Saying Farewell to SESYNC Postdocs Xavier Benito & Florian Gollnow

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May 29, 2020

This week, SESYNC sadly bids adieu to two of our resident postdocs, Xavier Benito and Florian Gollnow, as they prepare to embark on their next great adventures. To celebrate their time here at SESYNC, we’re highlighting their research and achievements below. 

Photo of Xavier BenitoXavier Benito

Xavier joined SESYNC in 2018, interested in exploring paleoecological-scale resilience by integrating social and biophysical records to understand the dynamics of complex socio-ecological systems. While at SESYNC, Xavier focused his research on the issue of regime shifts in the high-altitude tropical Andes, working with collaborating mentor Albert Ruhi (UC Berkeley and SESYNC postdoctoral alumnus). In particular, Xavier’s work looked at lakes that have been instrumental in sustaining human communities for millennia by applying advanced time-series analysis to quantify rates and magnitudes of environmental change. By studying long-term biophysical, climatic, and archaeological data in tropical Andean lake-catchment systems, his project sought to answer the main question: “What insights do abrupt transitions in the palaeoenvironmental record provide about the critical stressors and ecosystem response that give rise to the current state of Andean socio-ecological systems?” His research has yielded several papers, highlighting the unexpected conclusion that many of these high-elevation lake ecosystems have been relatively resilient in the face of multiple environmental stressors, while some have crossed critical thresholds. His most recent publication appeared in March in Neotropical Diversification: Patterns and Processes.

Next, Xavier will be returning to Spain to pursue opportunities in the field of global environmental impacts on aquatic ecosystems. Xavier earned his PhD in Aquatic Ecology from the Aquatic Ecosystems Program (IRTA, Spain) and Centre for Climate Change (University Rovira & Virgili, Spain). To learn more about his research:


Photo of Florian GollnowFlorian Gollnow

Also part of the 2018 postdoc cohort, Florian is a geographer and land use science researcher, whose work focuses on understanding the causes and the spatio-temporal dynamics of land use changes, as well as the loss of natural ecosystems as a major cause of global environmental change. In particular, his interests are in tropical deforestation, its socio-environmental interactions in space and time, and the effectiveness of different strategies for reducing deforestation. At SESYNC, Florian’s research project on Zero-Deforestation Commitments was in support of the SESYNC Pursuit Supply-Chain Commitments, led by his collaborating mentors Kimberly Carlson, University of Hawai’i Mānoa, and Rachael D. Garrett, ETH Zurich. This Pursuit focuses on zero-deforestation commitments in forest risk commodities, focusing on the impacts of palm oil, soybean, and cattle production. As part of his research project, Florian sought to understand the effectiveness of such commitments for soybean production, responsible for massive deforestation and loss of natural ecosystems in South America. He synthesized and analyzed available data on commitments, production, trade, land use change, and properties for South America. His research has resulted in several publications in journals such as Land Use Policy and Sustainability.

Next, Florian will be working at Boston University with his current mentor Rachael Garrett and with Pontus Olofsson. At Boston University he will be analyzing land use change and associated carbon cycles impacts in the Caucuses region, while also continuing his work on zero-deforestation commitments. Florian earned his PhD from Humboldt Universität zu Berlin in Geography. For more information about his research, see: or

We wish them both the best as they take the next step in their careers! Their presence will be surely missed among SESYNC staff, particularly their fellow postdocs. “Florian and Xavi helped make a collegial, supportive, and inclusive postdoc community," shared postdoc Lauren White. "I am very grateful to have had them as colleagues at SESYNC.” 



Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 
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