SOMMARUGA Ruben Dr., Univ.-Prof.

Current research group and research foci

Research foci:

Our research lies at the interface between plankton ecology, biogeochemistry and photobiology, and uses a combination of field and lab studies, as well as approaches ranging from the community to the single-cell level. Studies on the ecology of UV sunscreen compounds known as mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) have played a central role since our discovery in alpine organisms in 1995. Further, we study other strategies that different aquatic taxa have evolved to obtain tolerance against the damaging effects of solar UV radiation and also under which environmental conditions they work efficiently.

Because the dissolved organic matter (DOM) pool is involved in many lake processes including the control of UV penetration, we are also interested to understand how changes in DOM sources affect bacterial community composition and activity, particularly under climate change.

Since 2012, we started to study what are the consequences of glacier's retreat for lakes. These studies give us the possibility to look at lake early ontogeny in one of the most common type of lacustrine ecosystems around the world, namely, those glacial ones. Further, they allow us to understand what changes in community composition and biodiversity occur when turbid meltwater lakes turn clear. Finally, we are also interested in understanding the 'legacy of the past' or the effect of nutrients and contaminants transported by glacial meltwaters.

These research lines are backed by basic research on (micro)plankton ecology and biogeochemistry. Our research emphasis during the last years has been on mountain lakes using the elevational gradient as an experimental tool. At present, we have a major research focus on glacier-fed lakes in different parts of the world (Alps, Andes, Himalaya, Greenland).


The present research group is composed of the following persons:

  • Dr. Christopher Bellas ((Post-doc Associate). Major research interest: Viral ecology, bioinformatics.
  • Dr. Barbara Tartarotti (Post-doc Associate). Major research interest: Ecology of zooplankton, MAAs, molecular adaptation mechanisms.
  • Dr. Monika Summerer (Senior Scientist). Major research interest: Microplankton, combination of flow cytometry and molecular methods to assess ecological processes.
  • Pablo Aguilar (Ph.D. candidate) Major research interest: Diversity and and bacterial community structure patterns in high altitude lakes and extreme habitats.

  • Daniel Eisendle (Master Student): Population dynamics and trophic links of an alpine fish population
  • Myriam Zocchi (Master student): Distribution in the environment of microplastic and combined ecological effects with pesticides
  • Paul Benjamin (Master Student): Effect of glacial meltwaters on nutrient dynamics and its effect on bacterial production
  • Salvador Gómez (Technician): Microscopy and flow cytometr


Previous members of our lab:

Dr. Marisol Felip (Associate Professor, University of Barcelona, Spain)

Dr. Isabelle laurion (Professor at the INRS, Canada)

Dr. Daniel Conde (Associate Professor, Dept. of Limnology, University of Uruguay)

MSc. Julia Hofer

MSc. Gunther Augustin (Manager)

MSc. Heidi Obwaller (Ministry of Defence)

MSc. Alex Oberleiter (ITS environmental Impact Consultants)

Dr. Gao Wang (Nanjing Academy of Sciences, Inst. of Limnology)

Dr. Ulrike Obertegger (Research and Innovation Centre - Fondazione Edmund Mach, Italy)

Dr. Monika Summerer (Innsbruck Medicine University, Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology)

MSc. Hannes Peter (Ph.D student by Dr. Lars Tranvik, Sweden).

MSc. Karin Nagiller

MSc. Michela Orfeo

Dr. Paul Hörtnagl (Central Institute for Blood Transfusion and Immunology, University Hospital Innsbruck, Innsbruck)

MSc. Tobias Schneider (Ph.D student by Dr. Milla Rautio, Canada)

MSc. Evelynn Holzer (Fish Association from Tyrol)

MSc. Kathrin Schwab (AlpS)

MSc. Dominik Kornthaler (Biodivercity)

Dr. Bettina Sonntag (Postdoc Institute of Limnology, Academy of Sciences, Mondsee).

Dr. Hannes Peter (Postdoc at Lausanne University, CH).

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