ECOLAB - Group Animal Ecology, Conservation & Science Communication

Group Marine Animal Ecology
© S. Garthe, FTZ Westküste

The main research areas of the working group "Animal Ecology, Conservation and Science Communication" include the following:

  • Habitat, distribution and habitat selection of animals in marine and coastal regions
  • Bird migration at sea
  • Wadden Sea ecology
  • Birds as indicators of environmental change
  • Nature conservation issues, especially with regard to anthropogenic interventions such as the construction of offshore wind farms
  • Science communication

Animal Ecology:
Our goal is to study the life history of marine animals of higher trophic levels. The main organisms of our research are:

  • Seabirds and seals of different marine areas
  • Birds and land mammals of the coastal zones of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea
  • Macrozoobenthos in the Wadden Sea

Our research includes:

  • Distribution and movement patterns of individually tagged birds and mammals by means of transmitter using GPS loggers and other sensors. Small-scale movements during the day, such as foraging, as well as seasonal migrations are investigated. The study of bird migration over the open sea is a main focus of the working group.
  • Feeding ecology of different bird species, based on GPS logging and food analysis.
  • Analyses of the distribution and habitats of marine organisms at sea and in the coastal zone. For this purpose, distribution data of marine organisms are blended with environmental parameters and analyzed using complex statistical modeling techniques. In this field we collaborate with scientists from different disciplines, also across institutes.
  • Habitats and food webs in the Wadden Sea, especially with regard to the importance for birds in this World Heritage region as well as in relation to climate change.
  • Marine animals as indicators of changes in the marine environment.

Due to climate changes and the multitude of human interventions in nature, applied research projects are increasingly coming into focus worldwide.
We do not carry out practical nature conservation measures, but we:

  • develop comprehensive knowledge about the way animals live in coastal and marine habitats
  • research the extent to which anthropogenic activities at sea and in the coastal zone affect distribution, behavior and habitat selection
  • develop templates for concrete conservation measures for different animal species as well as for their habitats.

Currently, marine spatial planning, the construction of offshore wind farms and climate change are of particular research interest.
The working group advises policy makers, ministries and offices of the federal and state governments on this topic.

Science communication:
Much of our applied research is at the intersection of diverse groups, professional fields, and stakeholders.
The results are relevant and of interest to science, government agencies, politics, business, media, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) as well as society. As a scientist, one is increasingly required to be able to adapt to the different target groups in the written and oral communication of research results. 
Being able to do this in a way that is appropriate to the target group is also one of the focal points of our work in research and teaching.
Students learn about the different systems of thought and structures of the various groups and professional fields, which differ greatly in their tasks, goals, motives and roles.

Follow us on Twitter: @FTZ_MarAnimEcol


Head of group

Prof. Dr. Stefan Garthe

Senior scientist (tenure)
Dr. Ulrike Kubetzki
Dr. Philipp Schwemmer

Dr. Miriam Lerma
Dr. Verena Peschko

PhD cand.
Elmar Ballstaedt
Dagmar Cimiotti
Leonie Enners
Katharina Fließbach

Technical Assistant
Daniela Koch