Schilling, Oliver


My research and interests focus on developing new hydrological tracer applications and on improving our understanding of surface water-groundwater interactions in diverse environments, including ephemeral streams in arid regions, alpine river valleys, boreal headwater catchments, and volcanic flow systems.

I've obtained my PhD in hydrogeology from Université de Neuchâtel in Switzerland under the supervision of Prof. Philip Brunner and Prof. Daniel Hunkeler in 2017. After my PhD, I was awarded an early postdoc.mobility fellowship grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF grant no. P2NEP2_171985), which allowed me to conduct research at Université Laval in Québec, Canada, together with Prof. René Therrien. My research at Université Laval focused on the investigation of snow - surface water - groundwater dynamics in boreal headwater catchments and the development of a new application for dissolved gas time series obtained with the novel GE-MIMS portable mass spectrometer. The research formed part of the 'EVAP - Hydrological modelling with energy budget' project. From 2019 to 2020 I was invited Research Fellow at Flinders University and worked with Prof. Craig Simmons and Prof. Peter Cook at the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training. I was involved in an ARC-Linkage grant joint project with Rio Tinto Iron Ore and my research focused on improving our understanding of the interactions between ephemeral streams, groundwater and vegetation in arid regions, using state-of-the-art surface water-groundwater-vegetation flow modelling.

In my current position at Université de Neuchâtel I’m combining integrated surface water-groundwater flow models with novel hydrological tracer data and remotely sensed electrical resistivity maps to improve the simulation and prediction of surface water-groundwater exchange fluxes in typical riparian systems of the pre-alps. To this end, I employ state-of-the-art model calibration, data assimilation and uncertainty quantification approaches. I furthermore use these technologies to collaborate in research of the geothermal research group at the CHYN.

Besides these research activities, I lead an international research project on microbial tracers in volcanic systems with colleagues in Japan and Switzerland and collaborate intensively with research groups at Université Laval on winter hydrological research projects.



  • Flinders Foundations of University Teaching (FFOUT) Certificate, 2019.
    Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia.
  • CAS in Applied statistics, 2015.
    Seminar for Statistics, Swiss Federal School of Technology (ETH) , Zürich, Switzerland.
  • PhD in Hydrogeology, 2012-2017.
    Topic: Surface water-Groundwater interactions - measurement techniques, quantification and modelling.
    Centre for Hydrogeology and Geothermics , Université de Neuchâtel , Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
  • MSc in Environmental Sciences, 2009-2011.
    Major: Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics
    Master Thesis: “Quantifying the dynamics of water flow between surface water, groundwater and vegetation at the lower Tarim River, China.”
    Swiss Federal School of Technology  (ETH) , Zürich, Switzerland.
  • BSc in Environmental Sciences, 2005-2009.
    Major: Aquatic Systems
    Bachelor Thesis: “Die Privatisierung des Wassers in China”
    Swiss Federal School of Technology   (ETH) , Zürich, Switzerland.


Honours, awards and grants

  • Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) Early Postdoc.Mobility Fellowship (SNSF grant no. P2NEP2_171985)
  • Goldschmidt Conference 2018, Best Poster Award, Session 13i
  • Université de Neuchâtel, Prix Léone du Pasquier et Louis Perrier, Best PhD thesis of the Faculty of Sciences 2017


Institutional responsibilities



Schilling, O.S., Cook, P.G., & Brunner, P. (2019): Beyond classical observations in hydrogeology: The advantages of including exchange flux, temperature, tracer concentration, residence time, and soil moisture observations in groundwater model calibration. Rev. Geophys., 57(1): 146-182. doi: 10.1029/2018RG000619

Schilling, O.S., Park, Y.-J., Therrien, R., & Nagare, R.M. (2018): Integrated surface and subsurface modelling with snowmelt and pore-water freeze-thaw. Groundwater 57(1): 63-74. doi: 10.1111/gwat.12841

Tang, Q., Schilling, O.S., Kurtz, W., Brunner, P., Vereecken, H., & Hendricks Franssen, H.J. (2018): Characterizing flood induced riverbed transience with physically-based modelling and ensemble Kalman filter. Water Resour. Res., 54(11): 9342-9363. doi: 10.1029/2018WR023067

Schomburg, A.C., Schilling, O.S., Schirmer, M., Guenat C., Brunner P., & Le Bayon, R.-C. (2018): Topsoil structure stability in a restored floodplain: impacts of fluctuating water levels, soil parameters and ecosystem engineers. Sci. Total Environ., 639: 1610–1622. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.05.120

Schilling, O.S., Gerber, C., Purtschert, R., Kipfer, R., Hunkeler, D., & Brunner, P. (2017): Advancing physically-based flow simulations of alluvial systems through atmospheric noble gases and the novel 37Ar tracer method, Water Resour. Res., 53(12): 10465-10490. doi: 10.1002/2017WR020754

Schilling, O.S., Irvine, D.J., Hendricks Franssen, H.J., & Brunner, P. (2017): Estimating the spatial extent of unsaturated zones in heterogeneous river-aquifer systems, Water Resour. Res., 53(12): 10583-10602, doi: 10.1002/2017WR020409

Tang, Q., Kurtz, W., Schilling, O.S., Brunner, P., Vereecken, H., & Hendricks Franssen, H.J. (2017): The influence of riverbed heterogeneity patterns on river-aquifer exchange fluxes under different connection regimes, J. Hydrol., 554: 383-396. doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2017.09.031

Kurtz, W., Lapin, A., Schilling, O.S., Tang, Q., Schiller, E., Braun, T., Hunkeler, D., Vereecken, H., Sudicky, E., Kropf, P., Hendricks Franssen, H.J., & Brunner, P. (2017): Integrating hydrological modelling, data assimilation and cloud computing for real-time management of water resources, Environ. Model. Softw., 39: 418-435. doi: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2017.03.011

Schilling, O.S., Doherty, J., Kinzelbach, W., Wang, H., Yang, P.N., & Brunner, P. (2014): Using tree ring data as a proxy for transpiration to reduce predictive uncertainty of a model simulating groundwater–surface water–vegetation interactions, J. Hydrol., 519: 2258-2271, doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.08.063

Schilling, O., Sheldon, H.A., Reid, L.B., & Corbel, S. (2013): Hydrothermal models of the Perth metropolitan area, Western Australia: Implications for geothermal energy. Hydrogeol. J., 21(3): 605-621, doi: 10.1007/s10040-012-0945-0

Schilling, O., Cline, E., & Dreschel, T. (2013): Critical flow patterns for an Everglades macro-scale physical model, Fla. Sci., 76(3-4): 381–390, URL: researchgate.net/publication/258027799




Office: E118
Phone.: +41 (0) 32 718 26 26




Centre for Hydrogeology and Geothermics (CHYN)
Emile-Argand 11
CH-2000 Neuchâtel