Biologie and Geography

The General Botany group (Professor Jens Boenigk) conducts research on molecular and organismic aspects at the interface between biodiversity, evolution and ecology. Central questions concern population dynamics and intraspecies differentiation for the development and maintenance of diversity, e.g. the functional and ecological differentiation of heterotrophic and autotrophic organisms, and evolutionary scenarios that lead to a differentiation of nutrition. A key method for the comparative molecular characterisation of diversity in different ecosystems is the high-throughput sequencing of genomes and transcriptomes. The group also works with eco-physiological lab experiments and theoretical fitness modelling.
In the General Zoology research group (Professor Hynek Burda) the focus has been on the study of magneto-reception in vertebrates, and on the behavioural ecology and physiology of African mammals with a subterranean lifestyle, in particular African mole-rats. Publication of the group’s research results attracted a great deal of attention not only in the scientific community but also in the media and among the general public. The group organised the 6th European Congress of Behavioural Biology (ECBB) in July 2012.
The Geology research group (Professor Ulrich C. Schreiber) has been working on four topics during the last two years: first is the conversion of former underground mines into mass storage facilities for renewable energy, for which the group has developed a concept and launched a comprehensive feasibility study. Second, the group has identified recent active fault zones in the Eifel and Westerwald areas of Germany and carried out gas monitoring at these locations. Third, the group has collected evidence that ant nests occur significantly more frequently along such fault zones. In its fourth area of interest, the group has investigated the hypothesis that fault zones may have been cradles for prebiotic molecules in the crust of the young earth.
The work of the Department of Aquatic Ecology (Professors Bernd Sures and Daniel Hering) has been characterised in recent years by the coordination of two major projects and involvement in further major research projects. The department coordinated the EU’s WISER project (“Water Bodies in Europe: Integrative Systems to Assess Ecological Status and Recovery”) with 25 partners, addressing the assessment and management of rivers, lakes, transitional and coastal waters in Europe. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)-funded KuLaRuhr project (“Sustainable change: Chances in the Ruhr Metropolitan Region”), including several faculties from the UDE and ten science and industry partners, is also managed by the Aquatic Ecology group. The main focus of KuLaRuhr is the development of multiple land use strategies in the Ruhr area, as well as the opti­misation of water and energy services. Within the EU-funded “BioFresh” project, scientists from the group and an international team are comparing the impact of various stress factors (eutrophication, intensive land use, hydromorphological changes) on aquatic organisms in rivers, lakes, ponds, wetlands and groundwater eco­systems. REFORM, another EU-funded project, began in 2011 and aims to assess the effects of 20 large-scale restoration measures on organisms and ecosystem service in rivers throughout Europe (including the Lahn and Ruhr). Two current projects are looking at parasites in ecological contexts; the joint BMBF project “Sichere Ruhr” (Safe Ruhr) is assessing the occurrence of the causative agents of swimmer’s itch in the Ruhr river, while a separate DFG project focuses on the success of invasive parasite species. Finally, in cooperation with the UDE’s Institute of Environmental Chemistry and Applied Geochemistry, the group is also working on a further DFG project into the effects and accumulation of noble metals in animal tissue.