ECOLAB - Group Animal Ecology, Conservation & Science Communication

Group Marine Animal Ecology
© S. Garthe, FTZ Westküste

The investigation of the ways of life of marine animals of higher trophic levels comprises the main research goal of the working group “Marine Animal Ecology”.
Most important organisms of the research activities are:

  • Seabirds and marine mammals of the open waters of North Sea and Baltic Sea
  • Birds and terrestrial mammals of the coastal zones of North Sea and Baltic Sea
  • Macrozoobenthos in the Wadden Sea


The fundamental focus of the work is on ecological principles. Due to numerous human pressures in coastal and marine habitats applied research has become very important in recent years.

One of the major project activities in the past was to monitor populations of seabirds as well as their temporal and spatial patterns, based on ship-based and aerial surveys.
In the future, the following research topics comprise the central focus of the working group "Marine Animal Ecology":

  • Distribution and movement patterns of individually marked birds and mammals by means of GPS loggers and other sensors. This includes small-scale movements during the course of the day, e.g. during foraging activities, but also seasonal movements. Tracking bird migration over the open sea is one of the new core areas of the working group.
  • Foraging ecology of important bird species, based on tracking by GPS loggers and dietary analyses.
  • Analyses of habitats to understand the distribution of marine species in the coastal zone. Therefore, distributional data of marine animals are linked with environmental parameters such as sediment composition and hydrodynamic regime. Statistical modelling methods allow to predict the occurrence of particularly suitable areas for different marine organisms. To accomplish this, scientists of various disciplines are working together, both within the FTZ as well as among different research facilities.
  • Habitats and food webs in the Wadden Sea, especially towards their relevance for birds in this World Natural Heritage Site as well as regarding climatic changes.
  • Distribution and movement patterns of top predators (seabirds, marine mammals) against the background of marine spatial planning, particularly with respect to the establishment of offshore wind farms. Within this context, the working group “Marine Animal Ecology” is advising policy makers, ministries and agencies of the federal and provincial governments.

Marine animal ecology on Twitter: @FTZ_MarAnimEcol


Head of group

Prof. Dr. Stefan Garthe

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

Dr. Kai Borkenhagen
Dr. Nils Guse
Dr. Miriam Lerma
Dr. Nele Markones

PhD cand.
Elmar Ballstaedt
Dagmar Cimiotti
Leonie Enners
Katharina Fließbach

Research Associate
Dipl. Biol. Henriette Schwemmer

Technical Assistant
Daniela Koch