The Grand Challengers Podcast Episode #14

Lights, Camera, GPS, Action around biodiversity enhancement in human-dominated landscapes

Guest: Janine Bolliger

July 4th, 2023


“…It’s always good to work with species that have a lobby in the human population […] people who like animals are more willing to do something good for them…”

Have you ever wondered how bats and insects make their way around our busy and bright streets at night? And did you know that there’s much more to biodiversity than just making sure that frogs can use our backyard swimming pool?

My guest today is Dr Janine Bolliger, a senior researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research and lecturer at the University of Zurich. Janine tackles challenges in landscape ecology from land use change to biodiversity protection and enhancement and a deeper understanding of how we can address these in human-dominated landscapes.

In today’s show, we discuss Janine’s work around how light pollution affects non-humans. We also unravel the elements behind the term biodiversity and how we can create more ecological cities in future.


Dr. Janine Bolliger is a senior research scientist at the Department of Land Use Dynamics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Forest Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) and lecturer at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. A eco-physiologist by training from the University of Basel, she obtained her PhD at the University of Bern in 1999 before venturing to the University of Wisconsin Madison for postdoctoral position and eventually returning to Switzerland.

Janine works across disciplines and institutions on topics related to landscape ecology and biodiversity, bringing together actors to obtain an integrated and interdisciplinary research approach. Her scientific leadership manifested in two large research programs within the ETH Center of Competence for Environment and Sustainability (CCES), which she led for 8 years. Core to her research is the connectivity across human-dominated landscapes (cities and beyond).

Janine’s research is characterised by three key pillars: spatial connectivity in human-dominated landscapes, invested at different levels from genetic and field surveys to quantitative modelling work; the impact of artificial light at night (ALAN) on connectivity and biodiversity in the landscape and; modelling of past and current land change, especially the development of scenarios for the future, which she initiated in 2003-2006. Her ongoing journey is bringing her closer to the intrinsic link between humans and nature as she is now embarking on work within the socio-ecological systems space.

Other than research, Janine has also been active in a number of committees including the NFK2.6 (VSS), environmental consultant with the building committee of the community of Uitikon Waldegg and a member of the environmental group with the SLG (Swiss Lighting Society – Schweizer Lichtgesellschaft). She has a strong ambition to ensure that novel research outputs become translatable for practice and is active not only within the academic literature, but also through continued media presence and teaching of young researchers and future leaders.

Resources Related to the Episode

  • Janine’s doodling on paper helps her create focus and stimulate creativity, thereby allowing her to delve deeper into whatever she’s reading/discussiong. Here’s an example of her artwork! “In review”, we cannot show more! 😉
  • The biodiversity “Unconference” that Janine and I met was an online multi-day event that led to the creation of the Blue-Green Biodiversity research initiative, funded by the ETH Domain
  • A gentle introduction to biodiversity by the World Wildlife Foundation
  • The University of Wisconsin Madison – most ecologists Janine met were in one way or another connected to this place
    • Monica Turner and her group at the University of Wisconsin Madison
  • The Biodiversity Crisis:
    • An interesting article from The Guardian [Link]
    • Summary of the biodiversity crisis from the UNEP [Link]
  • Janine’s work on light pollution:
    • Basics of light science and light pollution
    • Jörg Haller, who’s been working on lighting, here’s an interesting article about him (in German) [Link]
    • Martin Obrist – the bat researcher at WSL
    • Swiss institute for metrologists [Official Site]
    • Pipistrellus – i.e., the common bat [Wikipedia]
    • Bolliger, J., Haller, J., Wermelinger, B., Blum, S. and Obrist, M.K., 2022. Contrasting effects of street light shapes and LED color temperatures on nocturnal insects and bats. Basic and Applied Ecology64, pp.1-12. [Open Access Link]
    • Hölker, F., Bolliger, J., Davies, T.W., Giavi, S., Jechow, A., Kalinkat, G., Longcore, T., Spoelstra, K., Tidau, S., Visser, M.E. and Knop, E., 2021. 11 pressing research questions on how light pollution affects biodiversity. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution9, p.767177. [Open Access Link]
  • We reference Episode 4 on sound with Sofia Boarino, check out her episode for more on echolocation, particularly dolphins
  • Research on connectivity assessment and biodiversity in human-dominated landscapes and blue-green infrastructure opportunities:
    • Bolliger, J. and Silbernagel, J., 2020. Contribution of connectivity assessments to green infrastructure (GI). ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information9(4), p.212. [Open Access Link]
    • We use the method of Circuit Theory and its accompanying software: Circuitscape
    • More about Circuitscape: McRae, B.H., Shah, V. and Edelman, A., 2016. Circuitscape: modeling landscape connectivity to promote conservation and human health. The Nature Conservancy14, pp.1-14. [Link]
    • Janine’s first foray into Circuitscape: Churko, G., Kienast, F. and Bolliger, J., 2020. A multispecies assessment to identify the functional connectivity of amphibians in a human-dominated landscape. ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information9(5), p.287. [Open Access Link]
    • Our first publication together, linking with blue-green infrastructure: Donati, G.F., Bolliger, J., Psomas, A., Maurer, M. and Bach, P.M., 2022. Reconciling cities with nature: Identifying local Blue-Green Infrastructure interventions for regional biodiversity enhancement. Journal of Environmental Management316, p.115254. [Open Access Link]
    • Continuation from our first study: Molné, F., Donati, G.F., Bolliger, J., Fischer, M., Maurer, M. and Bach, P.M., 2023. Supporting the planning of urban blue-green infrastructure for biodiversity: A multi-scale prioritisation framework. Journal of Environmental Management342, p.118069. [Open Access Link]
    • A bit about environmental DNA (eDNA) [Wikipedia]
    • The IPBES platform, which actively works to combat biodiversity loss
  • We reference Episode 2 on a discussion of cohabitation with architect Scott Lloyd, check out this episode to see how some of the connectivity analysis was applied in architectural design.
  • For more tips on caring for house plants, you can also tune into the first minutes of Episode 10 with Daniele la Cecilia.
  • The birds we talked about and the sounds they make:
    • The sound that a robin makes
    • The common swift that signals summer
    • Here’s the Kookaburra Laughing
    • I was once told that the bird sound I liked belonged to the Asian Warbler, turns out it’s the Asian Koel! Here’s what they sound like! Known as the “Uwu Bird”

Connect with Janine Bolliger