Swiss researcher Katherine Leonard with emperor penguins near Breid Bay, Antarctica. For an upcoming EPFL project as part of ACE, she will study Southern Ocean salinity. (©Olivier Pierre )

Swiss researcher Katherine Leonard with emperor penguins near Breid Bay, Antarctica. For an upcoming EPFL project as part of ACE, she will study Southern Ocean salinity. (© Olivier Pierre )

Following the launch of the Swiss Polar Institute (SPI), Switzerland now has a voice in global polar policy. Its first project is a three-month Antarctic expedition involving researchers from around the world.

“The SPI will make it possible for Switzerand to be on a par with other countries,” remarked climatologist Thomas Stocker, referring to the fact that many other nations have polar institutes. He also cited the importance of polar research.

“The poles are probably the most vulnerable regions when it comes to anthropogenic climate change, which is happening in front of our eyes in the Arctic, and somewhat less so in Antarctica,” said Stocker, professor of climate and environmental physics at the University of Bern.

Based at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), the SPI is a consortium of the EPFL, the University of Bern, federal technology institute ETH Zurich, and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research.

To mark the launch, SPI is organising a major project: the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE). I got a sneak peek.

With a budget of €3 million (CHF3.3 million), the three-month project will be the first scientific expedition to fully sail around the southernmost continent. You can read the whole story on swissinfo.ch.

© Solar Impulse | Anna Pizzolante | Rezo.ch

© Solar Impulse | Anna Pizzolante | Rezo.ch

I’ve been following Solar Impulse since the first plane was unveiled in 2009, and I’m still really excited about it!

The completely solar-powered plane made history as the first solar aircraft to fly through the night in 2010. That was also the plane that flew across the continental United States in 2013. Engineers back at the base in Payerne, Switzerland, then fine-tuned the aircraft.

The current plane, presented in 2014 and dubbed Si2, is larger and more powerful than its predecessor. In March 2015, it kicked off its quest to fly around the world in several stages – a journey of about 40,000 kilometers with stops in 12 destinations.

However, poor weather pulled the adventure behind schedule, and overheated batteries forced the Solar Impulse team to postpone the project in July 2015. After several months of hibernation in a Hawaiian air hangar, Solar Impulse is now ready to resume its record-breaking attempt at a round-the-world tour.

For a quick catch-up, read my Si2 fast facts story. It covers what it is, how it works, and other pressing questions, like how the pilots go to the bathroom!

Also at SWI swissinfo.ch, I’ve been coordinating a special dossier, Soaring with Solar Impulse, which follows the plane’s progress. Stop by for the latest news and analysis, and let me know if there’s an angle you think we should cover.

Cash in hand!

I finally got a hold of the beautiful new CHF50 note, as you can see in this video. You can watch the whole thing on SWI’s Facebook page.


What’s green and has a dandelion and a paraglider on it? The latest Swiss banknote! I attended the unveiling this week and chatted with some of the people behind the new 50-franc bill.


Thanks to their farmer, Milena and Rahel still have their horns. (Susan Misicka, swissinfo.ch)

Thanks to their farmer, Milena and Rahel still have their horns. (Susan Misicka, swissinfo.ch)

Can one man persuade 100,000 fellow citizens to care whether cows have horns or not? If the man is as bull-headed as Swiss farmer Armin Capaul, the answer is yes.

With his rosy cheeks, reddish-blond moustache and white beard, farmer Armin Capaul is a colourful character. A winter’s day finds him in layers of patterned knitwear and a red neckerchief. His bright blue car blasts country-rock music.

“Haven’t you heard of J.J. Cale? He’s a soulmate of mine,” says Capaul, referring to the late American singer-songwriter. I admit that I haven’t, and worry it’s a bad start to our visit. But he just laughs, and laughs some more when he sees my eyes widen at the sight of the narrow and twisted road leading to his 17-hectare farm perched high in the Bernese Jura. It’s home to cows and a bull, as well as goats, sheep, donkeys, dogs, cats and chickens.


Read the whole story here on SWI swissinfo.ch.


As Swiss newspapers lament the terrorist attack on the “heart of Europe”, many say the violence in the Belgian capital was not unexpected. This morning I did a press review for SWI.

When I was a journalism student, I interned in the press office of Ireland’s Permanent Representation to the EU. It’s just a short walk from the Brussels metro station hit by the terrorists — an area I remember strolling through in the cheerful manner of somebody excited to feel like a local in a foreign city.

My boss used to send me to EU press conferences, where I’d take notes and forward them to journalists based in Ireland. It was my favorite task, as it felt so grown-up and official. After work, on the way back to the campus where I was studying European affairs, I’d often treat myself to a gaufre/wafel from a vendor at the train station — to this day, the best waffles I’ve ever had.

Terror threats or not, I’ll have to return sometime. Not just for the waffles, of course, but as a sign of support for the people and their city, where so many difficult decisions about the future of Europe are made.


Spotted on the road: Does love live here?

Spotted on the road: Does love live here?

Switzerland’s divorce rate is pretty average, but there seems to be a (sub)urban-rural divide hinting that life in the countryside is more conducive to wedded bliss. Or is it?

I decided to investigate. Full story here on SWI swissinfo.ch.