cell model of neurocardiac co-culture - a model created with neurons and cardiomyocytes derived from induced pluripotent stem cells that can not only be used as a cellular model to study diseases, but can also be applied for drug screening tests or for the development of patient-specific treatments in the context of personalised medicine.

Giada CattelanMolecular Biologist

No Pain is the Gain!

Pain may be unpleasant, but it is fundamental to our survival. If we did not feel pain, we would suffer permanent damage: from burns, injuries or unnoticed bone fractures. Pain is a warning signal from our nervous system that protects us and allows wounds to heal. If pain persists over the long term, it no longer has a protective function, it becomes a torment and massively impairs our quality of life. Worldwide, one in five people suffers from chronic pain. Around 60 per cent of patients can be treated with the help of medication, physiotherapy, abd alternative forms of therapy. For the remaining patients, current therapies for pain relief are not sufficient.

Larissa de ClauserBiologist

What Ancient DNA Reveals about the Celts

Who were our enigmatic ancestors, the Celts, who settled large parts of Europe from the northern Alpine region from 450 BC onwards? Finds in Celtic burial sites north and south of the Alps point to an advanced civilization from the late Iron Age. Grave goods, such as jewellery and elaborately decorated iron swords, testify to the great wealth that the Celts achieved through extensive trade. Surgically precise drill holes in skullcaps indicate that they were already capable of reducing intracranial pressure in the case of skull injuries. Greeks and Romans report on the feared barbarians from the north, but the Celts themselves have left no written records. One thing is clear, however, the Celts in Europe are connected by their culture. Though how the individual clans were genetically related to each other is still unclear today.

Pushed back by the Romans in the 1st century BC, they disappeared from the scene as an advanced civilization. With the help of skeletal finds and the DNA extracted from them, archaeogeneticists can now better place the Celts in the context of European history.

Stefania ZingaleBiologist, Molecular Anthropologist

Exploring Ancient Microbial Diversity

Analyzing the ancient DNA of human remains can reveal useful information on the human history. For example, we can now study ancient pathogens and their evolution as well as the history of ancient epidemics and migrations. We can even discover the dietary habits and health status of our ancestors. Paleogenomics – the study of the ancient genome is changing the way we look at the past and disclosing new information at each step.

For decades, it was commonly believed that ancient communities tended to stay in one place, a theory which was dispelled due to analysing the isotopic contents of bones amongst other things.

Ancient DNA research has garnered a huge amount of acclaim in a very short period of time with illuminating results often published in the most prestigious journals. Resultingly, this has led to great demand for access to old bones, especially from ‘exotic’ places, where anthropologists are keen to analyze the evolution and adaptation of previously uninvestigated indigenous groups. However, these unique samples are often destroyed or damaged in the process of DNA extraction and often the question of ethical investigation is raised.

Mohamed SarhanMicrobiologist

New videos will be regularly added over the next weeks.