Research topics

Ecotoxicology & Environment

We try to uncover how environmental stressors, particularly chemical stressors toxicants, affect genetic and organismic diversity as well as functional parameters in communities and ecosystems. Subsequently we aim to evaluate management options on a landscape scale for ecosystems to alleviate the resulting risks.

In ecosystems that are already impacted by pollution our applied research approach produces information for the best course of action to restore ecosystem services and functions efficiently and effectively.


Within this framework there are five Research Teams working on this area, but each with different main research focus:


Team "Ecosystem Resilience"

Team leader: Prof. Dr. Ralf Schulz

We aim to understand if and how ecosystems can handle stress with a focus on contaminants. (more Info)

  • Global pesticide exposure assessment
  • Meta-analysis of environmental data
  • Contaminant effects in aquatic systems at various scales of complexity
  • Contaminant removal processes in constructed wetlands and vegetated ditches
  • Risk assessment and management strategies for agricultural chemicals and GMO


Team "Fish and Freshwater Ecology "

Team leader: Prof. Dr. Ralf Schulz

We focus on the ecology and biodiversity of freshwater systems and their surroundings with a special focus on food web and community structures. In this context we also assess population dynamics and genetic diversity of species in dependence of anthropogenic caused alterations and potential policies for the implementation of the European Water Framework Directive. (more Info)


Team "Community Ecology and Ecotoxicology"

Team leader: Dr. Carsten Brühl

Our research is concerned with multiple stressors in agricultural landscapes and has a focus on the effects of pesticides on terrestrial biodiversity and communities. We study the interactions between species on different spatial and temporal scales and try to understand patterns such as variation in species richness, productivity and food web structure and processes of community assembly. Additionally to known stressors such as habitat destruction or disease we consider pesticides effects to explain observed patterns and especially food web disruption gets our attention. (more Info)


Team "Aquatic Stress Ecology"

Team leader: Dr. Jochen Zubrod

We strive to understand the impacts of anthropogenic activities in aquatic environments at all levels of complexity (i.e., from molecules to ecosystems). In this context, we are particularly interested in effects on ecosystem functioning (e.g., decomposition) and organic matter dynamics in affected food webs. For the latter, our state-of-the-art Stable Isotope Lab  allows the use of a variety of applications (bulk and compound-specific) that help us to track stressor-induced changes in biological and ecological processes. The stressors we are interested in comprise chemical pollutants such as nanoparticles, pesticides (particularly fungicides and insecticides), pharmaceuticals, and wastewater but also include inter alia global climate change and differing land use patterns.

 (more Info)


Team "Conservation Genetics"

Team leader: Dr. Kathrin Theissinger

Our team applies genetics as a tool to enable a better understanding and managing of natural populations, particularly with regard to biodiversity conservation, effective population sizes and invasive species management. We also address research questions concerning evolutionary ecotoxicology, i.e. the influence of pesticides in agriculture landscapes on the natural population structure. Moreover, we are investigating the influence of past and future climate change on the genetic diversity distribution of endangered species. A specific focus lies on Wildlife Forensics, i.e. the analysis of non-invasive DNA samples such as hair, feathers, faeces or buccal swabs. (more Info)