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Faculty of Biology, Chemistry & Earth Sciences

Chair of geomorphology - Professor Dr. Oliver Sass

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Rock Wall And Slope Systems

We investigate geomorphological processes that shape rocks and hills. These processes range from small-scale rockfalls to large-scale rockfalls in rock slopes and from slow solifluction processes to rapid mudslides on slopes. We try to systematically evaluate the preliminary conditions and the triggering factors of mass movements. We combine geophysical techniques (geoelectrics, refraction seismics, ground radar) to reconstruct past events or to measure and monitor control factors (e.g. fractures, permafrost, active layer dew) with remote sensing techniques (terrestrial laser scanning) to quantify slope movements and geotechnical mapping.


  • Predicting the effects of climate change on alpine rock slopes: Evaluation of paraglacial and periglacial drivers of rockfall in the European Alps (funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DR1070/1-1, Lead: Dr Daniel Draebing)
  • Paraglacial adjustment and vegetation succession in the Mueller glacier foreland (New Zealand) (funded by Hanna Bremer Stiftung, co-PI: Dr Daniel Draebing)
  • Investigating glacier retreat as a driver of rock slope collapse: Mueller Rockslide (funded by Massey University Research Fund, Brian Mason Trust, Massey University International Visting Research Fund and supported by Department of Conservation, co-PI: Dr Daniel Draebing)
  • Die komplexe Großmassenbewegung von Muktinath im Einzugsgebiet des Kali Gandaki, Nepal (Mukslide) (funded by the OeAD/EPU and the Stiftungs- und Förderungsgesellschaft der Universität Salzburg, Lead: J. Götz)
  • Rockfall Monitoring, Plassen Salzkammergut (funded by the Geological Survey of Austria and the Austrian Service for Torrent and Avalanche Control, Lead: Lead: J. Götz)
  • Rockfall and Weathering in the Eastern Alps (Rocking Alps) (funded by FWF, lead: O. Sass)

Exemplary Publications:

  • McColl, S.T. & D. Draebing (2019): Rockslope instability in the proglacial zone: State of the Art. Invited book chapter to: Heckmann, T. & D. Morche (Eds.): Geomorphology of proglacial systems - Landform and sediment dynamics in recently deglaciated alpine landscapes. Springer Series, 119-141.
  • Draebing, D., Haberkorn, A., Kenner, R., Phillips, M. & M. Krautblatter (2017): Thermal and mechanical responses resulting from spatial and temporal snow cover variability in a permafrost rock wall. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 28 (1): 140-157.
  • Heine, E., Weidinger, J. & J. Götz (2016): Geologisch-geomorphologische Untersuchungen des subaquatischen Bereichs von Erdströmen in den Traunsee (OÖ) unter Anwendung von Fächerecholot und parametrischem Sedimentecholot. - Vermessung & Geoinformation 1/2016, 25-37.
  • Götz, J., Weidinger, J.T., Kraxberger, S., Hennecke, A.-L., Buckel, J. & B.R. Adhikari (2015): Geomorphologic and Hydrogeologic characteristics of populated rockslide deposits (Sagarmatha National Park, Khumbu Himal, Nepal). - Journal of Water Resource and Protection 7: 1038-1048. doi: 10.4236/jwarp.2015.713085
  • Draebing, D., Krautblatter, M. & R. Dikau (2014): Interaction of thermal and mechanical processes in steep permafrost rock walls: a conceptual approach. Geomorphology 266: 226-235.
  • Sass, O. (2010): Spatial and temporal patterns of talus activity – a lichenometric approach in the Stubaier Alps, Austria. Geografiska Annaler 92A (3): 375–391.
  • Schrott, L. & O. Sass (2008): Application of field geophysics in geomorphology: advances and limitations exemplified by case studies. Geomorphology 93: 55-73.
  • Sass, O. & M. Krautblatter (2007): Debris-flow-dominated and rockfall-dominated scree slopes: genetic models derived from GPR measurements. Geomorphology 86: 176-192.
  • Sass, O. (2007): Bedrock detection and talus thickness assessment in the European Alps using geophysical methods. Journal of Applied Geophysics 62: 254-269.
  • Sass, O. (2005): Spatial patterns of rockfall intensity in the northern Alps. Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie Suppl. Vol. 138: 51-65.

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