Institute for Environmental Research

Prof. Dr. Andreas Schäffer



RWTH Aachen

Institute for Environmental Research (Biology 5)

Worringerweg 1

52074 Aachen



Head of Institute


Prof. Dr. Andreas Schaeffer (UBC) and Prof. Dr. Henner Hollert (ESA)


Contact Persons

Prof. Dr. Henner Hollert


Prof. Dr. Andreas Schaeffer and Prof. Dr. Henner Hollert


Institute for Environmental Research (Biology 5)
Worringerweg 1, 52074 Aachen, Germany
Tel.: +49(0)241/80-26815 (Schaeffer) and 80-26669 (Hollert)
Fax: +49(0)241/80-22182
E-Mail: Andreas.schaeffer(at)

Working Groups/Research Fields


Chair Environmental Biology and Chemodynamics (UBC):

- WG Schaeffer/Schmidt: Environmental Chemistry
- WG Ratte: Aquatic Ecotoxicology and Mathematical Modelling
- WG Roß-Nickoll: Terrestrial Ecotoxicology & Ecology


Department of Ecosystem Analysis (ESA):

- WG Seiler: Effect-related Analytics
- WG Hollert: Integrated Environmental Assessment

Mission Statement


The Institute for Environmental Research has an integrated approach towards three of the most important topics regarding environmental contaminants and anthropogenic impact on ecosystems: "Fate and Remediation", "Effects and Monitoring", and Modelling and Simulation". All groups at the institute work together in close research in order to provide comprehensive strategies for the sustainable mitigation of environmental quality.


Skill Course



Teaching at the Institute for Environmental Research covers mainly ecology and ecotoxicology, but offers also courses in statistical analysis of biological data, mathematical modelling and environmental chemistry. Students gain comprehensive theoretical fundamentals through various lectures and can deepen their knowledge and experience in a large number of corresponding seminars and practicals.


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Main research focus


Effects and Monitoring

Monitoring is the measurement of changes in biological systems in both the laboratory and the field. In the field, monitoring is understood as the regularly repeated observation, control and measurement of the ecosystem state over time. Observed deviations of the state and structure of biological systems lead to conclusions about the quality and quantity of physico-chemical alterations of the environmental conditions arising from stressors due to the use and pollution of the systems. Effect-monitoring in the laboratory or in more complex model systems (e.g., aquatic and terrestrial model ecosystems) is conducted to understand and assess the acute and mechanism-specific toxicity as well as chronic effects, measured using in vitro assays, selected test species, laboratory populations, and communities in indoor and outdoor model ecosystems. From the observed effects, it is intended to extrapolate the risk for the environment.


Research at the Department of Ecosystem Analysis is currently focused on the impact of anthropogenic contaminants in aquatic ecosystems. Using a comprehensive and sophisticated biotest battery, particularly sediments are investigated regarding a broad range of ecotoxicological endpoints. Special interest is paid to the role of flood events e.g. as a driving force of remobilization of legacy sediment pollution.


soil samples

Fate and Remediation

Anthropogenic chemicals are distributed on large areas (e.g., pesticides) or regionally (e.g., veterinary pharmaceuticals, heavy metals) in the environment.

Our group investigates the transformation of chemical compounds in the environment and in organisms, their binding and release into water, soil and the atmosphere. Regarding organisms we investigate the chemical, biochemical and genetic mechanisms of the uptake, transformation and immobilization of the chemicals. We are particularly interested in residues that cannot be extracted by solvents from soil or plants. Beside their chemical structure special interest focuses on the conditions necessary to render such 'bound residues' bioavailable for uptake by plants, animals or humans.


We develop bioremediation techniques to reduce the concentration of problematic compounds in contaminated soils and water using plants and microorganisms. One important aspect is the choice of plants, which should show a high tolerance and a high extraction potential regarding the contaminant. For that purpose, we profit from the potential of genetically modified plants.


Modelling and Simulation

Modelling and simulation play an important role in the study of ecological systems. Mechanistic/deterministic models are used in environmental risk assessment to perform estimation of exposition and effects as well as risk characterization itself. Simulation models are capable to reproduce and predict concentration effects on populations and ecosystems.

Individual based simulation uses life-cycle models of individuals to extrapolate concentration dependent shifts in life data to populations and multi-species systems. Individual based simulation is based on a probabilistic structure and models natural variability explicitly, which causes differences in individuals. On the ecosystem level, populations or communities are treated as compartments, quantifying the interactions (compartment models).


Empirical/inductive modelling approaches develop the model structure in an inductive way. They are based on actual data, to deduce the interactions in the system on investigation. In this approach, the inductive step plays an important role as a statistical syllogism. As this aspect is of great importance, the approach is often called statistical or stochastic modelling. Besides these mathematical methods, approaches from pattern recognition sciences are applied.


Topics for research internships and Bachelor, Master or German Diploma theses


- Endocrine disruptors in bioanalytics - Applicability of various test systems
- Environmental fate and effects of nanomaterials
- Development of mathematical models for populations and multi-species systems
- Use of terrestrial and aquatic model ecosystems for the evaluation of effects of pollutants and recovery



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Fachgruppe Biologie der RWTH Aachen

Sprecher: Prof. Dr. Henner Hollert - Worringer Weg 1, 52074 Aachen

Tel.: +49(0)241/80-26669 - E-Mail: henner.hollert(at)