Applied Geomorphology and Alpine Hazards

Angewandte Geomorphologie und alpine Naturgefahren

Focus within the Master of Science Program of Geography

Degree: Master of Science

Location: Salzburg (Austria)

Duration: 4 semesters

Enrollment: SS and WS

ECTS-Points: 120

Language: German (selected modules in English)

The Master Program of ‚Angewandte Geomorphologie und alpine Naturgefahren‘ presents a course specialization within the Master of Science in Geography and is managed and guided by the Research Group ‘Geomorphology’ at the University of Salzburg.

Against the background of increased anthropogenic expansion, ongoing spreading of the earth surfaces modification and other global changes, the program conveys process understanding in earth surface systems as well as problem-solving expertise.

The key topics include identification, detection and quantification of geomorphological processes, location, mapping and assessment of natural hazards, and determination and discussion of risk situations and management strategies. The program is therefore strongly related to the growing demands for such skills expressed by consultancies, engineers and public authorities.

Students acquire profound skills in modern detection and analytical methods of the surface (e.g. terrestrial laser scanning, digital mapping, GIS, photogrammetry) as well as of the near-surface subsurface (e.g. geophysical field methods, coring, field sampling, measuring methods). This enables precise detection, analysis and interpretation of surface and subsurface processes for problem solving in natural hazard, geotechnical or hydrological contexts. Interlinkages with theoretical concepts of geomorphology and techniques and theory from neighboring fields such as quaternary and engineering geology, geoinformatics or environmental protection complement the studies.

Our regional focus lies particularly on high mountain areas and their adjacent forelands.

Our students get the chance to participate in ongoing research projects, benefit from existing cooperation with various stakeholders (consultants, public authorities, research agencies) and participation of national and international scientific meetings. We support them in finding an appropriate internship position in national and international companies or universities. We encourage and support a publication of the master thesis for those interesting in following an academic career.

For further information about studying Geography in Salzburg, please visit the online presence of the Paris-Lodron University of Salzburg.

  • alpine natural hazards
  • geomorphological dynamics in high mountain areas
  • measuring, monitoring and modelling of sediment fluxes, geomorphic processes and geodynamics
  • analysis of landscapes archives and reconstruction of geomorphological processes
  • glacial geomorphology and high altitude permafrost
  • rock / slope instabilities and mass movements
  • landscape responds to climate change
  • application of modern geoscientific methods like:
  1. terrestrial laser scanning, UAS
  2. geophysical subsurface investigations
  3. drilling and coring
  4. hydrological and thermal monitoring
  5. laboratory analytics (sediments, water, chemistry)
  6. digital geomorphology (modelling, land surface analysis, mapping)

Forms and processes of earth‘s surface and their spatio-temporal dynamics as well as anthropogenic impacts, climate change and natural environmental changes and their influence on high mountain areas are investigated and trained by the Research Group ‘Geomorphology’. Complex linkages and relations of environmental systems are hereby recognized as a special challenge. We work in close cooperation with scientists, decision-makers and economic partners in order to contribute to solutions for current problems and to find new innovative adaptation strategies. Due to the close interlinkages between education and research, we fulfill the pivotal purpose of a modern university. Students profit during their research-guided education from collaboration with our current research projects.

We enable and facilitate

  • wide-ranging physical-geographical and geomorphological knowledge as well as the discussion of current geomorphological research
  • applied, methodical-technical expertise for the analysis and interpretation of surface and subsurface dynamics
  • scientific writing and presentation skills
  • cooperation, networking and knowledge sharing with related sciences

Career Perspectives

  • engineering companies and offices
  • public authorities
  • avalanche / torrent control
  • nature and landscape conservation
  • water management
  • academic research

The Master Programme is a four year program structured in primarily semester-overlapping modules.

  • The module ‘Natural Scientific Fundamentals’ forms the knowledge base in physics, which will be connected to geoscientific issues during further study progress.
  • Natural hazards, their distribution as well as their environmental and socio-economic consequences are in focus of the module ‘Natural Hazards in Mountainous Regions’. Strategies for risk management, and disaster preparedness and coping are introduced and portrayed. A field trip exemplifies current and past disasters and management measures within the Eastern Alps and includes the participation of local experts and stakeholders.
  • The module ‘Topical Geography’ brings global problems and perspectives into the focus and adds different social and scientific theories and methods. The acquired knowledge is applied in the course of an excursion.
  • The module ‘Geological Fundamentals’ introduces the students to essential geological fundamentals, principles and applications to strengthen their geological basis.
  • Within the module of ‘Applied Geomorphology and Earth Surface Processes’ students will not only deepen their understanding and skills about geomorphological processes and forms, but also discuss current research projects and approaches.
  • In ‘Applied Geoscientific Methods I’, students learn how to put concepts into practice by applying various geoscientific methods for field surveys, documentation and interpretation. During the second part of this module, students acquire practical expertise with diverse modern field methods and devices in form of a field course. Another course focuses on GIS-based surface analyses techniques.
  • The ‘Elective Module’ and an ‘Internship’ (8 weeks) enable students to develop a subject-specific focus within their studies.
  • Our ‘Geomorphological Colloquium’ offers regular exchange and interaction within the Master Program. Current dissertations, Master and Bachelor theses as well as innovative research and novel techniques are presented and discussed. External scientists and invited speakers are frequently guest participants in this course.
  • The Master of Science is completed by writing a scientific graduation thesis, in which theoretical approaches and concepts are interlinked with practical and applied methodologies to answer a scientific question. We encourage our students to prepare their thesis as submitted journal publication and foster and support the publication procedure. Current thesis topics can be viewed below. The thesis usually contains a detailed empirical part consisting of own data acquisition in the field or in the laboratory as well as an analysis and interpretation of the results. Guidelines give valuable insights into the formal handling of the Master Thesis (see ‘Related Files’).

Current Master Theses

  • Thermo-cryogenic controls on stress distribution/fracture kinematics in glacier headwalls
  • Quantifying topographic change using multi-temporal terrestrial laser scanning – analysing precision and accuracy through the case study at the south face of Mt. Plassen (Upper Austria)
  • Formation of Sary Chelek rockslide damcontribution by the Chatkal earthquake 1946
  • Morphogenesis of the Lukla und Khumjung landslides, Sagarmatha- National Park/Nepal

Completed Master Theses

  • rockfall and debris flow monitoring within the Mühlsturzgraben catchment (cooperation with Nationalpark Berchtesgaden)
  • analysis of geoelectric repeat measurements in the Liedring and Gschlief trenches
  • geomorphological process mapping and modelling in the Gosau basin, Salzkammergut
  • Hazards of cave transits by water ingresses
  • temperature variabilities at the base of snow cover during winter

Please feel free to contact us!

Ass.-Prof. Dr. Jan-Christoph Otto

Coordination Master Program

Department of Geography and Geology

University of Salzburg

Hellbrunnerstraße 34

5020 Salzburg


Room No.: 3.032

Phone: +43 662 8044 5291

Mobile: +43 664 8482 380


A Bachelor degree in Geography or in a related science field (earth sciences, geology, environmental sciences, …) is required for studying ‘Applied Geomorphology and Alpine Hazards’ in Salzburg. To ensure a profound knowledge base and skills in research-focused geosciences applicants may be required to take extra courses from the Bachelor of Geography studies prior to admission to the Master Program. Since the program is mainly in German, at least basic skills of German are required. For pre-registration, please visit! All matriculation concerns are dealt with via the following address: Universität Salzburg Studienabteilung Kapitelgasse 4 5020 Salzburg