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Environmental Research Initiative (ERI)

Humanity faces massive challenges

The 2020s must be a decade in which we all help to solve the pressing problems that threaten humankind and our environment. These include climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss, and many others. Humanity has been placing too much pressure on the natural world, with devastating consequences – not least the COVID-19 pandemic, which experts have directly linked to habitat and biodiversity loss. We must act now to address these global problems and avoid catastrophic and irreversible damage to our planet. Our actions over the next 10 years will determine the future of life on Earth.

Life science research for our planet

The Environmental Research Initiative (ERI) aims to identify the best ideas and to empower the brightest scientists, to address global problems using molecular biology.

ERI will invest in the curiosity of scientists, paving the way for innovative and impactful solutions to our most complex environmental problems.

I started the Environmental Research Initiative because I see a tremendous chance in bringing EMBL’s world-leading know-how in the life sciences to the pressing problems of our times. Join me to help find new and creative solutions through research as the most effective way to preserve our environment.

Prof. Matthias Hentze, EMBL Director

EMBL research tackles environmental challenges

EMBL scientists are already engaged in a number of exciting environmental research projects. With initial donations from Friends of EMBL and other generous donors, we have launched three catalyst projects as part of ERI. These projects, which have enormous potential for fighting pollution through innovative life science research and advanced technology, are just the beginning of what EMBL and the life sciences can do to tackle urgent environmental challenges.

ERI Catalyst Projects

Fighting pesticide pollution with microbes

Pesticides used in agriculture are a major threat for soil and water ecosystems. Although microbes can break down pesticides, it is still not well understood which microbes do this and how they do it. This research project will develop novel approaches to answer these questions, and will help identify ways to better monitor the environment for pesticide contamination, to remove pesticides from the environment, and to design greener chemicals.

See the Zimmermann Group pages for more information.

Tackling nanoplastic pollution

Eight million tonnes of plastic waste end up in the oceans each year. This plastic waste eventually breaks down into tiny particles called microplastics and nanoplastics, which can cause serious problems for animals, humans, and ecosystems. However, the precise impacts of nanoplastics remain largely unexplored. EMBL scientists in Hamburg will combine advanced X-ray technology and biophysical techniques to better understand nanoplastics and their impacts.

For more information, please visit the Svergun group in Hamburg.

Cleaning wastewater polluted by artificial hormones

The daily use of pharmaceuticals introduces a high load of artificial hormones into wastewater and the environment, which is harmful to ecosystems. Detecting and identifying these hormones is a major challenge. EMBL will develop a new approach that combines computer simulations and mass spectrometry to improve detection and identification of artificial hormones, and will find efficient ways to remove them from the environment.

See the Zimmermann group pages for more information

These catalyst projects were only made possible by donations from generous private citizens. With additional financial support, EMBL can enable even more large-scale innovative research to help find solutions for our planet. These environmental research projects are just the beginning: there are a great number of solutions waiting to be discovered.

Join us to make an impact for a healthier planet

We are seeking partners to join us on this journey and provide financial support for this exciting, vital initiative. Your donations will enable us to support new creative approaches and identify potential solutions to restore our planet.

With your support, ERI can create new opportunities to empower brilliant young scientists to address environmental problems, using the latest developments in molecular biology.

Let’s make it our joint responsibility, as citizens of our planet, to mitigate the damage done to our environment and invest in finding solutions.

Your donation and the investments we make today in life science research will help us secure a healthier planet for our children, grandchildren, and generations to come.

Please join us and make a donation, or get in touch if you would like to find out more: