The impact of human activities on planetary systems is accelerating at an unprecedented rate. Natural and anthropogenic contaminants can drive systems outside safe operating spaces with far-reaching impacts on biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human health.

Our mission is to investigate the environmental fate and effects of organic and inorganic contaminants and processes at mineral interfaces. We train the next generation of leaders and societal actors.

Our vision is to inform solutions for the pressing environmental problems of today and tomorrow that sustain communities while stewarding the environment.

Specific research topics

  • Occurrence and Remediation of PFAS (PFASAN)

    Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of manufactured chemicals that have garnered significant attention due to their widespread presence in the environment and associated health risks. PFAS, often referred to as "forever chemicals," are known for their exceptional [...]

  • Role of mineral surface adsorption in the long-term preservation of ancient DNA

    Recent environmental, anthropological and ecological research has demonstrated that ancient DNA (aDNA) can be preserved in sediments over long timescales of up to a million years. Its extraction and analysis has revolutionized our understanding of topics such as the composition of ancient microbiomes, the [...]

  • Biogeochemical Mechanisms Influencing the Bioavailability of P and Fe from Vivianite

    The iron phosphate vivianite (Fe3(PO4)2∙ 8H2O) occurs worldwide in many reducing environments as e.g. lakes, rivers, swamps, waterlogged soil and sewage sludge and it exists in terrestrial as well as in marine systems. Despite of its widespread occurrence, the importance [...]

  • Mineral surfaces: Origin and archive of biological Information

    New findings in the fields of microbiome research and anthropology have demonstrated that DNA fragments (so called ‘ancient DNA’ or ‘aDNA’) can survive over many millennia outside living organisms. At the same time, scientists have often speculated that the prebiotic synthesis of [...]

  • Microbiomes Drive Planetary Health (Cluster of Excellence - CoE)

    If all microbial life disappeared from Earth, our world would change dramatically. Microorganisms are essential for nutrient recycling, decomposing organic matter and maintaining the balance of all ecosystems. They have symbiotic relationships with plants and animals, play a crucial role [...]

  • Biodegradable Plastics in Compost (with BASF)

    The University of Vienna and BASF have started a research collaboration to better understand the behavior of biodegradable plastics in compost. This innovative partnership at the Department of Environmental Geosciences, led by Prof. Thilo Hofmann, builds on previous work and [...]

  • Standardization of Methods for the Behavior and Fate of Nanomaterials in Environmental Media – Solubility and Dissolution Rate (UFO Plan)

    The safety testing of chemicals and their risk assessment require standardized and validated methods. For nanomaterials there is a critical lack of suitable test methods that take into account the special properties of those materials. In this project we develop, [...]

  • OECD Test Guideline Development for Nanomaterials: Transformation of Nanomaterials under Environmental Conditions (ReFoPlan)

    Apart from dissolution nanomaterials undergo chemical transformation and agglomeration in environmental aquatic media. These processes change exposure, their toxicological profile and transport behavior. In this project we develop, validate and implement methodologies to determine the abiotic transformation of nanomaterials and [...]

  • TwinSubDyn

    Organic soil amendments such as compost or biochar can change the dynamics of nutrients and pollutants in the soil: Researchers from EDGE partnered up in an international research project that investigates the effects of these soil amendments and networks expertise [...]

  • From Road to Plate (TireTox)

    Tire wear particles form via mechanical and thermal abrasion of tires while driving, and collect on road surfaces. During rain events they are washed off with stormwater, which in many areas, is collected and treated in wastewater treatment plants. Tires [...]

  • Biodegradation of water-soluble polymers in engineered and natural aquatic environments

    Water-soluble polymers (WSPs) are used in numerous applications, including home and personal care products. After their use, WSPs are often released into wastewater systems. Many aspects related to the fate of WSPs in wastewater systems and downstream environments remain to [...]

  • Exploring extracellular enzymes from wastewater microbial communities to mitigate environmental pollution

    The input of anthropogenic chemicals into environmental systems is a major concern. For example, the presence of antibiotics in wastewater and wastewater-receiving environments contributes to the propagation of antibiotic resistance and impairs services provided by environmental microbiomes. One approach to [...]

  • Biotransformation of biopesticides in agricultural soils

    Biopesticides are promising alternatives to synthetic pesticides – among other reasons also because they are expected to be biodegraded and thus of limited persistence in soils and other receiving environments. However, the current knowledge on the biodegradation and biotransformation of [...]

  • The Challenge of Urban Futures (Research Platform)

    Given the wide gamut of issues cities are facing, the Research Platform "Urban Futures" focuses on five thematic areas: Society and Culture, Economy and Redistribution, Environment and Sustainability, Technology and Surveillance, and Urban Government and Governance. More in detail, the research [...]

  • Mobilization of chromium by organic matter in reduced systems (CHROMA)

    Long-term pollution mitigation requires a better understanding of the biogeochemical processes that regulate the behavior and fate of trace metals, such as chromium (Cr), in subsurface environments. The emerging role of organic ligands, including siderophores and organic acids, in the [...]

  • Plastics in the Environment and Society (PLENTY)

    The versatile applicability of plastics in our daily life lead to an increasing demand and production of plastics in the past decades and plastics pollution consequently became a topic of increasing concern. Due to their versatility and durability, plastics are [...]

  • Numerical optimization of bank filtration site management

    The project investigates numerical approaches to bring forth best-management strategies crucial for drinking water production from bank filtration. Depicting the ties between spatially heterogeneous hydrological processes, particularly at the river-aquifer interface, and flow and transport in a heterogeneous aquifer constitute [...]