Institutes and Facilities

Aquatic Ecotoxicology

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Chemical products that are released into the environment are also taken up by the organisms living there. Professor Jörg Oehlmann investigates the consequences for aquatic eco-systems and has discovered that chemicals in the environment can produce hormone-like effects in living creatures. These environmental hormones (endocrine disrupters) have a structure analogous to hormones such as the female sex hormone oestrogen, and bind to their receptors in cells or have an impact on the potential effectiveness of naturally occurring hormones. This may affect animals' reproduction, development and growth. By monitoring the biological effect of specific pollutants on organisms, conclusions can be drawn about the extent to which the environment is polluted by these substances. The research group conducts this research on molluscs, insects, plants, bacteria and fungi.

Humans are also exposed to endocrine disrupters occurring in medication, cosmetics and food, and these may be a possible cause of some hormone-related diseases, including cancers. Oehlmann and his group use genetically modified yeast strains, for example, to substantiate hormonal-like activity in mineral water stored in plastic bottles. As Oehlmann explains "Our objective is to assess the take-up of these substances in organisms and to follow their concentration development, toxicokinetics, up to degradation".

Oehlmann's research focuses include evaluating the ecotoxicology of sewage treatment technology and analysing sediment from riverbeds. His results are incorporated into the developing of biological test systems and of evaluation strategies, and his team conducts toxicological risk assessments. His research findings on species loss in the vicinity of harbours were instrumental in effecting the ban of organotin compounds in antifouling paints for ships in the European Union in 2003.

In his teaching Oehlmann strives to communicate scientific contents to his students in an application-oriented manner and thus to qualify them for jobs in federal agencies or in industry. He has established the subject of ecotoxicology as a main focus in Goethe University's Master's Programmes in "Ecology and Evolution" and "Environmental Studies".

Brief Biography

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Jörg Oehlmann studied Biology and German at the University of Münster before completing his doctorate there on "Imposex in muricid gastropods an ecotoxicological investigation of tributyltin effects". From 1994 until 2001 he conducted research and taught, among other things, at the International Graduate School in Zittau (IHI Zittau) where he was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Technology. In 1998 he attained his Habilitation for research on Prosobranchia. In 2001 Oehlmann was appointed professor at Frankfurt University. He is a member of the Goethe Graduate Academy (Grade), Speaker of the Graduate Centre Grade Sustain and has occupied a number of roles in the Faculty of Biological Sciences including those of vice dean and dean of studies. His work is part of the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiKF) of the Senckenberg Nature Research Society and of the Goethe University.

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Jörg Oehlmann
Institute of Ecology, Evolution and Diversity
Max-von-Laue-Str. 13
(Biologicum, Flügel C)
60438 Frankfurt am Main
Germany
Telephone: +49 (0)69 798 42140
E-Mail: oehlmann@bio.uni-frankfurt.de
www.bio.uni-frankfurt.de