Profile Area Sustainability & Biodiversity

Mission Statement

The "Sustainability & Biodiversity" Profile Area stands for excellent research and teaching in the context of planetary health and dynamics, and comprises research in the fields of sustainability, biodiversity, earth system and the environment. The aim of the Profile Area’s council is to advise and support Goethe University in the strategic design of the Profile Area and to serve as a platform for inter- and transdisciplinary collaboration. One of the main goals is to connect the Profile Area’s scientists, from well-established researchers to junior scientists, to jointly develop coordinated research programs, to identify new topics and excellent scientists for strategic recruitments, as well as to promote young researchers.

Profile Area Spokespersons

“For me, the 'Sustainability & Biodiversity' Profile Area constitutes a fantastic network for exchanging views on research and teaching across faculty boundaries and to develop the interdisciplinary collaboration in the field of planetary health and dynamics into one of real transdisciplinary excellence. What I find unique is the Profile Area's broad expertise in understanding the interactions between chemical stress and biodiversity decline and climate change, as well as the ability to contribute to societal transformation by means of an interdisciplinary approach."
Henner Hollert (Evolutionary Ecology and Environmental Toxicology)
Spokesperson of the “Sustainability & Biodiversity" Profile Area

“For me, the 'Sustainability & Biodiversity' Profile Area is a unique place where the findings of different disciplines are brought together and combined to shape a more sustainable future."

Barbara Brandl (Sociology with a focus on Organization and Economics),
Spokesperson of the “Sustainability & Biodiversity" Profile Area

“The extent to which the threats to our natural basis of existence are currently progressing calls for new approaches, including an inter- and transdisciplinary integration of the broad spectrum of expertise at Goethe University and its partner institutions to develop sustainable and scientifically sound solutions. The 'Sustainability & Biodiversity' Profile Area offers excellent conditions for this."

Jörg Oehlmann (Aquatic Ecotoxicology),
Spokesperson of the “Sustainability & Biodiversity” Profile Area

Key Research Areas

The "Sustainability & Biodiversity" Profile Area bundles comprehensive research activities in the established focus areas of Earth System Research, Climate and Weather Research, as well as Biodiversity and Nature Conservation.

The research questions in the field of "Sustainability & Biodiversity" largely concern cross-cutting issues that require an interdisciplinary approach. That is why several departments, especially in the biological, molecular and life sciences (Faculties 14 and 15) as well as the geosciences (Faculty 11), are represented in this Profile Area and cooperate closely in research and teaching. Other subjects, such as economics and sociology, are also closely involved when it comes to questions on measures to avoid the dangerous consequences of climate change, for example. Extensive synergies are generated through interdisciplinary cooperation and by linking and bundling Goethe University's existing expertise in the individual fields, creating a profile with characteristic unique selling points.

Research on climate, weather and atmosphere

The foci of climate, weather, and atmospheric research include regional climate modeling, aerosol particle and cloud formation, cloud radiative properties and dynamics, tropopause region processes, and gravity wave theory. Earth system research foci include, for example, the global freshwater cycle or the geoscientific study of past interglacial periods as natural analogs of the expected “high-in-CO2” climate future. 

Biodiversity and Nature Conservation

This focus brings numerous topics that are currently in the public eye into a common ecological, economic, and social context. Topics include but are not limited to species conservation, biodiversity decline, chemical pollution, sustainability, renewable energies, physical and mental health, globalization, digitalization, genetic engineering, industrial and consumer society, the global trade and financial system, nutrition, demographic changes, and social inequality.

Earth System Science

Common to all focus areas is the research questions’ extraordinary social relevance. Due to rapid global change, the topics will remain of utmost importance in the medium and long-term future, far beyond the respective expert circles. Important findings, action perspectives and innovative solutions for society are derived directly from the research results. 
Goethe University has initiated, established and expanded a broad portfolio of research activities in the "Sustainability & Biodiversity" Profile Area over many years. The bundled activities enjoy excellent international visibility and are well-connected, with the networks ranging from inter-university cross-departmental connections all the way to extensive collaborations with strong local and regional non-university partners, including the Senckenberg Society for Nature Research (Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung, SGN); the German National Meteorological Service (Deutscher Wetterdienst, DWD); the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung, UFZ); the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (Fraunhofer Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie und Ökologie, IME); the Institute for Social-Ecological Research (Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung, ISOE); the Leibniz Institute for Financial Research (Leibniz-Institut für Finanzmarktforschung, SAFE); and the Max Planck Institutes for Chemistry (MPI-C) and Terrestrial Microbiology. This interconnectedness results in a multitude of national and international research networks.

Particularly important to this Profile Area is the research initiative “RobustNature" (Robustness and Resilience of Nature-Society Systems in the Developing Anthropocene). The Faculty of Biological Sciences (15) has initiated an intensive interdisciplinary collaboration to investigate important questions on human-ecosystem dynamics in cooperation with the faculties of Law (1), Economics and Business Administration (2), Social Sciences (3), Geosciences and Geography (11), Medicine (16), as well as the Senckenberg – Leibnitz Institution for Biodiversity and Earth System Research (SGN), the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE), the Leibniz Institute for Financial Research (SAFE FhG-IME), RWTH Aachen University, and select international partners (University of Saskatchewan Canada, ETH Zurich and Stockholm University). Using a multiscale approach, RobustNature will develop a process understanding of the topic cluster of robustness and resilience from a disciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary perspective. RobustNature addresses the decline of biodiversity, impacts of climate change, and chemical stress. The interactions and interdependencies of these three areas are considered major challenges for international research in the coming years in statements issued by Leopoldina as well as in reports of international panels like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the International Panel on Chemical Pollution's NORMAN Network of reference laboratories, research centers and related organizations for monitoring of emerging environmental substances (IPCP/NORMAN). Specifically, RobustNature intends to focus on the topics of water, organismic interactions and systemic risks, to develop knowledge-based transformation research of nature-society systems using the examples of biodiversity and water – all the way from knowledge to action.

Goethe University leads several coordinated research networks that have been comprehensively and excellently established. They include a Transregio Collaborative Research Center (DFG-TRR) on tropopause research, operated together with the University of Mainz; a Priority Program and six German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) Research Groups, EU projects (including two Marie Skłodowska Curie Innovative Training Networks), as well as publicly funded LOEWE Centers and Priorities. Additional research collaborations are in the works, including, for example, an Integrated Research Training Group (IRTG) Water Health on integrated water research with the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. In addition to the coordinated research consortia, the Profile Area also brings together proven and excellent young researchers (visible, among other things, through Emmy Noether junior research groups, Heisenberg positions, DAAD-German Academic Exchange Service junior research groups). The established researchers include an ERC Advanced Grant holder as well as four researchers, who have been honored as Highly Cited Researchers in recent years. The Profile Area has innovative and modern research infrastructures in place, including the Taunus Observatory for atmospheric and earthquake research and the newly built science center FIERCE (Frankfurt Isotope & Element Research Center). All told, the Profile Area bundles several research activities in which the participating Goethe University researchers occupy leading international positions.

In addition to more traditional courses such as biology, geosciences or meteorology, the offer also includes interdisciplinary courses such as the MSc Environmental Sciences. The MSc Environmental Sciences and the MSc Ecology & Evolution are the main beneficiaries of the networking, joint research and knowledge generation activities in the "Sustainability & Biodiversity" Profile Area. Within RobustNature's framework of research-oriented teaching and networking, both programs will receive current knowledge, content-related impulses and unique research topics. The further development of the existing Master's program in Ecology & Evolution is also of great importance for the "Sustainability & Biodiversity" Profile Area; it is being carried out in the spirit of an interdisciplinary and internationally-oriented and focused Master's program "Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health".

The Profile Area is closely interlinked with and strategically embedded in the networks of several other Profile Areas; in some cases, research foci are also integrated into two separate Profile Areas. For example, the research foci Earth System Research and Biodiversity and Nature Conservation as well as the potential research field Organismic Interactions are closely integrated into the Structure and Dynamics of Life Profile Area, whereas the potential research field of Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research is synergistically closely linked to the Profile Area Global Orders and Societal Transformations. Additional touchpoints exist, including in the field of Space, Time and Matter, and especially for the research focus Condensed Matter and Quantum Materials.

HMWK (Hessian Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and the Arts)