Lake and Glacier Ecology Research Group

Our main research focus is on the ecology of (sub-) alpine lakes and glaciers within the context of global change. This focus is well integrated within the Interdisciplinary Research Center Ecology of the Alpine Region at the University of Innsbruck.

Our group consists of experts in biogeochemistry, microbial and zooplankton ecology, paleolimnology, and photobiology. We work mainly in the Alps, but also in other mountain regions such as the Himalayas, Andes, as well as in Polar regions. The remoteness of those ecosystems makes them prime study objects to address topics related to the impact of climate change and atmospheric deposition.

Our approach is multidisciplinary and includes field and laboratory studies ranging from individual molecules to molecular characterization of diverse communities of organisms considering physical and chemical aspects, as well as catchment characteristics.

Bildleiste Limnologie 2

Group Members          

    • Ruben Sommaruga Dr.,  Full Professor (Head), Expertise: Plankton Ecology, Photobiology, Biogeochemistry
    • Roland Psenner, Dr. Full Professor (Emeritus) 
    • Barbara Tartarotti-Alfreider Dr. Priv.-Doz., Research Assistant, Expertise: Zooplankton Ecology, Photobiology
    • Birgit Sattler Dr. Priv.-Doz., Research Associate, Expertise:  Glacier Microbial Ecology
    • Albin Alfreider Dr., Research Assistant, Expertise: Lake Microbial Ecology
    • Chris Bellas, Dr., Post-doc Associate, Expertise: Viral ecology 
    • Ibor Sabás Saludas Dr., Post-doc Associate, Expertise: Physical Limnology, Food-web ecology
    • Boris P. Ilyashuk Dr., Post-doc Associate, Expertise: Neo- & Palaeolimnology
    • Monika Summerer Dr., Project Assistant
    • Klemens Weisleitner Ph.D., Project Assistant
    • Marie-Sophie Plakolb BSc (Student Assistant)
    • Eric Weninger BSc (Student Assistant)
    • Schwenter Patrick BSc (Student Assistant)
    • Gry Larsen Mag. (Technician), Supervision area: Water chemistry lab (DOC, CHN, safety)
    • Salvador Morales-Gómez MSc (Technician), Supervision area: Field instrumentation, Microscopy and Flow cytometry
Our research in covers
Aquatic Ecology FB JPlR Nature Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences planktonecology032011_klein
Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences 3
Current and Recent Projects


Phenotypic and transcriptional plasticity in alpine copepods (Austrian Science Fund, FWF P 35886, PI: B. Tartarotti).


Social and ecological effects of Fish removal in Mountain Ecosystems (FishME), (Austrian Science Fund, FWF I- 5824 , ERA; BioDivERsA / JPI Water - BioDivRestore; BioDivERsA. PI: R. Sommaruga.


Polinton-like virus diversity in aquatic ecosystems (Austrian Science Fund, FWF P34620, PI: C. Bellas, Co-PI: R. Sommaruga)


Chironomid-based thermometry of Marine Isotope Stage 3 in the Northern Limestone Alps (SE Germany) (Austrian Science Fund, FWF P33786, PI: B. Ilyashuk)


Snowledge. Qualifizierungsnetz Schnee (FFG-Austrian Research Promotion Agency, Co-PI: B. Sattler)


BLACK.ICE - Die Gletscher werden grüner: Glaziales mikrobielles Leben als Beschleuniger der
Gletscherschmelze durch Bioalbedo (OeAD GmbH, Sparkling Science, PI: B. Sattler)


Man-made mountain reservoirs – New habitats for planktonic organisms? (D. Swarovski Foundation; PI B. Tartarotti) 


VIRALP - Virus-host relationships in an alpine lake (Austrian Science Fund, Meitner Programme, PI: C. Bellas, Co-PI: R. Sommaruga)


Ice and Life in Alpine and Polar Regions (TAWANI-Foundation, PI: B. Sattler)


Palaeothermometry of the Middle Würmian (MIS 3) in the Eastern Alps (Austrian Science Fund, FWF P28469, PI: E. Ilyashuk)


MicroArctic - Microorganisms in Warming Arctic Environments (EU-Horizon 2020, Marie Curie Actions – Innovative Training Networks ITN, PI: B. Sattler)


Palaeothermometry of the Middle Würmian (MIS 3) in the Eastern Alps (Austrian Science Fund, PI: E. Ilyashuk)


From myth to reason – Population structure and spawning areas of tropical eels (Anguilla marmorata, A. megastoma, A. obscura) in the western South Pacific (Austrian Science Fund, PI: R. Schabetsberger, Universität Salzburg, Co-PI: R. Sommaruga)


Fischökologische Untersuchung im oligotrophen hochalpinen Gossenköllesee - Genotypisierung, Populationscharakterisierung und Nahrungsspektrum der Bachforelle (TIWAG, PI: R. Sommaruga)


COVER.UP – Abdeckung von Gletschern mit Industrievlies zur Reduktion der Schmelze: Wirtschaftlicher Segen oder ökologischer Fluch? Eine gesellschaftspolitisch-wissenschaftliche Symbiose.  (BM.W_F, Sparkling Science, PI: B. Sattler)


BIO.CRYO - Biological Processes in the Cryosphere (TAWANI-Foundation, PI: B. Sattler)


Chemolithoautotrophic carbon dioxide fixation in lakes (Austrian Science Fund, FWF P25703, PI: A. Alfreider)


UV stress in alpine lakes: hsp gene expression in copepods (Austrian Science Fund, FWF V233 Elise-Richter Program). PI: Barbara Tartarotti.


Back to the origin: Consequences of glacier retreat for the structure and function of alpine lakes (BACK-ALP). Austrian Science Fund, FWF P24442, PI: R.Sommaruga.


Role of different bacterial groups in the biogeochemical cycle of phosphorus in mountain lakes. (Austrian Science Fund, FWF P24098). PI: Maria T. Pérez, R. Sommaruga.


Climate-driven shifts in permafrost melting and ecotoxicological consequences during the Holocene: chironomid-based reconstructions from periglacial environments in the Eastern Alps. Austrian Science Fund (FWF M1337), Abstract, PI: Boris Ilyashuk.     Abstract


NICKEL CONTROL: Natural or anthropogenic CONTROL of NICKEL increase in alpine headwaters, Autonomous Province Bozen, Support for high schools, universities and resarch, Abstract, PI: Karin Koinig.       Abstract


Lake Lander: Impact of glacial melt on past and present lakes. NASA-ASTEP. N. Cabrol (USA, PI), R. Sommaruga (Co-PI)


2010-2014: INTIMATE (COST Action ES0907): INTegrating Ice core, MArine, and TErrestrial records, Management Commitee: Karin Koinig, Christoph Spötl.


MELTING: Impact of MELTING permafrost and rock glaciers on water quality and aquatic organisms in alpine lakes, Austrian Academy of Sciences - Alpine programme, Abstract, PI: Karin Koinig.        Abstract


Climate-driven alterations in biodiversity and functioning of high alpine lakes in the Tyrolean Alps over the past millennium. Austrian Academy of Sciences – Global Change Programme, Abstract, PI: Elena Ilyashuk.


Ultraviolet radiation effects on planktonic freshwater ciliates: an assessment of photoprotection and repair strategies” (Austrian Science Fund, FWF P21013-B03). PI: Sonntag Bettina. 


NSINK: Sources, sinks and impacts of atmospheric nitrogen deposition in the Arctic, WP5: Aquatic Ecosystems and Palaeolimnology (Abstract), FP7-People ITN-2007.1.1, ENV.215503, PIs: Karin Koinig, Birgit Sattler, Roland Psenner.    NSINK     Summary


Cascading effects of climate change and UV radiation on the nutritional quality of the food base in marine ecosystems. Norwegian Research Council, Proj. Nr. 178731/S40. Cooperation project with H. I. Browman (Norway, PI), M.T. Arts (Canada, PI) and P. Kuhn (Co-PI).


Holocene Climatic and Limnological Changes: Chironomid-Based Reconstruction from a Remote High Alpine Lake (Tyrol, Austria). Austrian Science Fund (FWF M 964-N10), PI: Elena Ilyashuk. Summary


Load and viability of bacteria associated to airborne particles and effect of ultraviolet radiation on their composition. Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture (bm:bwk, ÖAD), Proj. Nr. 16/2007. PI: R Sommaruga


Community structure and function of heterotrophic bacteria in alpine lakes: atmosphere and catchments linkages (Austrian Science Foundation, FWF P19245-B03, R. Sommaruga PI).


Diversity of microbial communities in remote alpine lakes of the Alps and Himalaya. Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture (bm:bwk, ÖAD), Proj. Nr. 16/2006. Pi: R. Sommaruga


Holocene Climate Change Reflected in a Remote High Alpine Lake, A Multiproxy Investigation of the Sediment Record, (FWF R 29N10; 2003, continued 2005 – 2010), PI: Karin Koinig.


Autotrophic bacteria in groundwater systems (Austrian Science Fund, FWF P17649, PI: A. Alfreider)


Characterization of the underwater UV climate in lakes from the Mt. Everest Region and assessment of DNA damage levels and counteractive mechanisms (photorepair and photoprotection) in planktonic organisms (K2-Ev-CNR Committee, Italy and Svarowsky Foundation-Univ. of Innsbruck). PI: Ruben Sommaruga


Testing alternative benefits in symbiosis of pelagic Chlorella-bearing freshwater ciliates: an ecological and molecular approach (Austrian Science Foundation, FWF 16559-B06). PI: R. Sommaruga


Climate warming impact on alpine’s lake bacterioplankton community structure and specific activity (Austrian Science Foundation, FWF M788 B06). PI: Maria T. Pérez,  CoPI: R. Sommaruga

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