I am fascinated by the wide variety of landscapes on our planet - and I want to contribute as much as I can to our understanding of them. This takes two main forms: going out and measuring things on the one hand, and using computer models to test and inspire our understanding on the other hand
Soils are fascinating because they are so important, among others for the growth of crops and natural vegetation and for carbon storage. Soils are also beautifully diverse and dynamic. I try to find out why we find different soils in different parts of our landscapes, and how that diversity in turn affects the processes that shape our landscapes. The timescales involved in these processes are usually hundreds or thousands of years. I enjoy using methods such as luminescence or carbon dating to help quantify rates.
I study natural hazards for two reasons: to better predict them, and to understand how they shape landscape functioning over long timescales. In particular, I am interested in landslides and rock fall. My landslide interest focuses on landslide path dependency, which is the (new) idea that former landslides can affect the risk of new landslides in the same location. Where this effect is strong, existing prediction methods need to be improved. Rock fall I approach from the point of view of mountain climbers who want to be informed as well as possible about risks when climbing.
I have a particular love for mountain landscapes – change there is often faster and more dramatic than elsewhere. Glacial retreat, for instance, exposes large areas of land that were previously covered. For soils developing on this new land, the clock is starting to tick from zero again. This allows us to measure rates of soil formation, right when soils start to form. It is an ideal natural experiment that I enjoy going out and observing with students!
In the last few decades, we are increasingly understanding that our landscapes do not function according to simple rules. For instance, twice the amount of rainfall does not mean twice the erosion. In fact, under some circumstances, twice the amount of rainfall could even mean less erosion. In other cases, patterns in a landscape, such as the sorted circles in the pictures, form without external steering. This is called self-organization. The body of literature describing these departures from simple, linear behavior is growing fast and is to me the most important field of growth in pedology and geomorphology. I mostly study complexity with GIS and specialized computer models, such as LORICA.