The Tibetan Plateau is studied by several Senckenberg scientists.

Biodiversity and earth system dynamics

One hundred years ago, Alfred Wegener gave his lecture on continental drift and the formation of the continents at the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt. The dynamics of the ‘System Earth’ have remained a focal point of research at Senckenberg to this day. What role did the planet’s geodynamic processes play in bringing about life? Finding answers to this question represents the basic aim of geoscientific research at Senckenberg.

Since Wegener broached his pioneering ideas, the geosciences have played a decisive role in research on the formation of planets and the development of living beings. They also make important contributions when it comes to natural hazard risk assessment, the evaluation of fossil and mineral resources and describing the history of our climate. Today, geoscientific research involves not only the Earth’s crust, its mantle and its core, but especially their extensive interactions with the atmosphere, the biosphere and the hydrosphere. The scientists take a variety of time scales into consideration, ranging from that covering the entire formation and development of our planet to the period in which humans have evolved.

The Earth: A dynamic System

Senckenberg aims to describe the dynamics of the total ‘System Earth’ with the aim of meeting the demands being made by increasingly interdisciplinary approaches to science. To this end, we have concentrated our research on three core topics:

  • The interactions between the Earth’s surface and the biosphere
  • The way the Earth has developed and early environmental conditions
  • The way the human race has developed in the course of major climatic fluctuations of the past few million years

Multifaceted: The Research Museum

One of the strengths of a modern research museum such as Senckenberg is its capacity to combine a variety of methods: The researchers use innovative analytical approaches such as isotopic geochemistry for dating or 3D computer tomography for high-resolution morphological analysis of fossils. At the same time they make use of and maintain geoscientific collections and research stations such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Messel with its unique stock of fossils. For instance, Senckenberg scientists were able to show that anomalously high water temperatures in the Pacific (the ‘El Niño’ effect) that prevailed 47 million years ago had an influence on the climate and the development of Central European ecosystems.

Mulch AG Bilder
Prof. Dr. Andreas Mulch

Research interests

My primary research interest is the interplay between the processes that shape the Earth’s surface and their geodynamic counterparts at depth, in particular interactions between climate, landscape evolution, and mountain building. The terrestrial biosphere plays an important role in various aspects of this research including controls on the global carbon cycle, atmospheric moisture transport, and weathering and erosion. My current research involves the use of isotopes as tracers of (bio-)geochemical processes from the ecosystem to the orogen scale with a particular focus on the Cenozoic evolution of coupled climatic and tectonic processes. Projects currently underway include stable isotope paleoaltimetry and reconstruction of Cenozoic terrestrial paleoclimate in western North America, the Andes, the Alps, and the Anatolian Plateau including the Eastern Mediterranean region.

Current Projects

Neogene to Quaternary tectono-geomorphic Evolution and paleo-hydrology of the South Central Andes, NW Argentina, DFG (2012-2014)

How is rifting exhuming the youngest high-pressure and ultrahigh-pressure rocks on earth? U.S. NSF Continental Dynamics (coord. S. Baldwin, Syracuse)

Central Anatolian Tectonics (CD-CAT) U.S. NSF Continental Dynamics (2012-2017, coord. D. Whitney, Minnesota)

Stanford University – Senckenberg Program on Biodiversity, Climate and Earth System Dynamics

Stable isotope paleoaltimetry and paleoclimate reconstructions of Late Cenozoic surface uplift of the Anatolian Plateau ESF-DFG TopoEurope (2009-2013)

Stable isotope paleoaltimetry and surface uplift of the Neogene Alps ESF-DFG TopoEurope (2009-2012)

Recovering surface uplift histories and climate dynamics of the Cenozoic North American Cordillera through integrated climate modeling, sedimentology, stable isotopic and cooling age studies (PI Chamberlain, Stanford)  (2010-2013)


Professional Activities
2009 Associate Editor American Journal of Science
2009 Beirat der Geologischen Vereinigung 

Honors and Awards

2013 Cox Visiting Professor, Stanford University

Short CV

Since 2015  Director, Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt
Since 05/2014 Cox Visiting Professor, Stanford University
Since 2013 Vice-Director General, Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museums
Since 2012 Member of Board of Directors, Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museums
Since 2010 Vice-Director, Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F)
Since 2010 Full Professor, Goethe University Frankfurt/Main, Institute of Geoscience
2007 – 2010 Director & Associate Professor, Leibniz University Hannover, Institute of Geology 
2004 – 2006 Research Associate, Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University, USA
2004 – 2005 Post doctoral Research Associate, Geology and Geophysics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis and Stanford University, USA
2004 Doctorate in Geochemistry (Dr. ès sciences) Université de Lausanne, Switzerland
1999 Diploma in Geology (Dipl. Geol.) University of Giessen, Germany