The Life Aquatic

Christina Gruber
Arts and Society, Cross-Disciplinary Strategies
2021W, scientific seminar (SEW), 4.0 ECTS, 2.0 semester hours, course number S04093


How do ecological assessments come into place and who decides what needs to be protected? In this seminar, we will unfold the different layers of aquatic ecosystems and their current status assessment. We will critically discuss sampling methods and unfold the multilayered entities of waterbodies.

- Overview of the history of water quality assessment (assessment principles, concepts, and philosophies, river health, ecological integrity)

- Legal requirements (AT, EU, US)

- Indicators (key species, flagship species, ecological guilds, types of metrics)

- Definition of reference conditions

- Discussion of natural versus human-induced variability

- Quantification of pressures (response to human pressures)

- Saprobic approach and aquatic bioindication

- Biotic indices and scores (history, principles, examples from different countries)

- Principles of multimetric indices (index of biotic integrity, floodplain index)

- Examples of biomonitoring programs



- Understand principles of bioassessment

- Get to know monitoring and assessment methods used for water management and biodiversity conservation

- Interpret monitoring and assessment results

- Get to know the role of bioassessment within the legal framework of water management and biodiversity conservation

Examination Modalities

We will discuss sampling methods on the basis of a varied list of restoration projects along rivers, worldwide but with a focus on Austrian waterbodies. Together we conduct simple sampling techniques along the Danube in Vienna and participants are welcome to add samples from their local waterbodies if not located in  Vienna. The seminar will take place bi-weekly. 

Each participant will choose one ecological assessment and report back to the other seminar participants. There will be an "Aquatic Library" at the Institute of Cross-Disciplinary Strategies with a few eligible books available to participants and basic equipment to conduct water samples. The final project/paper will be a short text (essay, short story, accompanying text to a work of art) reflecting on an aspect we have discussed during the semester.


Part of the course will include fieldwork exploring the waterbodies of Vienna with a focus on the Danube.

If we cannot meet in person, I will prepare reading material as well as inputs in video format. We will meet live in Zoom or similar and otherwise find other ways of asynchronous exchange. In any case, we will create a common etherpad to share short texts, ideas and links.

Students from other departments or universities will be given a place on the course subject to room capacities.

Key Words

waterbodies, ecology, habitat assessment, aquatic ecosystems, biomonitoring


18 October 2021, 10:00–11:00 (preliminary discussion)
28 October 2021, 10:00–13:30 KUG Lecture Room PSK 147
04 November 2021, 10:00–13:30 KUG Lecture Room PSK 147
18 November 2021, 10:00–13:30 KUG Lecture Room PSK 147
02 December 2021, 10:00–13:30 Viennese Waterscapes, U2 Donaumarina
16 December 2021, 10:00–13:30 KUG Lecture Room PSK 147
13 January 2022, 10:00–13:30 Viennese Waterscapes, U1 Donauinsel
27 January 2022, 10:00–13:30 Viennese Waterscapes, U1 Alte Donau

Course Enrolment

From 01 September 2021, 10:31 to 25 October 2021, 10:31
Via online registration

co-registration: possible

Cross-Disciplinary Strategies (Master): Study Areas: Study Area 2: Science and Technology

Cross-Disciplinary Strategies (Bachelor): Science and Technology: Deepening / Application

Individual courses: possible