Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Day 7. Danube Excursion: Bratislava—Munich

by Lea Wiser


Bratislava → Munich


 

Spending a night on a boat and waking up to views over the glimmering river is not something that happens every day. After a long night, a hearty breakfast helped us to regain our energy for the last guided tour with Peter Pisut, who specializes in the historical geography of Slovak rivers. Even though we did not have much time, it is mandatory to walk up to Bratislava Castle, which overlooks the Danube.

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Day 6. Danube Excursion: Vienna—Bratislava

by Laura Kuen


Vienna → Orth → Gabčíkovo → Bratislava


Traveling from Vienna to Bratislava, our day’s topics branched in quite different directions: water power and nature conservation. We first visited the Austrian National Park Donau-Auen in Orth and later the Gabčíkovo Dams, Slovakia’s biggest hydroelectric plant.

Conservation in the Donau-Auen

The national park, which spans the distance between Vienna and Bratislava, finds its roots in a story of resistance, years of struggle, and constant negotiations between opposing forces. Our guide, Manfred Rosenberger, whose personal biography is deeply interwoven with the park, vividly recounted the park’s history.

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Map of the Donau-Auen National Park, reaching from Vienna to the Slovakian border near Bratislava.

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Day 5. Danube Excursion: Krems—Vienna

by Christoph Netz


Krems → Vienna


Research Channels, Sterlets, and the Danube Island of Vienna

With another early start, it was lucky that the memorable apricot jam, a local specialty, provided a good incentive to get up in time for breakfast. Only five minutes behind schedule, we departed from Krems, with its beautiful historic center and surrounding vineyards, for Vienna.

Nussdorfer Lock and Weir

Our first stop was the Nussdorfer Schleuse, a lock and weir where the Danube canal branches off from the Danube in the northern outskirts of Vienna. Between the canal and the main river lies an outdoor research channel that is used to investigate the flow dynamics of different riverbeds and flood plains. Here, we met with Christine Sindelar of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna (BOKU), who conducts her research at the outdoor research channel. The building of the research channel was part of the DREAM project (Danube River Research and Management), which was cofinanced by the City of Vienna and the European Union. The slope between the Danube and the canal allows the scientists to experiment with flow rates of 10 cubic meters per second, and hence provides unique opportunities to make 1:1 scale simulations of river flow and sediment dynamics.

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Day 3. Danube Excursion: Passau—Linz

by Lea Wiser


Passau → Linz


Our third day on the Danube excursion was both eventful and thought provoking, packed with activities covering a broad range of subjects: from environment and sustainability to modern history and the Nazi regime, to where these two subjects intersect—the city of Linz.

Jochenstein

Our first stops, the Donaukraftwerk in Jochenstein and Haus am Strom in Untergriesbach, were already familiar to us, but during this visit we were able to admire the views from the other side of the Danube. On the way, we passed the Schlögener Schlinge, a meandering part of the river that created a loess-rich agricultural land below the steep slopes of the Bohemian Massif.

jochenstein bridge

Hydropower plant Jochenstein. The German-Austrian border runs through the center of the structure.

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Munich’s Beautiful Botanical Garden

By Samantha Rothbart

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The Munich Botanical Garden may be a little sparse at the moment, but even without the vibrant green foliage that dominates the city in the summer, it is an impressive sight. You might expect the leafless branches to create an air of dejection. On the contrary, they serve to highlight the beautiful structure of the trees and plants—what Roy Campbell called the “clear anatomy” in his poem Autumn.

Even so, new signs of life are starting to soften the severe edges. Green shoots peek through the rich, dark soil in the ornamental garden. Soon, the tulips will begin to flower and the plants will need to be potted and then replanted, Dr. Andreas Gröger explains. He is a botanist and the scientific curator of the Botanical Garden. Though he is not overly fond of the stylized beauty of the ornamental garden—he was initially quite hesitant about having to assume responsibility for it—he acknowledges that it’s a magnet for the “normal” folk who find themselves out and about for the day. The manicured lawns and whimsical flowers are a gateway drug for first-time visitors and would-be botanists. They draw us deeper into the secretive greenhouses of the wild species that so fascinate Gröger, and expose us to what he calls “real ecology.” Continue reading


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Snapshot: Permaculture – Alternative Agriculture, part 3

Last year, students of the RCC Environmental Studies Certificate Program had the opportunity to attend a three-day workshop with Jochen Koller, Diploma Permaculture-Designer and Director of the Forschungsinstitut für Permakultur und Transition (FIPT). Students gained an insight into the ethics and design principles of permaculture, the diverse spheres of activity, and the practical possibilities. In this short series of posts, students reflect on their experiences at the workshop and on permaculture as an interdisciplinary approach to thinking, planning, and designing.


“A Winter Home for Bats”

By Luna Benítez Requena

The Hummelhof (German for “bumblebee farm”) is already home to cows, sheep, bumblebees, chickens, and cats—not to mention a herbary and several fruit trees. It’s newest residents? Bats, of course.

Bats, the only mammals able to fly, are an important component of ecosystems, performing crucial roles that include pollination and seed dispersal, as well as consuming pests. Nonetheless, despite conservation efforts, many bat species have become endangered because of slow reproduction rates and loss of habitat due to increasing anthropogenic activity. For example, our building practices have had a severe impact on the spaces bats typically inhabit for shelter, and their food has become scarce as a result of human activities like monoculturing and crop spraying to tackle pests.

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The Hummel family, which runs the Hummelhof, recently decided to build a bat tunnel, a sort of winter residence, on their premises. Students of the Environmental Studies Certificate Program spent half a day there last year learning about life at the farm and assisting in their various projects, including sustainable farming, planting specific tree species to cultivate habitats for bees, and the bat tunnel, which was almost ready when we arrived.

The tunnel consists of a deep trench, inlaid with concrete blocks, and topped with a compost film and a layer of sand. The bricks lining the trench will ensure that water can be collected to maintain cool temperatures of 2–8°C—ideal conditions for bats. It is the work of citizens like those at the Hummelhof  whose work has seen certain bat species removed from the endangered list—proof that small steps can make a big difference.


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The Future of Wild Europe

Conference Report (The University of Leeds, UK, 12–14 September 2016)

By Roger Norum

A version of this report was first published  17 October 2016 on ENHANCE ITN.


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This three-day conference was the first of three large events for the ENHANCE ITN (The Environmental Humanities for a Concerned Europe Innovative Training Network), a three-year Marie Skłodowska-Curie doctoral research program convened by the University of Leeds, the Rachel Carson Center at LMU Munich, and KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Because ENHANCE is an inherently interdisciplinary project, we decided to organize the conference around a theme that would not just appeal to both social scientists and humanities scholars, but that would also showcase current research by young and emerging scholars across disparate fields, while also questioning the configurations of the very categories and concepts we use to talk about the environment in the context of a changing Europe—and beyond. Continue reading