Top Researchers Fund

The support of top professionals has a long tradition at Heidelberg University, for which we are deeply indebted to our many donors. A margin of freedom is absolutely critical to succeed in the competition for top international professionals. It is the only way to offer national and international researchers and educators career prospects and competitive salaries and to retain them at the university for the long term.

Your donation or endowment to the Top Researchers Fund is used to be more flexible when it comes to appointment and retention negotiations and professorship appointments. At the same, this gives us critical advantage in attracting and retaining top researchers.

The Top Researchers Fund is a perfect vehicle for supporting a specific field of interest or for setting up a fund in your name, by prior agreement.

Pioneering research

The Top Researchers Fund enabled the University to acquire a terrestrial 3D laser scanner of the latest generation for Professor Bernhard Höfle. Using this new scanner, the GIScience and 3D Geospatial Data Processing Department of Prof. Höfle is able to not only develop cutting-edge Earth observation but it also helps the researchers to establish a new field of research in geography – “Autonomous Earth observation”. With its broad range of up to 4 km, its millimetre precision as well as its ability to take up to 1.2 million measurements per second, the laser scanner is perfect for terrain campaigns.

„Thanks to the 3D laser scanner, we will be able to test our new computer-based methods of autonomous Earth observation in the terrain and to further develop our methodology, in the years to come.“

Prof. Dr. Bernhard Höfle, GIScience and 3D Geospatial Data Processing, Institute of Geography

The research in Heidelberg focuses on the effects of climate change (e.g. melting of glaciers, changes regarding permaforst and coasts), natural hazards (e.g. landslides, floods) and applications in agriculture and forestry.

Learn more about the first two terrain campaigns of the 3D laser scanner, here.

First campaigns in the service of science

The 3D laser scanner has already been used successfully in two terrain campaigns by observing two important geographical phenomena and helping to better understand them:

  • The temporal dynamics of snow surfaces
  • The changes in permafrost in the Alps due to climate changes


In April 2018, the warmest April since the beginning of weather records, the scanner was set up at the Schneeferner (Zugspitze) for a continuous measurement. The measurement aimed at capturing a unique highly temporal time series (landscape was captured at hourly intervals over the period of one week) of the snow cover and the occurring changes (e.g. melting, wind transport of snow, snow avalanches).The time series is an important data basis to further develop scientific methods for an autonomous Earth observation of snow covers. Besides, the data has also practical benefits for the ski run management of the skiing area of the Zugspitze.

Schneeferner Schneehöhenänderung


At beginning of July 2018, the tongue of the rock glacier (Äußeres Hochebenkar) in the Ötztal valley was captured in 3D with the help of the scanner. A rock glacier is a kind of permafrost composed of rocks and a certain amount of iron. However, it cannot be compared to a typical ice glacier. The data of 2018 can now be compared to data from previous years in order to quantify the dynamics of the rock glacier and to be able to come up, if possible, with improved monitoring strategies. The long-term goal is to find out how rock glaciers react to climate change.


Blockgletscher Schneehöhenänderung

Visit the website of the Institute of Geography and get up-to-date information on the research group led by Prof. Höfle.


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Latest Revision: 2018-10-26
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