Dr. Johannes Schmidt

Dr. Johannes Schmidt

Research Fellow

Physische Geographie
Johannisallee 19a, Room 0.11
04103 Leipzig

Phone: +49 341 97 - 32966
Fax: +49 341 97 - 32799


My past and future research as well teaching activities are precisely at the interface between collecting proxy data and statistical modeling. My expertise is the inter- and multidisciplinary research of sedimentological subsurface proxy data with spatial modeling techniques in order to provide numerical and (semi-) quantitative data on human-environment interactions on (pre-) historic and Holocene timescales. I work from sub- to supra-regional scale providing promising opportunities for joint research and education projects as well as outreach activities.

In order to make robust predictions for future environmental change scenarios and landscape responses, modeling based on instrumental data needs to be merged with palaeo records to account for long-term boundary conditions and short-term responses. To create a robust link between both scales, I am highly motivated to collect and use quantitative proxy data of overlapping historical time scales to provide benchmarks for calibrations.

Professional career

  • since 10/2015
    Scientific assistant at the Institute of Geography of Leipzig University (Chair of Physical Geography - Prof. Dr. Christoph Zielhofer)
  • 04/2017 - 03/2021
    Doctoral studies at the Institute of Geography of Leipzig UniversityWorking Title: "Archaeohydrological modelling of the Fossa Carolina"


  • 10/2012 - 09/2015
    Master of Science Physical Geography/Geoecology at Leipzig University (final grade: 1.4)Thesis: "Reconstruction and comparison of the development of two thermokarst depressions in Central Yakutia, Russia"
  • 10/2008 - 09/2012
    Bachelor of Science Geography at Leipzig University (final grade: 1.7)Thesis: "Statistical modelling of the carbon and nitrogen stocks of the organic layer in a tropical mountain rain forest in South Ecuador"

Reserach interests:

- Modeling anthropogenic effects on past terrain changes

- Conceptualization of past geo-ecological variabilities to future environmental changes

- Quantification of human-environment interactions

- Linking historical and instrumental time scales by quantitative proxy evaluation

- Consilient interdisciplinary research

Methodological approaches:

- (Semi-) quantitative mapping of written sources and archival material

- GIS modeling, R programming, machine learning

- Deductive and inductive terrain modeling approaches

- Grain-size endmember modeling, multivariate statistics, spectral time series analyses

- Field surveys incl. geomorphological and soil geographical mapping, sedimentstratigraphic work in (semi-) terrestrial and lacustrine environments, discharge andhydro-geochemical measurements of fluvial, lacustrine and groundwater settings

- Sediment dating by evaluation of 14C, 210Pb/137Cs, optically stimulated luminescence dating,age-depth modeling

- Hydrological and sedimentological data and proxy curation (e.g. XRF element analysis,Sedigraph grain size analyser,nutrient and pollution hydrochemistry with Photometer,Reflectoquant)

Regional foci:

- Central European slopes, wetlands and floodplains

- Western Mediterranean desert margin

- Permafrost landscapes, Eastern Siberia

- Tropical Mountain Rainforest, Ecuador

  • Leipzig, city in a state of flux. Urban-fluvial symbiosis in a long-term perspective
    Schmidt-Funke, Julia
    Duration: 01/2022 – ongoing
    Funded by: DFG Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
    Involved organisational units of Leipzig University: Geschichte der Frühen Neuzeit; Physische Geographie; SPP 2361: Auf dem Weg zur Fluvialen Anthroposphäre
    show details

more projects

  • Zielhofer, C.; Schmidt, J.; Reiche, N.; Tautenhahn, M. L.; Ballasus, H.; Burkart, M.; Linstaedter, A.; Dietze, E.; Kaiser, K.; Mehler, N.
    The Lower Havel River Region (Brandenburg, Germany): A 230-Year-Long Historical Map Record Indicates a Decrease in Surface Water Areas and Groundwater Levels
    Water. 2022. 14 (3).
    show details
  • Werther, L.; Menn, T.; Schmidt, J.; Muller, H.
    Modelling pre-modern flow distances of inland waterways – a GIS study in southern Germany
    Virtual Archaeology Review. 2021. 12 (25). pp. 42–56.
    show details
  • Schmidt, J.; Werther, L.; Rabiger-Völlmer, J.; Herzig, F.; Schneider, B.; Werban, U.; Dietrich, P.; Berg, S.; Linzen, S.; Ettel, P.; Zielhofer, C.
    Sediment budgeting of short-term backfilling processes: The erosional collapse of a Carolingian canal construction
    Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 2020. 45 (14). pp. 3449–3462.
    show details
  • Schmidt, J.; Rabiger-Völlmer, J.; Werther, L.; Werban, U.; Dietrich, P.; Berg-Hobohm, S.; Ettel, P.; Linzen, S.; Stele, A.; Schneider, B.; Zielhofer, C.
    3D-Modelling of Charlemagne’s Summit Canal (Southern Germany)—Merging Remote Sensing and Geoarchaeological Subsurface Data
    Remote Sensing. 2019. 11 (9). p. 1111.
    show details
  • Schmidt, J.; Werther, L.; Zielhofer, C.
    Shaping pre-modern digital terrain models: The former topography at Charlemagne's canal construction site
    PLOS One. 2018.
    show details

more publications

  • Andere Stipendien/Forschungspreise: Pre-Doc Award
    Schmidt, Johannes (Physische Geographie)
    awarded in 2021 by Universität Leipzig.
    show details
  • Andere Ehrungen: AK Geomorphology Award (Best Poster)
    Schmidt, Johannes (Physische Geographie)
    awarded in 2016 by Deutscher Arbeitskreis Geomorphologie.
    show details

more awards

Beside a basic understanding of geographical processes, the key factors for me are self-empowering student-projects from hypothesis formation and methodological competence towards transparent data handling and discussion on a professional level. Highly skilled and sensitized geographers of the next generation play a crucial role to address societal issues in academic, practise-oriented and educational settings.

  • Regional physical geography (B. Sc.)

    This course contains the geoecological analysis and evaluation of a selected landscape in the wider surroundings of the university location Leipzig.

    The course includes a seminar and a field exercise lasting several days.

    2020 - Geoecological/hydrological site assessment of the subrosion lakes in the Mansfelder Land (Süßer See region near Seeburg)

  • Climate, water and vegetation (B. Sc.)

    This course will shed light on the basics of phyical geography for the geocompartments climate, water and vegetation. The exercise deepens the weekly lecture and provides vivid, up-to-date practical or research-related examples.

    The accompanying tutorial is supervised by students of higher semesters and serves to further deepen the knowledge.


    • Astronomical basics
    • Atmospheric basics
    • Hydrological basics
    • Biogeographical basics
  • Geosystems Analysis (B. Sc.)

    The field exercise in the geosystems analysis course explains the basics of landscape ecological assessment using practical field methods and includes:

    • Pedological and soil geographical profile descriptions
    • quantitative vegetation surveys (minimum areal)
    • hydrological field tests (discharge and geochemical measurements)

    The laboratory exercise extends the geochemical measurements with the aim of ecological water assessment by the following analyses:

    • Reflectoquant
    • Titration tests
    • Photometer
  • Research project phyiscal geography (B. Sc.)

    The course "research project phyiscal geography" changes thematically every year. The student's aims are to independently work on a research project with physical-geographical contents. It comprises:

    • Fieldwork
    • Laboratory Exercises
    • an accompanied preparation and follow-up seminar

    2016 - Fossa Carolina

    2017 - Fossa Carolina

    Fossa Carolina (Early medieval canal):

    Geoarchaeological issues with a sedimentological, geophysical, hydrological, archaeological-historical and geodetic focus

  • Landscape changes in the southern region of Leipzig (B. Sc.)

    This one-day excursion takes place every year and takes the form of a bicycle excursion.

    The southern region of Leipzig has been affected by a wide variety of changes over the time, not least the revitalisation of the lignite mining landscape.

    Topics of the excursion:

    • Changing geological and natural landscape features
    • Hydrochemical analysis of recent surface waters
    • Revitalisation of the lignite landscape
    • Site assessment of forest areas
  • Research project phyiscal geography (M. Sc.)

    The Master's course "research project physical geography" changes annually. The aim is to independently work on a research project with physical-geographical contents. It comprises:

    • Fieldwork
    • Laboratory Exercises
    • an accompanied preparation and follow-up seminar

    2020 - Morocco (Hydroclimate and landscape changes in the Middle Atlas on a recent to quaternary time scale)

    Due to Covid-19, the 2020 course focused on statistical and spatial analysis and evaluations.

  • Rock, relief and soil (B. Sc.)

    The course will shed light on the basics of physical geography for the geocompartments rock, relief and soil. The exercise deepens the weekly lecture and provides vivid, up-to-date practical or research-related examples.

    The accompanying tutorial is supervised by students of higher semesters and serves to further deepen the knowledge.


    • Geological and tectonic basics
    • Geomorphological basics
    • Hydrogeological basics
    • Soil science basics
  • Special fields of Physical Geography/Geoecology: Tipping Elements in Environmental Systems (B. Sc.)

    The seminar is structured in the form of an extended journal club. This means that during the semester current scientific articles on individual topics are read and discussed. A co-presentation will also give a critical assessment of the presented topic.

    The major topics of the tipping points in environmental systems are:

    • Thermohaline circulation
    • Melting of Greenlandic and Anarctic ice masses
    • Permafrost degradation
    • El Nino Southern Oscillation
    • ...

Research fields

Geography, Climate, Archaeology, Environment, environmental protection, ecology


  • Physical geography of Central Germany

  • Leipzig floodplain

  • Geoarchaeology

  • Sediments, soils and paleoclimatology

  • Environmental change in the Anthropocene

  • Interdisciplinarity between history, archaeology and geosciences

Contact for media inquiries

Phone: +49 341 97 - 32966
Fax: +49 341 97 - 32799