University of Bayreuth, Presse release No. 107/2022 - 5 July 2022

Bayreuth graduate awarded for groundbreaking dissertation on climate change research

The geographer Dr. Isabell Haag has been awarded the Wladimir Köppen Prize 2021 of the Cluster of Excellence for Climate Research CLICCS for her dissertation written at the University of Bayreuth. She received the award, which is endowed with 5,000 euros, at the University of Hamburg on July 4, 2022. In her award-winning work, she uses the example of two villages in the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan to show how linking different knowledge systems can advance international research on global climate change.

"The starting point for my dissertation was the fact, proven by many research contributions, that global climate change has very different effects in the regions of the world. At the same time, knowledge about climate change in remote and sparsely populated regions, such as the high altitudes of the Pamirs, was patchy. Therefore, I wanted to show in a case study how it is nevertheless possible to gain a clear picture of the impact of climate change in such a region. This is indispensable for developing effective measures to adapt to climate change in agriculture, for example," says Dr. Isabell Haag, who now works at the Climate Centre of the Bavarian State Office for the Environment.

View of the mountain village of Savnob in the Pamirs. Photo: Isabell Haag.

In many regions of the world, extensive data on climate change and its effects are being obtained from measured data, satellite images and climate models. These data fit into a globally established knowledge system that is constantly being expanded and refined using digital techniques. In the Pamir Mountains, however, there are still very few measuring stations, and the knowledge gained from satellite and climate model data is also incomplete. In this initial situation, the Bayreuth climate researcher has investigated another knowledge system that has been largely neglected by researchers: the knowledge of the local population that has developed and been handed down over long periods of time.

Automatic weather station in the Pamirs. Photo: Isabell Haag.

As a doctoral student in the Department of Climatology headed by Prof. Dr. Cyrus Samimi at the University of Bayreuth, Isabell Haag repeatedly visited two Tajik mountain villages in the western Pamirs. Interviews with herders and small farmers, as well as a series of workshops in which village authority figures also participated, yielded important insights into climatic changes. The old tradition of ecological calendars, in which people in mountain villages documented changes in their environment, also proved to be a valuable resource. It turned out that today's people in these villages are aware of the climatic changes in the Pamirs and have already responded to them with adaptation strategies – be it in building houses or in choosing the fruits and vegetables they plant.

The award-winning Bayreuth dissertation therefore exemplifies how two different knowledge systems can enrich international research on climate change and its consequences through their systematic linkage: the knowledge of the indigenous population on the one hand and measurement data based on modern research technologies on the other. Based on the findings obtained in Tajikistan, Dr. Isabell Haag has shown that such a transdisciplinary approach can be groundbreaking for future climate research.

Workshop and shared meal with residents of a village in Tajikistan. Photo: Isabell Haag.

About the Prize:
The Wladimir Köppen Prize is offered by the Cluster of Excellence "Climate, Climatic Change, and Society" (CLICCS) at the University of Hamburg. It is awarded to young scientists for outstanding dissertations. Dr. Isabell Haag is already the twelfth award winner. The prize is named after the German-Russian geographer, botanist, meteorologist and climatologist Wladimir Peter Köppen (1846-1940).

Link to the publication:
Isabell Haag: Climate Trend Detection in a Data-Scare Environment – A Transdisciplinary Study in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan. Diss. Universität Bayreuth, Bayreuth 2021.

Dr. Isabell Haag

Dr. Isabell Haag

Climate Centre of the Bavarian State Office for the Environment

Profilbild Univ.-Prof. Dr. Cyrus Samimi

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Cyrus Samimi

Head of Research Group of Climatology
University of Bayreuth

Phone: +49 (0)921 / 55-2237

Christian Wißler, Wissenschaftskommunikation

Christian Wißler

Deputy Press & PR Manager, Research Communication
University of Bayreuth

Phone: +49 (0)921 / 55-5356