"...the relationships between microorganisms and their environments have a crucial role in the health of the planet and all of its inhabitants."

(Nature Microbiological Reviews, Editorial Board, 2008)

Research aims at understanding the microbial diversity and activities in the marine environment. Microorganisms occur nearly everywhere in the marine environment and thus play a crucial role in decomposition of organic matter and cycling of nutrients. Additionally bacteria are linked to different trophic levels, e.g. serve as food source for a number of organisms, thus their characteristics are also linked to higher trophic levels (i.e. phytoplankton, zooplankton, mussels, and viruses).

At present, we concentrate mainly on the North Sea, with its diverse habitats focusing especially on how different bacterial groups and populations are influenced by climate change. Accordingly we have recently expanded also into polar and brackish environments.

Another focus is dealing with anthropogenic influences in the marine environment and consequences on the organisms. Two main aspects are studied: measure of anthropogenic markers (e.g. xenobiotica, toxin genes, and mobile genetic elements) in a coastal gradient from rivers to the open sea and the impact of plastic waste in the marine environment (macro-, micro- and nanoplastics).

Research topics:

  • Microbial ecology of methanotrophic bacteria
  • The changing coast - Pathogenic bacteria and climate change
  • Microplastics - An emerging threat not only for marine ecosystems
  • Unraveling the roles of bacterial populations during spring algal blooms (LTER)


Dr. Ingeborg Bussmann

Dr. Gunnar Gerdts

Dr. Antje Wichels

Dr. Sebastian Primpke (Post Doc)

Hilke Döpke (BTA)

Serena Abel (PhD Student)

Nick Mackay-Roberts (PhD Student)

Lisa Roscher (PhD Student)

Jessica Song (PhD Student)

Laura Thiel (PhD Student)