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Environmental Biology

Working Group Evolutionary Biology and Molecular Ecology

Group Leaders: Christian Sturmbauer and Kristina Sefc

The group’s research revolves around the evolution, function and vulnerability of animal diversity. Numerous environmental factors influence the physical traits and behavior of animals, and climate change-associated environmental changes pose major challenges to species and ecosystems. We investigate the effects of historical environmental changes, such as during the pleistocene glacial cycles, as well as processes in extant populations and ecosystems and use this information for instance to monitor and predict consequences of ongoing global change.

The group focuses on aquatic systems, with taxonomic and geographic emphases on African cichlids, Eurasian salmonids and various invertebrate taxa.


Characterisation & Inventory of Austrian Biodiversity

Group Leader: Christian Sturmbauer

The Institute of Zoology of the Karl-Franzens-University Graz coordinates the Austria-wide project "Development of university DNA barcoding pipelines for ABOL - the Austrian Biodiversity Initiative Austrian Barcode of Life", which is budgeted with one million Euro and financed by the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy within the framework of the university structure funds.


Functional Ecosystem Research

Group Leader: Bettina Weber

Biological organisms occur in their habitat in communities that are in intensive and diverse exchange with each other and with their environment. Our research group deals with the functional processes within communities, their exchange with the environment, and the effects of global change, consisting of climate and land use change. We investigate the relevance of these organism communities in global processes and cycles, which in turn are directly influenced by climate change.

The communities we investigate focus on cryptogams, consisting of lichens, mosses, algae and cyanobacteria, which, associated with heterotrophic fungi and bacteria and used by diverse mesofauna (e.g. protozoa, nematodes, water bear  and microarthropods) form complex miniature ecosystems. They grow on soils, rocks and epiphytically on plants and colonise large areas of the terrestrial land surface. The aim of our group is to understand the functions of these ecosystems and their role in the Earth system under historical, recent and future environmental conditions.

On-going projects

  • CryptoMap: Composition of cryptogam communities depending on existing environmental conditions
  • CryptoChange: Modelling the effects of climate and land use change on cryptogam communities
  • NCycling: N-cycle processes in cryptogamous communities, i.e. fixation of nitrogen and release of reactive and climate-relevant N-gases into the environment
  • MicroClim: Monitoring of the physiological activity of cryptogam communities as a basis for exchange processes with the environment
  • BioRelease: release of bioaerosols into the atmosphere and their significance for weather and regional climate
  • BioDust: Transport of Biological Organisms with Desert Dust and their Importance in Climate Processes
  • CCycling: CO2 fixation and carbon balance of cryptogam communities


MMag. Dr.phil.

Harald Stelzer

Research Manager

Research Management & -services
Elisabethstraße 27/II
A- 8010 Graz

Phone:+43 316 380 - 1295

Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr.rer.nat.

Gottfried Kirchengast


Wegener Center for Climate and Global Change
Brandhofgasse 5/I
A-8010 Graz

Phone:+43 316 380 - 8431

Univ.-Prof. Dr.phil.

Lukas Meyer


Institute of Philosophy
Attemsgasse 25/II
A-8010 Graz

Phone:+43 316 380 - 2300

Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.nat.techn.

Kristina Sefc


Institute for Biology
Universitätsplatz 2/I
A-8010 Graz

Phone:+43 316 380 - 5601

Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr.rer.soc.oec.

Karl Steininger


Wegener Center for Climate and Global Change
Brandhofgasse 5/I
A-8010 Graz

Phone:+43 316 380 - 8441

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