Research

The research at Bioscience spans over all biological levels from genes, physiological processes, individuals, populations and species to entire ecosystems. We work with evolutionary processes, which are the foundation of all life and explore the mechanisms, which explain the correlation between living organisms and the environment. The research activities seek the interface between disciplines such as Zoophysiology, Bioinformatics and Geomicrobiology. Research at the Department of Bioscience includes basic research, applied research and strategic research.

Core Areas of Research Strength

        

Aquatic Biology and Ecology

Approximately 71 per cent of Earth's surface is covered by water, and water is crucialfor all life on Earth.

But global climate changes put the water resources, water environment and aquatic organisms under increasing pressure. The Department of Bioscience explores organisms, processes, structures and transport routes in all aquatic environments. We are working to understand the biological interactions, and how they are affected by physical, chemical and climatic influences.

Based on solid research efforts, we advise decision makers on necessary initiatives towards sustainable management of our marine environment and freshwater areas. We work in all climate zones - from the Arctic areas to the tropics - and are at the forefront of the global discussion concerning the state and development of the planet.

The following sections do research in Aquatic Biology and Ecology:

Arctic Environment and Ecosystems

Global warming affects the Arctic particularly strongly. Compared to the rest of the planet, the temperature rises in the Arctic twice as fast, and it is estimated that the Arctic is 10 degrees warmer before the turn of the century than today. It affects all Arctic ecosystems and people's living conditions dramatically.
 
The Department of Bioscience explores how climate change affects the processes on land, in the water and ice and in the air. We also explore how xenobiotics affect wildlife and the lives of the Arctic people. We bring our knowledge further through education and by advising the Self-Government of Greenland on how the environment can be managed in the best possible way.

The following sections do research in Arctic Environment and Ecosystems:

Biodiversity and Conservation Biology

Biodiversity covers all variation of life on Earth from the individual organism to complex ecosystems. At the Department of Bioscience, we study the factors that affect the biodiversity. What significance does the physical environment and the natural dynamics of ecosystems have? How are the species on the planet distributed, and how has the development been in a historical perspective? Our increasing need for natural resources and food have put nature under pressure; what does it entail for the biodiversity? We also place great emphasis on understanding the interaction between animals, plants, fungi, microorganisms and their function in ecosystems.

The research forms the basis for teaching in nature and biodiversity, and based on a solid understanding of nature, we advise on how biodiversity can be protected and managed in society.

The following sections do research in Biodiversity:

Genetics and Evolution

All organisms, bacteria, plants and animals have a genome. The genome consists of DNA molecules that carry the genetic information. The genome determines how organisms are constructed, how they function, and how they interact with the surrounding environment. The Department of Bioscience explores, among other things, the structure of genetic material, its function and the evolutionary changes that occur from generation to generation as a result of chance or natural selection. The research of the Department has a particular focus on understanding how bacteria, plants and animals adapt to natural and human-induced environmental changes, and the evolutionary interaction between microorganisms, plants and animals.

The following sections do research in Genetics and Evolution:

Microbiology

We often associate microorganisms with disease and misery, but this is only a very small part of the truth about microorganisms. Microorganisms have played a key role in the development of life and are essential for the Earth's ecosystems and the nutrient cycle. Thanks to their phenomenal adaptability they can live in even the most extreme environments such as boiling springs on the bottom of the sea, high-radioactive areas of nuclear power plants as well as several kilometres below the Earth's surface where food is extremely limited. Microorganisms are used in diverse technological applications from wastewater treatment to the production of food and medicines.
The microbiological courses provide insight into the fascinating life of microorganisms and into their fundamental importance in nature, in our everyday life and in our own body.

The following sections do research in microbiology:

Zoophysiology

Zoophysiology is about how animals function and how they handle changes in the environment around them/in the surrounding environment by regulating their bodily functions. Physiological studies are crucial in order to understand how animals have adapted to their particular environments; why they look and behave the way they do and how they cope with climate change.

Zoophysiologists often study the adaptation of selected animals to extreme environments to expose the limits of the body's plasticity and function. Among other things, we examine how insects handle large seasonal variations in temperature, how turtles can hold their breath for five months, how snakes after having fasted for half a year can eat a meal that is equivalent to half of their body weight, how bears can stand up after being in hibernation for four months and how whales find food 2 kilometres down in a deep dark ocean. Such studies provide important new information about how animals function and evolve in a changing world and often create a new and exciting foundation for medical discoveries in the treatment of a variety of diseases in humans.

The following sections do research in zoophysiology: