Thesis/RPC opportunity on herbicide toxicity to diatoms

Our group “Quantitative Landscape Ecology” offers a thesis or research project course (RPC) to determine the response of diatoms to herbicides using toxicity tests.

Diatoms come in different shapes (source: Wikipedia)

Herbicides represent the group of pesticides that is most frequently found in freshwater ecosystems. Potential adverse effects on primary producers such as diatoms have received considerably less attention than insecticides. In this study, the aim is to conduct toxicity tests with field-collected diatoms to assess their relative sensitivity. The study should follow a similar approach as Wood et al. (2014). Generally, sensitivity data are very rare and related international data would be available from a cooperation partner (Assoc.-Prof. Ben Kefford, University of Canberra) for a first global comparative sensitivity assessment.

Requirements: Laboratory experience and basic knowledge on study design; ideally, basic knowledge on diatom identification or willingness to acquire through collaboration with a different scientific institution

Supervision: Ralf Schäfer and Andreas Scharmüller

Difficulty: Low to medium; requires independent field and laboratory work

If you are interested, please contact Ralf Schäfer (

Wood R.J., Mitrovic S.M. & Kefford B.J. (2014) Determining the relative sensitivity of benthic diatoms to atrazine using rapid toxicity testing: A novel method. Science of The Total Environment 485486, 421–427.