Our Research Interests

At the transition zone between two different ecosystems/habitats (e.g. oil/water films), ecologists refer to it as an ecotone. Ecotones can have both a connecting and a barrier effect. In comparison to the surrounding habitats, ecotones may experience altered energy flow, environmental conditions, and the composition of organisms, potentially favoring distinct chemical and biological reactions.

Our research aims to comprehensively explore microbial processes in environmentally relevant ecotones, particularly oil/water and algae phycosphere/water. The focus is on understanding the changes in the taxonomic composition and activities of microbial communities, as well as environmental conditions, between the original habitats and the ecotone, with a specific emphasis on the carbon and nitrogen cycles. We integrate data from other environmental studies, conduct our field studies with enrichment and pure culture experiments, perform environmental sampling, analyze samples in the laboratory, initiate microcosm experiments, and isolate relevant microorganisms.

Currently, our primary questions revolve around:

  1. Is oil degradation faster in natural oily habitats compared to recently contaminated ones?
  2. What is the role of hydrocarbon-producing algae and their co-cultivated bacteria?
  3. What are the dynamics between algae-bacteria in the context of hydrocarbon degradation?


Learn more about our group ...

April 2024 - Accepted manuscript New Paper in FEMS Microbiology Ecology Thematic Issue on Subsurface Microbiology

The study "Imprints of ecological processes in the taxonomic core community: an analysis of naturally replicated microbial communities enclosed in oil", lead by Verena explores how microbial communities in similar environments, namely in 193 tiny water droplets from the Pitch Lake in Trinidad and Tobago, form core communities. These water dropet communities revealed highly variable relative abundances along with a large proportional core community building 68 ± 20 % of the total community.

A dispersal-drift null model forecasted a negative relationship between the proportional core community and compositional variability across dispersal probabilities, contradicting the observed data. This implies that selection predominantly influences the composition of water droplet communities in the Pitch Lake.

Publication coming soon ...

February 2024 - Accepted manuscript Sebastians first Paper

Sebastians first paper on "Assessing anaerobic microbial degradation rates of crude light oil with reverse stable isotope labelling (RSIL) and community analysis" was acceped to be published in Front. Microbiomes Sec. Environmental Microbiomes in the Research Topic Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity of Microbiomes and Viromes From Extreme Environments.

Our research underscores the effectiveness of the, in the Meckenstock lab developed method, reverse stable isotope labeling (RSIL) in quantifying the breakdown of complex organic substrates (crude oil) occurring at minute rates.


08.01.2024 - UMB Seminar Talk "Diversity and physiology of dissimilatory sulfate-reducing microorganisms"

Dr. Stefan Dyksma from Leibniz Institute - DSMZ-German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures GmbH presented his work in our first UMB Seminar in 2024.

We heard an interesting talk about about the diversity on a global scale and deduced ecophysiology of microorganisms possessing the capability for dissimilatory sulfate/sulfite reduction. He also presented his recent study about "Oxygen respiration and polysaccharide degradation by a sulfate-reducing acidobacterium" showing that sulfate reduction and oxygen respiration can cooccur in one organism, organic polymers can be utilized during sulfate reduction, and the anaerobic mineralization of organic matter may not always involve multiple steps.

December 2023 - New funding New Funding by Fonds der Chemischen Industrie

We are pleased to announce that the Fonds der Chemischen Industrie has awarded us a grant for material costs for the project "Extraction and analysis of alkanes and (poly)aromatic hydrocarbon compounds from algae".

October 2023 - Conference 2nd Joint Symposium of ISEB & ISSM 2023

Nadia, Rainer and Lisa presented current research from the Aquatic Microbiology group at the 2nd Joint Symposium of the International Societies for Environmental Biogeochemistry & Subsurface Microbiology 2023 in Banff, Alberta, Canada.

- "Confirming the Mechanism of Anaerobic Phenanthrene Degradation: A Validation Study" presented by Nadia

- "Chemo-organo-autotrophic degradation of aromatic hydrocarbons indicates a new type of bacterial metabolism" presented by Rainer

- "Microbial activities along a 20 million-year-old pristine oil reservoir" presened by Lisa

September 2023 - Excursion Visit of "Deutsches Erdölmuseum Wietze"


We visited the Deutsche Erdölmuseum in Wietze. The museum provides a fascinating journey through the evolution of the oil industry and history of Lower Saxony in Germany.

The museum is definitely worth a visit for the whole family. You will learn, among other things, what oil is, how much oil is in everyday products, and how oil is produced today and how it was produced in the past.

Natural oil leakage in a german forrest Oil sampling

Voskuhl News Wietzewald

June 2023 - New funding UDE Postdoc Seed Funding

We have are happy to announce that we have been awarded by the UDE Postdoc Seed Funding for our project on "Microbial processes in natural oil leaks".

Our research project aims to investigate the microbial ecological processes occurring in natural oil leaks and films on water bodies, as well as the transition zone between two different ecosystems/habitats (oil/water).

“All sorts of things can happen when you’re open to new ideas and playing around with things.”


                      ~ Stephanie Kwolek ~
Chemist (1923-2014), developed Kevlar 1964