Science & Society

Museums, public relations, citizen engagement, scientific counselling, and knowledge & technology transfer


Senckenberg was founded in 1817 by dedicated citizens of Frankfurt. These roots can still be found in the association’s structure today: Currently, almost 7,000 members consider themselves part of Senckenberg. The deep roots in civil society are also expressed by the fact that the communication of the research results has been at the center of Senckenberg’s activities from the beginning.

The Anthropocene environmental challenges, in particular biodiversity loss, climate change, exploitation of natural resources, pollution and the spread of exotic species are threatening nature and human well-being. For the protection and sustainable use of nature, we need sound scientific knowledge, acknowledging a systemic understanding of nature, for societal and political decision-making. At the same time, we need to bridge science and society. Senckenberg’s Science & Society Program is this link between research and the interests and knowledge needs of different societal actors. We strive for dialogue and bi-directional interaction between science and society. We make our research tangible and comprehensible to non-experts, and we identify societal knowledge demands, integrating them, if possible, in our geobiodiversity framework. Our mission is inspired by the principles and methodology of transdisciplinary research; i.e. it is problem-oriented, integrative and participatory. In exchange with society, we act as “honest brokers”, providing evidence-based options for action and, in cases where scientific evidence makes this possible and necessary, recommendations. The Senckenberg Science & Society Program builds on our geobiodiversity framework and fulfils the agenda of the Leibniz Research Museums to become powerful agents of societal transformations and the development of a democratic knowledge society.

Since 2017, Senckenberg has fundamentally restructured, developed and expanded its Science & Society Program and increased external funding and donations to more than 1.5 M /year. While the mission, principles and approach of the Science & Society Program are shared across Senckenberg, the specific instruments and activities are classified into five units according to formats and societal actors, i.e. museums, citizen engagement, public relations, scientific counselling and knowledge and technology transfer.

Museums

With our exhibitions, we address both experts and the civic society, offering platforms of wonder, learning and dispute. The three Senckenberg museums in Frankfurt, Dresden and Görlitz have a total permanent exhibition space of approx. 6,800 m² and welcome around 450,000 visitors per year. We present our research results within our geobiodiversity framework in a tangible and comprehensive way, addressing all educational levels and age groups, promoting knowledge transfer and public understanding of science and research. Our museums are regionally, nationally, and internationally renowned places of science communication, education and lifelong learning, including cross-generational knowledge exchange. We offer guided educational programs for a broad range of visitors, reaching up to 75,000 persons/year. In addition, our museums are platforms for dialogue and interaction with society, with the aim to support societal and political transformations for the benefit of nature and people.

In Frankfurt, we currently strive for a substantial renovation, modernization and expansion of the permanent exhibitions, the “New Natural History Museum Frankfurt Project”. In the new exhibits on “Deep Sea, Marine Research and Coral Reefs” we take the first steps towards implementing this “New Natural History Museum“. These new exhibits present Senckenberg’s marine biodiversity research and that of our national and international partners, providing insight into Senckenberg’s systemic approach to nature, covering the biosciences, geosciences and social-ecological research. An ensemble of three new show rooms offers an innovative scenography, allowing for an immersive, emotional experience, addressing our visitors with multiple senses. The exhibition will act as a hub for scientific interactions with society and spark discussion and sensibility for the role of the oceans in the Earth system and for the benefit of people.

On September 3rd two new rooms were opened in the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt: Deep Sea and Marine Research. The opening took place via livestream and can be watched here.

Citizen Engagement

We strongly support civic engagement and citizen science, promoting collaboration between scientists and interested citizens spanning research, collections and knowledge transfer. Senckenberg was founded in 1817 as a civic society. This firm foundation of Senckenberg in society is still represented in our governance structure where the Senckenberg members play an important role. Senckenberg has nearly 7,000 civic members, among them 330 schools and almost 250 daycare centers. Senckenberg members support Senckenberg both financially as well as through their involvement and their networks. We host more than 20 citizen science projects and collaborate with 1,750 registered citizen scientists and 170 volunteers. For many taxonomic projects and collections, expert citizen scientists and volunteers are indispensable; vice versa many of our researchers are very actively engaged in civic societies.

Public Relations

In our public relations work, we address the general public; we aim at telling compelling stories and engage in dialogue, stimulating interest in and understanding of nature. We share knowledge on nature and our scientific research with society, including methods and uncertainties. We engage in dialogue between scientists and citizens, utilizing a large variety of targeted communication instruments, ranging from social media, pro-active press work and short movies to publishing popular science books and about a hundred popular science articles per year, a popular science magazine “Natur-Forschung-Museum” (“Nature-Research-Museum”), running popular science lecture series and initiating public debates. The success of our public relation strategy is reflected in almost 29,000 citations per year in the media and more than 30,000 followers in various social media formats.

Scientific Counselling

We actively engage in scientific counselling, promoting systemic solutions on the protection and sustainable use of nature, addressing politics, administration, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and civic society at the international and national level. Senckenberg is actively involved in offering policy advice at the international and national level. At the international level, building on our research on species and ecosystems, we contribute to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); we also host the IPBES Technical Support Unit on Data. Our researchers are active in a broad range of specialist groups from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN . Senckenberg coordinates the “Forschungsinitiative zum Erhalt der Artenvielfalt” of the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) and leads a Statement of the National Academies on “Declines of species diversity in agricultural landscapes, what do we know and what can we do?”. In general, our scientists are active members in academies and relevant strategic, advisory committees, e.g. the Leopoldina, German National Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Sciences and Literature, Mainz, the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)Senatskommission für Grundsatzfragen der Biologischen Vielfalt, or the DFG Senatskommission für Erdsystemforschung. We are pro-actively engaged as advisers of the Bundestag and several Landtag commissions and contribute to public debates, round tables and parliamentary events. Senckenberg also offers the “Fridays for Future” movement a platform for exchange and outreach.

Knowledge and Technology Transfer

The Science & Society Program uses various instruments to encourage and support the development of application-oriented research and applications. Senckenberg has established an externally funded “Knowledge and Technology Transfer Office” (Knowledge and Technology Transfer Office, KTTO) that offers market analysis, supports inventions and patenting, and guides start-ups and R&D cooperation with companies. One promising outcome of these activities is the spin-off “Phytoprove” that will allow to quantify plant deficits on nutrients and water and aims for targeted fertilization measures. Phytoprove not only won the Leibniz Start-up Award 2020 honoring start-ups that demonstrate outstanding achievements in developing innovative, viable business ideas, it also became runner-up in the German Science4Life Venture Cup business plan competition for life sciences in 2019.

We have also submitted a patent on a new mushroom-derived agent as a promising novel biopesticide and immunotoxin (in cooperation with Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zurich). Very successful are also our activities transferring mechanical principles of organisms into applications (bionics). Supported by external funding (BMBF), we are currently expanding and professionalizing the structures and support of scientists in KTT.

Speaker

Katrin Böhning-Gaese
Prof. Dr. Katrin Böhning-Gaese
Director of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre

RESEARCH INTERESTS: Macroecology, community ecology and Social-Ecological Systems

  • Influence of global change on animal communities in the tropics and in the temperate region
  • Relationships between animal communities, ecosystem functions and ecosystem services
  • Relationships between biodiversity and human well-being in Social-Ecological Systems

TEACHING: Courses at Goethe University Frankfurt in the MSc Ecology and Evolution and in the BSc Biology

MSc Ecology and Evolution and MSc Environmental Sciences: module “Community ecology, Makroökologie und Naturschutz”

  • Content: The module includes an introductory lecture, seminars on current scientific publications, and computer and field practicals. It gives an overview about theory, statistical methods and applications of community ecology and macroecology, as well as consequences for regional and global conservation prioritisation. The module includes an ornithological fieldwork practical outside Frankfurt (duration 1 week). 
  • Contact: Susanne Fritz, Phone: +49 (0)69 7542 1803 E-Mail: susanne.fritz@senckenberg.de

BSc Biology: specialisation module “Ökologie der Tiere” (animal ecology) – part “Makroökologie – Einfluss des Klimawandels auf Artverbreitungen” (macroecology – influence of climate change on species distributions)

  • Content: In our part of the module we investigate the potential effects of climate change on the distributions of different European bird species. We use species distribution models to project potential distributions of birds in dependency of climate scenarios for the end of the 21st century.
  • Contact: Thomas Müller, Phone: +49 (0)69 7542 1889 E-Mail: thomas.mueller@senckenberg.de

Curriculum Vitae

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

For a full list of publications, please see my profile on Google Scholar

Schleuning, M., E.-L. Neuschulz, J. Albrecht, I. M. A. Bender, D. E. Bowler, D. M. Dehling, S. A. Fritz, C. Hof, T. Müller, L. Nowak, M. C. Sorensen, K. Böhning-Gaese , and W. D. Kissling (2020): Trait-based assessments of climate-change impacts on interacting species. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 35: 319-328

Bowler, D. E., H. Heldbjerg, A. D. de Jong, and K. Böhning-Gaese (2019): Long-term declines of European insectivorous bird populations and potential causes. Conservation Biology 33: 1120-1130.

Peters, M. K., A. Andreas Hemp, T. Appelhans, J. N. Becker, C. Behler, A. Classen, F. Detsch, A. Ensslin, S. W. Ferger, S. B. Frederiksen, F. Gebert, F. Gerschlauer, A. Gütlein, M. Helbig-Bonitz, C. Hemp, W. J. Kindeketa, A. Kühnel, A. V. Mayr, E. Mwangomo, C. Ngereza, H. K. Njovu1, I. Otte, H. Pabst, M. Renner, J. Röder, G. Rutten, D. Schellenberger Costa, Natalia Sierra-Cornejo, M. G. R. Vollstädt, H. I. Dulle, C. D. Eardley, K. M. Howell, A. Keller, R. S. Peters, A. Ssymank, V. Kakengi, J. Zhang, C. Bogner, K. Böhning-Gaese, R. Brandl, D. Hertel, B. Huwe, R. Kiese, M. Kleyer, Y. Kuzyakov, T. Nauss, M. Schleuning, M. Tschapka, M. Fischer, and I. Steffan-Dewenter (2019): Climate-land use interactions shape tropical mountain biodiversity and ecosystem functions. Nature 568: 88-92

Hof, C., A. Voskamp, M. F. Biber, K. Böhning-Gaese, E. K. Engelhardt, A. Niamir, S. G. Willis, and T. Hickler (2018): Bioenergy cropland expansion may offset positive effects of climate change mitigation for global vertebrate diversity. PNAS 115: 13294-13299.

Albrecht, J., A. Classen, M. G. R. Vollstädt, A. Mayr, N. P. Mollel, D. Schellenberger Costa, H. I. Dulle, M. Fischer, A. Hemp, K. M. Howell, M. Kleyer, T. Nauss, M. K. Peters, M. Tschapka, I. Steffan-Dewenter, K. Böhning-Gaese , and M. Schleuning (2018): Plant and animal functional diversity drive mutualistic network assembly across an elevational gradient. Nature Communications 9: 3177.

Arbieu, U., C. Grünewald, B. Martín-López, M. Schleuning, and K. Böhning-Gaese (2018): Large mammal diversity matters for wildlife tourism in Southern African protected areas: insights for management . Ecosystem Services 31, Special Issue: 481-490 .

Tucker, M. A., K. Böhning-Gaese , …, T. Mueller (2018): Moving in the Anthropocene: Global reductions in terrestrial mammalian movements. Science 359: 466-469.

Bowler, D. E., C. Hof, P. Haase, I. Kröncke, O. Schweiger, R. Adrian, L. Baert, H.-G. Bauer, T. Blick, R. W. Brooker, W. Dekoninck, S. Domisch, R. Eckmann, F. Hendrickx, T. Hickler, S. Klotz, A. Kraberg, I. Kühn, S. Matesanz, A. Meschede, H. Neumann, B. O’Hara, D. J. Russell, A. F. Sell, M. Sonnewald, S. Stoll, A. Sundermann, O. Tackenberg, M. Türkay, F. Valladares, K. van Herk, R. van Klink, R. Vermeulen, K. Voigtländer, R. Wagner, E. Welk, M. Wiemers, K. H. Wiltshire, and K. Böhning-Gaese (2017): Cross- realm assessment of climate change impacts on species’ abundance trends. Nature Ecology & Evolution 1: 0067.

Peters, M. K., A. Hemp , T. Appelhans, C. Behler, A. Classen, F. Detsch, A. Ensslin, S. W. Ferger, S. B. Frederiksen, F. Gebert, M. Haas, M. Helbig-Bonitz, C. Hemp, W. J. Kindeketa, E. Mwangomo, C. Ngereza, I. Otte, J. Röder, G. Rutten, D. Schellenberger Costa, J. Tardanico, G. Zancolli, J. Deckert, C. D. Eardley, R. S. Peters, M.-O. Rödel, M. Schleuning, A. Ssymank, V. Kakengi, J. Zhang, K. Böhning-Gaese , R. Brandl, E. K. V. Kalko, M. Kleyer, T. Nauss, M. Tschapka, M. Fischer, I. Steffan-Dewenter (2016): Predictors of elevational biodiversity gradients change from single taxa to the multi-taxa community level. Nature Communications 7: 13736.

Schleuning, M., J. Fründ, O. Schweiger, E. Welk, J. Albrecht, M. Albrecht, M. Beil, G. Benadi, N. Blüthgen, H. Bruelheide, K. Böhning-Gaese , D. M. Dehling, C. F. Dormann, N. Exeler, N. Farwig, A. Harpke, T. Hickler, A. Kratochwil, M. Kuhlmann, I. Kühn, D. ​ Michez, S. Mudri-Stojnić, M. Plein, P. Rasmont, A. Schwabe, J. Settele, A. Vujić, C. Weiner, M. Wiemers, and C. Hof (2016): Ecological networks are more sensitive to plant than to animal extinction under climate change. Nature Communications 7: 13965 .

Fritz, S. A., J. T. Eronen, J. Schnitzler, C. Hof, C. M. Janis, A. Mulch, K. Böhning-Gaese , and C. H. Graham (2016): Twenty-million-year relationship between mammalian diversity and primary productivity. PNAS 113: 10908-10913.

Teitelbaum, C. S., S. J. Converse, W. F. Fagan, K. Böhning-Gaese , R. B. O’Hara, A. E. Lacy, and T. Mueller (2016): Experience drives innovation of new migration patterns in response to global change. Nature Communications 7:12793.

Neuschulz, E. L., T. Mueller, M. Schleuning, and K. Böhning-Gaese (2016): Pollination and seed dispersal are the most threatened processes of plant regeneration. Nature Scientific Reports : 29839.

Ferger, S., M. Schleuning, A. Hemp, K. M. Howell, and K. Böhning-Gaese (2014): Food resources and vegetation structure mediate climatic effects on species richness of birds. Global Ecology and Biogeography 23: 541-549.

Fritz, S. A., J. Schnitzler, J. T. Eronen, C. Hof, K. Böhning-Gaese , and C. H. Graham (2013): Diversity in time and space: wanted dead and alive. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 28: 509-516.

Lenz, J., W. Fiedler, T. Caprano, W. Friedrichs, B. H. Gaese, M. Wikelski, and K. Böhning-Gaese (2011): Seed dispersal distributions by trumpeter hornbills in fragmented landscapes. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 278 : 2257 – 2264 .

Jetz, W., C. H. Sekercioglu, and K. Böhning-Gaese (2008): The worldwide variation in avian clutch size across species and space. PLOS Biology e303, doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060303 .

Kissling, W. D., C. Rahbek, and K. Böhning-Gaese (2007): F ood plant diversity as broad-scale determinant of avian frugivore richness. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 274: 799-808.

Böhning-Gaese, K. , T. Caprano, K. van Ewijk, and M. Veith (2006): Range size: disentangling current traits and phylogenetic and biogeographic factors. American Naturalist 167: 555-567.

Böhning-Gaese, K. (1997): Determinants of avian species richness at different spatial scales. Journal of Biogeography 24: 49-60.