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Wildlife research is focused on basic research, applied research and monitoring. ITAW's goal is to elucidate the biology and ecology of wild animals as well as to investigate the influence of anthropogenic activities on wildlife. Health status and populations are assessed. Research is concentrated on:


1) Investigations on Health Status

Clinical and morphological pathology of different wild animals

Harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) before dissection © ITAW

Young harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) before dissection © ITAW

Auditory research: audiometric measurements, CT, impairment and morphology of hearing 

Morphologic investigation of the inner ear of harbor porpoise.
©photo ITAW

Harbor seal with in-ear headphones. ©photo: ITAW

Infectious diseases / zoonoses: effects of parasitic, bacterial and viral infections (in particular, distemper infection in seals), fomites, resistencies

Cetaceans with whale lice on skin. ©photo: ITAW

Lung of harbor seal with lungworm infestation. ©photo: ITAW

Endocrine, immune, reproductive, respiratory and digestive systems, nutritional status


Reproductive system of boar. ©photo: ITAW

Harbor porpoise embryo with umbilicus. ©photo: ITAW

Effects of chemical and acoustic pollution of the environment Determination of good environmental status (natural influences vs. anthropogenic influences) Epidemiology

2) Investigations on Habitat Use


Population surveys of marine and terrestrial mammals primarily through aerial and ship-based surveys, spotlight surveys, photo traps, infrared cameras, etc.

Partenavia for aerial surveys of marine mammals; ©photo: ITAW

Harts captured with thermographic camera; ©photo: ITAW

Deployment of towed hydrophone and stationary T-PODs (acoustic click detectors), recording of environmental noise


Deployment of a towed hydrophone. ©photo: ITAW

Acoustic click detector. ©photo:ITAW

Fitting of transmitters on wild animals to elucidate activity patterns, orientation, acoustic influences and feeding

Wildcat (Felis sylvestris) with collar transmitter ©photo: ITAW

Harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) with D-Tag ©photo: ITAW

Feeding ecology (stomach contents, fatty acid analyses, analysis of stable isotopes, stool samples, telemetry, survey of food availability) 

Otoliths of Gobiidae from harbor porpoise stomachs. ©photo: ITAW

Fatty acid analysis using gas chromatography. ©photo: ITAW

Development of habitat models (using physical and biological environmental characteristics)

3) Effects of Anthropogenic Interference 


Acoustic and chemical pollution of the environment

Offshore production platform with oil spill. ©photo:

Explosion of war ammunitions. ©photo: Kampfmittelräumdienst S-H

Fishery, tourism, shipping, agriculture, forestry, animal production and hunting


Fishery vehicle. ©photo: ITAW

Use of pesticides in agriculture. ©photo: ITAW

Road construction and waterway engineering: cutting up of habitats, green bridges

Biogas and wind turbine plants

Offshore activities (e.g., construction of wind turbines, seismic and military activities)

Offshore wind farm. ©photo: ITAW

Tripods, anchorage of offshore wind turbines. ©photo: ITAW

Cumulative effect of the inferences listed

Stranding of whales. © E. Donnay
By-caught harbor seal. © ITAW

4) Re-establishment, Return, Re-introduction of Wild Animals


Re-establishment of extinct wild animal species (e.g., wisent, lynx)

Wisent (Bison bonasus). © Wisent-Welt-Wittgenstein

Wolf pack (Canis lupus) in an outdoor enclosure. © T. Vaupel

Effects of reintroduction and rehabilitation programs on wild animal populations

Blackcock (Tetrao tetrix). ©photo: Stiftung Naturschutz Lüneburger Heide

Examination of a harbor porpoise during rehabilitation. ©photo: SOS Dolfijn in Harderwijk, NL

5) Databases and Sample Repositories 



The vast majority of these research efforts are financed through third-party funding obtained from state and federal ministries, the European Union and numerous foundations, as well as through funding of the Association of Supporters (Förderverein). Research contracts are assigned to the Institute by the Ministry of Nutrition, Agriculture, Consumer Protection and Rural Development of the State of Lower Saxony, the Federal Foundation for the Environment (Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt, DBU), the Nature+Human Foundation (Stiftung Natur+Mensch) and the Hunting Association of Lower Saxony (Landesjägerschaft Niedersachsen e.V.). Scientific cooperations exist with numerous research institutions (links) in Germany and beyond. Scientists of ITAW serve on several international bodies (e.g., TSEG, ASCOBANS, ICES, IWC, IAPEME) and advise the German federal government on the implementation of treaties. (particularly: distemper infections in seals)

Current research projects of the Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Reserach (ITAW) are described here: terrestrial research and aquatic research

Head of institute
Contact facility Büsum
Contact facility Hannover
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