Institute of

Environmental Systems Research

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Research group 'Applied Systems Science'


Head: Professor Frank Hilker

Research profile

Our research group works on modeling environmental and ecological systems. These systems are experiencing a rapid rate of change, e.g. due to alterations in land and resource use, global mobility, pollution and climate change. If we are to effectively manage the emerging challenges and maintain the ecosystem services they provide, there is a pressing need to better understand how these systems respond to perturbations. Yet, environmental and eco-systems are complex and notoriously difficult to analyze.

Our work is interdisciplinary, at the interface of theoretical ecology, biogeochemistry, epidemiology, eco-toxicology, and applied maths. We use a variety of approaches, including mathematical modeling, tools from nonlinear dynamics and statistical physics, computer-based simulations, and data analysis.

Our research is "system-oriented". That is, we capture complicated system structures by focusing on selected components and their interactions with each other as well as with the environment. This allows us to identify and understand complex behavior that emerges from the interrelations of the system parts.

Current and ongoing research

  • Regime shifts and early-warning signals
  • Environmental flow requirements
  • Modeling biocontrol and integrated pest management
  • Species distribution and trophic interactions in streams and rivers
  • Spatial population models for conservation biology
  • Chaos control methods for stabilizing fluctuating populations
  • Epidemiological modeling: the complexity of wildlife diseases
  • Contamination of the aquatic environment by pharmaceuticals (MEDUWA)
  • Microplastics in the environment
  • Global mapping of current hydropower development
  • Modeling the fate and behavior of chemical substances in surface waters (GREAT-ER)

Long-term visitors

  • Bo-Moon Kim (Kyoto University, Japan): October-November 2023
  • Johannes Werner (University of Cologne): June/July 2019
  • Christina Lois Prados (University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain): October-November 2018
  • Juan Segura (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain): July-August 2018 and May/June 2019
  • Vinicius Weide Rodrigues (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil): September 2017 - February 2018
  • Cecilia Berardo (Univ. Turin, Italy): April-September 2016
  • Martina Bulai (Univ. Turin, Italy): August-September 2016
  • Anthony Sun (Univ. Rennes, France): January-June 2016
  • Federico Roccati (MSc student, U. Turin, Italy): April-September 2015
  • Marta Paliaga (MSc student, U. Turin, Italy): April-September 2015

Former group members

  • Dr. Matthew Adamson
  • Christian Ehling
  • Katrin Ellerbrake
  • Sarah Falk
  • Dr. Nils Kehrein
  • Louisa Kistemaker
  • Dr. Volker Lämmchen
  • Bianca Müllmann
  • Claudia Neve
  • Gunnar Niebaum
  • Franziska Ossenbrink
  • Ann-Katrin Reuwer
  • Vanessa Schakau
  • Dr. Anthony Sun
  • Dr. Mickaël Teixeira-Alves
  • Raissa Ulbrich
  • Caroline van Bers
  • Dr. Irina Vortkamp
  • Dr. Olesya Yakovchuk