Groundwater is a life-sustaining resource providing water to billions of people, to global industries and agriculture, and to ecosystems. Karst develops from the dissolution of carbonate rock. Due to their high porosity, karst aquifers are commonly used for water supply. Often, karst-specific simulation models are applied to quantify karst water resources and their sensitivity to climate and land use changes. However, no comprehensive comparison of the available modelling tools has yet been conducted.

Aims and methodology

The aim of this work is to join the world’s first karst model intercomparison project – the Karst Modelling Challenge. At the EUROKARST conference 2016 at Neuchatel (CH), the IAH karst commission, in particular Dr Pierre-Yves Jeannin, brought together a large international group of karst modellers. A common study site (Milandre test site, close to Neuchatel) and common model evaluation procedures were defined.

Within the frame of this thesis, the Varkarst model (developed in Freiburg and Bristol) is meant to be calibrated and evaluated with the new data set of the test site. The data will be provided by the University of Neuchatel. The model and a set of automatic model calibration and evaluation schemes are available in Matlab. The student is expected to get familiar with the structure of the model, to perform an iterative model calibration, evaluation and adaption procedure, and to visualize the final results for comparison with the results of the other modelling groups.

A visit of the test site and the participation of the Karst Modelling Challenge meeting at the IAH conference in Dubrovnik in September 2017 are possible.

Skills and Challenges

This MSc thesis will require to apply and further develop skills and data processing and analysis (Excel, R), as well as processing and visualizing spatial information (GRASS or ArcGIS). General knowledge about modelling and model evaluation is necessary BUT knowing Matlab programming language is NOT a mandatory skill (a ready-to work version of the model including model diagnostics and support for necessary modifications will be provided by the supervisor). Collaboration with MSc students working with the same model is possible but not required.

Future applicability of adopted skills

The successful conduction of the thesis will prepare the student to work in national and international consultancies, governmental offices and research. The topic and task of the thesis will be adapted to the desired future working field of the student and mentoring for a successful start into the first job will be provided by the supervisor.

Supervisor and Advisor

Andreas Hartmann


Andreas Hartmann Tel. +49 (0)761 / 203-3520


Preferably in English.


Hartmann, A., Barberá, J.A., Lange, J., Andreo, B., Weiler, M., 2013. Progress in the hydrologic simulation of time variant recharge areas of karst systems – Exemplified at a karst spring in Southern Spain. Adv. Water Resour. 54, 149–160. doi:10.1016/j.advwatres.2013.01.010

Perrin, J., Jeannin, P.-Y., Zwahlen, F., 2003. Epikarst storage in a karst aquifer: a conceptual model based on isotopic data, Milandre test site, Switzerland. J. Hydrol. 279, 106–124.

Vrugt, J.A., Stauffer, P.H., Wöhling, T., Robinson, B.A., Vesselinov, V. V, 2009. Inverse Modeling of Subsurface Flow and Transport Properties: A Review with New Developments. Vadose Zo. J. 7, 843–864.

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