Biologie and Geography

Water and Environmental Research

The research of the General Zoology group (Prof. Hynek Burda) focused on magnetoreception of vertebrates as well as behavioural ecology, physiology, sensory biology, reproduction, and biology of aging in mole rats, subterranean African rodents. Publication of the findings attracted a great deal of worldwide interest in the scientific community, the media, and among the lay public and prompted invitations for keynote lectures at three international conferences. The discovery that dogs mark along the geomagnetic north-south axis – but only under calm magnetic ­conditions – was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for Biology in 2014.

Applying a range of ecophysiological and phytosociological methods, the research group of Applied Botany and Volcanic Biology (Prof. Hardy Pfanz) dealt with the effect of extreme volcanogenic CO2 exhalations (mofettes) on plants, ­animals and soils. Other areas of research include the phytopathology of root and collar rot in alders, the absorption of particulate matter by living and dead plant surfaces and the quantification and modelling of photosynthetic carbon gain through stem photosynthesis in woody plants and their significance for climate change.

The Geology research group (Prof. Ulrich Schreiber) participated in the EU Ziel2 project on “Development of an implementation concept to use former coal mines for underground pumped storage”, the first part of which was completed in 2014. In the “Origin of Life” project, organic chemical reactions of the kind postulated for fault zones of the continental crust were performed with a high-pressure CO2 system. Vesicles which play an important role as a precursor of cell structures were also successfully formed. These and other results were presented at the Gordon Research Conference in Galveston (Texas).

The research areas of the Applied Climatology group (Prof. Wilhelm Kuttler) cover fundamental issues of urban climatology and urban air quality. These research areas have become increasingly important as a result of the focus on global ­climate change. Current research projects deal with aspects of air pollution and urban climate mitigation and adaptation, taking into con­sideration their relevance for urban planning. These aspects form part of the Urban Systems course offered by the University of Duisburg-­Essen.
The Biodiversity group (Prof. Jens Boenigk) focuses on different aspects of molecular and ­organismic biology and specifically biodiversity, evolutionary biology and ecology. One focal point of its work was the diversity of free-living eukaryotic microorganisms using molecular analysis of diversity, morphological analysis and description of new species and their ecophysiol­ogical characterisation. Examples include ­flowering chrysophycean algae in polar regions, which cause yellowish slush on melting snowfields in the summer, and the special food web of alkaline-saline rift valley lakes in East Africa. Selective feeding interactions within the microb­ial food web were another focus of research, ­particularly in relation to the value of bacterial strains as food for heterotrophic nanoflagellates. The goal of newly launched projects, specifically within the DFG Priority Programme DynaTrait, is to explore to what extent diversity allows feedbacks within ecological communities through trait dynamics that in turn affects the dynamics of diversity.

Research in the Aquatic Ecology group (Prof. Daniel Hering, Prof. Bernd Sures) continues to focus on the coordination of several major projects and involvement in further large-scale research undertakings. Since 2014 the group has been coordinating the EU-funded research project MARS ( with 24 partners. The project addresses the effects of multiple stressors on aquatic ecosystems using field ­experiments, modelling approaches and Europe-wide data analysis. In the EU-funded project ­REFORM (, the most ­comprehensive field study on the effects of river restoration on morphology, assemblages and functions of rivers has been carried out. The BMBF-funded joint project KuLaRuhr “Sustainable Urban Cultural Landscapes in the Ruhr Metro­polis” (, in which several ­faculties of the UDE and ten other partners from science and industry are involved, is working ­towards multiple use of land in the Ruhr region and optimising water and energy services. As part of a collaborative project funded by MERCUR between Aquatic Ecology and the ­Department of Evolutionary Ecology and Animal Biodiversity at the Ruhr University Bochum, the group is focusing on reestablishing organisms in newly restored bodies of water and the associated restoration of functionally intact ecosystems.