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Development of Marine Mammal Health and Ecology in Different Climate Conditions, Volkswagen-Wissenschaftstransfer


Project leader: Prof. Prof. h. c. Dr Ursula Siebert
Public relation: Robabe Ahmadi
Sonja von Brethorst (Tel. 0511 953 8002)
Project term: December 2018 - May 2020
Sponsorship: VolkswagenStiftung
Cooperation partners: Zoological Institute Hamburg University
Zoological Museum Hamburg University
German Marine Museum in Stralsund
Zoological Institute and Museum at the University of Kiel
Natural History Museum in Danmark
Swedish Museum of Natural History

Harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena), harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) and grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) are the three native marine mammal species in the North and Baltic Seas. All three species are increasingly under pressure in these waters, harbour porpoises and harbour seals are especially endangered in the Baltic Sea. Although they are apex predators in the marine ecosystem, are at the top of the food web and have almost no natural enemies in their habitat, they are affected by several factors like pollution, overfishing, global warming and the increasing anthropogenic impact on the ecosystem, such as shipping traffic as well as the construction and operation of offshore wind farms. Museum samples from several decades are analysed for bone density and comparison of bone structure in the cooperation project “Marine Mammals in a Changing Environment”, which is already funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. Furthermore, bone and fur are examined for trace elements and heavy metals, like mercury, lead and selenium. Moreover, changes in the food spectrum shall be analysed and stress markers shall be identified in order to investigate if environmental conditions and population health have changed over time. Additionally, the samples shall be examined for infectious agents, such as parasites. Actions for the different target groups shall be developed in the intended supplement project “Volkswagen Science Transfer“ to communicate the results and strategies acquired within the “Marine Mammals in a Changing Environment“ project to the public. Schools are important contact points for science communication. Pupils shall be introduced to research projects and results in order to inspire them for research and sensitise them for environmental topics in the educational system. For this purpose, materials shall be developed, which are supposed to be available for schools in a sustained manner and can be used by teachers as distinct education modules. Furthermore, pupils shall be taught how to present research projects and to inform the public about research themselves. In addition, film material shall be produced to show the research project´s process steps, which will be provided for junior scientists and established scientists.


Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover
Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research
Werftstr. 6
25761 Büsum
Tel.:+49 511 856-8172
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