Funding: FWF P19706 & P21151 TWF P0404/690 ÖAW Climate change program


Environmental-change induced community shifts occur specifically in sensitive alpine lake ecosystems. We directly address (i) the already ongoing changes in the natural world (aquatic ecosystems) and their relation to global change phenomena, (ii) relevant indicator organisms (phytoplankton) by analysing time series of sample material, and (iii) the differential impacts of land use change and climate change. Here we build on a robust dataset on the microbial community analysis of an alpine lake gradient to analyse short-term environmental change induced ecosystem responses to climate change.

Genomics and transcriptomics of golden algae

Phototrophic, mixotrophic and heterotrophic golden algae (classes Chrysophyceae and Synurophyceae) are investigated. This suite of organisms allows comparative studies addressing evolutionary developments as well as discovery of novel biochemical pathways and the integration of potentially competing metabolic processes (i.e. photosynthesis vs. heterotrophy). These studies will allow identification and streamlined experimentation on protein pools (especially important for those of “unknown function”) related
to heterotrophic, photosynthetic and mixotrophic lifestyles. This project provides a unique opportunity for comparative studies that will greatly facilitate evolutionary research  and carbon cycling research.


DOE JGI Community sequencing program, FWF P 21151

Funding: Several national individual research grants to members of the network


This research project focusses on the comparative analysis of diversity pattern of plants, animals, protists, bacteria and archaea. By means of cultivation independent high throughput sequencing techniques we analyse diversity pattern in freshwater, soil, and marine environments. This project brings together descriptive diversity analyses with experimental approaches in order to understand the ecological and evolutionary basis of the observed diversity pattern. Further, the comparative approach shall illuminate some fundamental conflicts in the ‘everything is everywhere’ debate. Specifically for protist taxa this approach shall clarify whether their distribution pattern correspond to that of multicellular eukaryotes (plants and animals) or to that of bacteria.

Resource-efficient treatment of wastewaters in NRW


Using Tetrahymena to eliminate bacteria in wastewater treatment plant effluent

Effluent discharge from sewage treatment plants is the most important source of entry for pathogenic and antibiotic-resistant microorganisms in surface waters. Studies show that treatment plant wastewaters carry a large number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria – including those exhibiting multi-drug resistance. In this joint research project between the University of Wuppertal and the University of Duisburg-Essen, we explore how the ciliate Tetrahymena pyriformis can be used as a "biological filter" to remove pathogenic and antibiotic-resistant bacteria from treated wastewater. The project, which is carried out in cooperation with LANUV NRW, will serve as a pilot study, ultimately aiming to reduce the bacterial load of treated water as it is returned to the environment.

The impact of flooding on biodiversity at the soil-water boundary

Flooding has a dramatic effect on local biodiversity, not least by flushing soil organisms out of their natural habitat and into the water column, and vice versa. Such temporary changes, as when soil fungi and yeasts enter aquatic habitats, alter the structure and function of the receiving ecosystem by altering metabolic pathways, thus potentially changing species distribution patterns in the long term. In this project, we focus on potentially key organisms – including fungi (decomposers), heterotrophic nanoflagellates (bacterivores), algae (primary producers), and bacteria - to explore the effect of flooding on the functional dynamics of microbial diversity at the interface of terrestrial and aquatic environments.

Topics for Bachelor’s and Master’s thesis projects

We offer research projects at the Master’s, Exam, Diploma, and doctoral levels. If you are interested in working in our lab, please get in touch.

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