Section 4.7: Earth Surface Process Modelling

Research approach

In our research group, we develop computer models to simulate the processes responsible for the evolution of the Earth's surface, such as bedrock incision by rivers and glaciers in mountain ranges, or the slow weathering of rock in low relief continental interiors. In doing so, we provide a framework to integrate field observations and laboratory measurements, and make predictions about places where no data exists or concerning the future evolution of the Earth's surface.

Our group employs a range of researchers who all share a common interest in computer models, but who are from a variety of research backgrounds, including geology, geophysics and mathematics. We also work closely with colleagues in other sections of the GFZ as well as other German and international research institutions and universities.

From time to time we are able to offer projects/internships to students interested in our research topics.


News from Section 4.7 on Twitter:

Latest News

March 2023: Congratulations to Dr. Tetiana Amashukeli, MSCA fellow!

Dr. Tetiana Amashukeli has obtained a Marie Skłodowska Curie Action fellowship from the European Union! Tetiana (Tanya) is co-affiliated with the Ukrainian National Academy of Science in Kyiv and works on the maintenance and modernization of the Ukrainian seismic network. Tanya, displaced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been with us since May 2022. She will continue her work on the reconstruction of the seismic infrastructures and on the integration of Ukraine in the international seismology community for two more years thanks to the EU funding. Tanya works with Luca Malatesta and with multiple members of the Seismology and Seismic Hazard and Risk Modelling sections.


Section 4.7 Seminars


Our section regularly hosts seminars and talks by spakers from all over the world. In 2020 and 2021, almost all visits had to be cancelled due to the global situation. The programme of talks for 2023 is in preparation.

Please also check out Landscapes Live, a weekly online seminar series freely accessible to the international scientific community interested in various aspects of geomorphology. Recent talk can be viewed on the YouTube channel


List of past seminars




Welcome to Dr. Dingzhu Liu, OCPC Fellow

On March 1st, Dr. Dingzhu Liu joined our section as an OCPC-Helmholtz post-doctoral fellow. The OCPC-Helmholtz fellowship is co-funded by the Helmholtz Association and the Office of China Postdoc Council to support outstanding Chinese post-doctoral talents and to strengthen the cooperation between Helmholtz Research Centers and Chinese partner institutions.

Dr. Dingzhu Liu will work with Dr. Hui Tang, Prof. Dr. Jean Braun, and Dr. Jens Turowski from Section 4.6: Geomorphology. His work will focus on understanding how debris flows and landslides change landscapes. To do that, he will integrate extreme short-term processes, such as landslides and debris flows, into a long-term landscape evolution model to form a multi-scale landscape evolution model.

Dr. Dingzhu Liu recently finished his Ph.D. at the Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences. His Ph.D. work mainly focused on earthen dam breaches, outburst floods, and submarine debris flows through physical experiments and numerical modeling. He is also a member of the NSFC-GFZ joint project: Understanding the seismic response of large-scale landslide and debris flows for developing disaster risk early warning methods, headed by Dr. Jens Turowski. 


Dec. 2021: Workshop series: Sino-German Mobility project “Mountain Hazards under Climate Change" (MHCC)

As part of the Sino-German Mobility project “Mountain Hazards under Climate Change (MHCC)” between GFZ and IMHE (funded by DFG and NSFC), Dr. Hui Tang, Dr. Michael Dietze from section 4.6, Dr. Jens Turowski from section 4.6, and Dr. Gordon Zhou from IMHE organized the first hands-on workshop series from Wednesday 1st Dec to Friday 3rd Dec, from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm (Berlin time; 4:00-7:00 pm Beijing Time). The topic of the first workshop was “Environmental seismology for mountain hazards”.

For the first part of the workshop, we  invited Dr. Fabian Walter from the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) to a public lecture on Wednesday, 1st Dec. About 40 scientists from different institutes worldwide  joined the public lecture. For the second part of the workshop, Dr. Tang and Dr. Zhou gave two talks about the physics of debris flow and environmental seismology on day two.

About 15 students and postdocs  joined the hands-on section of the workshop to learn about seismic methods for mountain hazards. Dr. Dietze and Dr. Turowski  taught students how to install equipment, design sensor networks, process data, and locate events in hands-on sections. Ms. Sophie Lagarde and Dr. Ci-jian Yang supported us with setting up the workshop. During the final part of the workshop, students presented their research projects. We are looking forward to seeing them apply these methods in their research.



December 2021: Welcome to Dr. Hannah Davies!

On December 1st 2021, Dr Hannah Davies joined the section as a post-doctoral researcher. Her work will focus on understanding patterns of sediment production and transport on an Early Earth where subduction-driven tectonics as we know it today was not fully established. She will also investigates potential mechanisms for the role of the extensive glaciation that may have triggered erosion and sediment transport when our planet’s tectonics was still dominated by more diffuse flow in the mantle and thus longer wavelength and lower amplitude surface topography. For this she will develop a continental- to planetary-scale model of erosion and sediment transport that she will couple to various kinematic and dynamic models of plate motion on a convecting mantle and, later, to a simplified climatic model tuned for the conditions of the mid-Proterozoic.

Dr Hannah Davies recently completed her PhD at the University of Lisbon during which she focused on the relationship between tides and tectonics to understand how changes in the tides, induced by plate tectonic motion during supercontinent cycles, affect other components of the Earth system, such as climate and habitability. We welcome Hannah to our section. She is also a member of the ERC-Synergy MEET project headed by Professor Stefan Sobolev in Section 2.5 (Geodynamic modeling).


Welcome to Postdoctoral Researcher Dr. Esteban Acevedo-Trejos

We are very pleased to welcome Dr. Esteban Acevedo-Trejos in Section 4.7, who joined us from the Systems Ecology Group at the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research, Bremen. The position in our section forms part of Project C7 entitled „Modelling the co-evolution of life and landform“ of the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Center (CRC) 1211 . The CRC is a project between several German universities, with the University of Cologne as a lead institution. We are delighted to have gained such an experienced researcher and look forward to an exciting exchange of ideas.


 The ESD (Earth Surface Dynamics) Seminar Series now has its own website:

Please check it out for details of past and future talks, including abstracts and information about the speakers.


S2S FUTURE - Signal Propagation from Source To Sink For the Future of Earth Resources and Energy

Several of our section members are involved in the S2S (Source-to-sink) FUTURE ITN (Innovative Training Network) funded by the European Union. They include Amanda Wild, Caroline Fenske and Jean Braun. The objectives of S2S-FUTURE are to understand, quantify and model the sediment routing system from the sediment production (source) to the sediment deposition (sink); its tectonic and climatic controls; and to establish generic rules for a full understanding of signals propagation in S2S systems for building predictive models of sediment location and characteristics. These studies of S2S systems require interdisciplinary approaches combining geomorphology, sedimentology and stratigraphy, geochemistry, tectonic and paleoclimatology coupling observations, quantifications and process modelling.


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