Written by Perrine Laroche, ESR 04
Last February (2019), I went for my academic secondment at the Senckenberg Institute in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany. An academic secondment is a mandatory opportunity, in Innovative Training Networks such as COUPLED, to experience a different research environment and build up interdisciplinary collaboration. For one month, I sat closer to Thomas Kastner, my co-supervisor, with whom I collaborate on a study on the land use and ecosystem services implications of dietary changes in western countries. Thomas developed an approach to trace the exchanges of agricultural commodities between countries where these are grown to the ones where these are finally consumed, using records of bilateral trade flows in physical terms. Building on his approach, my research intends to reflect on the allocation of the environmental burden caused by a range of dietary patterns. Thomas offered me close collaboration and great guidance. I learned how to carefully conduct trade-based analysis and combine it with footprint calculation to develop a method that suits my research objective. Crosschecking with other data sources is key for assessing and underpinning the representativeness of findings from such models. I am very thankful for this fruitful collaboration, which will result in a co-authorship for an upcoming paper. Without this secondment, this would definitely have been trickier to achieve!
Being at the Senckenberg Institute also gave me the chance to learn more about the ecosystem processes and functions that support ecosystem services. Among some other interesting topics, I got to hear about the grazing behavior of antelopes and habitats for turtle reproduction. On my last week, I went for an evening walk in the Senckenberg museum, where I encountered an amazing range of biodiversity.
The city of Frankfurt-am-Main offers very diverse landscapes. On my train ride from Niedernhausen, a village located around 35 km North West, I could see in the distance the Industrial Park of the Höchst, western district of Frankfurt-am-Main. In the early mornings, it creates a landscape filled with fumes while in the evening the site is easily recognizable thanks to being permanently lit up. In the heart of the city, the Euro symbol stands and shines on Willy Brand Platz surrounded by skyscrapers hosting banks, and many locals, bankers and visitors roam the Zeil, the “Fifth Avenue of Germany” until late. Finally, when heading to the district of the “Senckenberg museum”, dinosaur sculptures invite you to enter this building hosting thousands of species.
The combination of a polluting factory near a city, the economic show of Frankfurt, and extinct animals on show in the museum reflect telecoupling interactions, and how the positive or negative nature of outcomes varies among agents. Such observations reinforced my motivation to conduct telecoupling research: to demonstrate that displacing impactful activities is not a global sustainable solution, but that moderate and reasonable demand (especially from the wealthier countries) is a wiser direction for society.
(1) Kasten, S. (2006). Industriepark Höchst former Hoechst AG at Gate West near Frankfurt-Sindlingen. Downloaded from:
(2) Creative Commons (CC). Euro-sculpture, Euro Sign, Artwork, Frankfurt. Downloaded from:
(3) Wilson, M.A. (2010). ”Diplodocus longus” dinosaur model in front of the Senckenberg Museum, Frankfurt, Germany. Downloaded from:
This post’s featured Image is a photo taken by Tim Busker.