John-Oliver Engler is an ecological economist with focus on decision making under risk and uncertainty as well as sustainability-related statistical data analysis and mathematical modeling. All of Oliver’s research interests come together and may be studied in dryland rangelands, so these are a focal point of his research. He is also interested in transferring concepts, methods and theories from one domain to another. He is part of the project “Bridging the Great Divide” funded by VolkswagenStiftung.


Professional record

2017 – Today: Postdoctoral Research Associate – Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Quantitative Methods of  Sustainability Science Group
2016: Pricing Actuary – BNP Paribas Cardif Germany, Stuttgart
2011 – 2015: Doctoral Research Associate – Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Sustainability Economics Group and Center for Methods

Education and research stays

2011 – 2015: Doctoral studies of sustainability economics at Leuphana University, with focus on rangeland management, decision theory and statistical model selection
2004 – 2010: Studies of physics at University of Konstanz (Germany), with focus on mathematical physics, econophysics and astrophysics

2017: Visiting researcher with Arizona State University: School of Sustainability,  School for the Future of Innovation in Society & Center for Biosocial  Complex  Systems – Tempe, AZ (USA), 1 month
2010: Intern with United States Geological Survey, Natural Resources Management – Homestead, FL (USA), 3 months
2009/10: Master’s thesis work at Chair of Entrepreneurial Risks, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich (Switzerland), 12 months
Intern with South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Marine and Coastal Management – Cape Town (South Africa), 1 month
2007: Research Student with Institute for Astronomy – University of Hawaii, Maui, HI (USA), 5 months

Maraja Riechers is a human ecologist (Dr. in Urban Cultural Ecosystem Services) interested in finding ways to transform a system towards sustainability and biodiversity conservation. She is currently working on nature connectedness in different rural landscapes/ landscape changes in Germany and Romania in the project “Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation“.


Julian Ahlborn is a biogeographer and geobotanist interested in doing science for fun in general and dryland ecology with a focus on vegetation community and functional ecology in particular. He uses mixed modeling, univariate and multivariate statistics and remote sensing. Julian is currently pursuing his research interests by working on the DFG-funded project “Responses of plant performance and functional diversity along a climate and land-use gradient in Mongolia”.

Cristina Apetrei is part of the project “Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation“. She studied Sustainable Development at Utrecht University. Most of her experience is with food security issues and climate change, while her theoretical interests are in complex system science, behavioural economics, transdisciplinarity and worldview based approaches. 

Philip Bernert is interested in the question of how different societies can effectively learn from successful sustainability transitions and, in particular, how generated knowledge can be communicated and made actionable in other sustainable transition contexts. He is using qualitative methods and rough set analysis in his research. Further, he is in charge of the Case Study Office at Leuphana.

Christian Dorninger is a quantitative social scientist who is convinced that structures vastly determine individual action. He is focusing on taking a biophysical perspective on human-nature interaction and connectedness and their potential for sustainability transformation. Christian is applying material and energy flow accounting (MEFA), human appropriation of net primary production (HANPP) and environmentally-extended input-output analysis (EEIOA). He is currently working on the project “Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation” funded by VolkswagenFoundation.

Robert Feller is an environmental scientist who investigates impacts of natural elements in urban spaces on customer’s willingness to pay for certain products. More generally, he is focusing on urban ecology and ecosystem service assessments by combining spatial analysis with online surveys. He is part of the project “Bridging the Great Divide” funded by VolkswagenStiftung.

  • 2017 - : Research associate in Bridging the Great Divide in Sustainability Science
  • 2013 - 2016: Sustainability Science, M. Sc., Leuphana University Lüneburg. Thesis on Business District Streetscapes, Trees and Consumer Response: A Case Study of Lüneburg, Germany.
  • 2010 - 2013: Environmental Science, B. Sc., Leuphana University Lüneburg. Thesis on Evaluating the potential of landscapes over structureswith ecological and other values on basis of the establishment of green roof systems in Lüneburg.
Ana Filipa Ferreira is a visiting student from Lisbon working on her PhD project on biosphere reserves. She is particularly interested in finding ways to protect biodiversity while promoting sustainable development in social-ecological systems in the Mediterranean. Ana Filipa currently focuses on using GIS, systematic literature reviews and questionnaires to find out more about the governance and management of protected areas and biosphere reserves.

Beatrice John is a sustainability scientist by training and conducts her PhD research on quality and design criteria for urban visioning exercises. Her research interests revolve around sustainability solutions for urban sustainability and resilience, transformational sustainability research methods, and digitalization of teaching and learning environments. She is also a research associate in the project ““Bridging the Great Divide” (MWK/VolkswagenStiftung) working on pretesting urban climate actions.

Dagmar Moelleken has a background in agricultural practice, and studied agroecology, philosophy and sustainability science. Her research interests include ethics, normativity and paradigms in relation to sustainable agriculture. Side projects include working on the methodology of transdisciplinary research.

Julius Rathgens’ PhD research is concerned with the production and consumption of food. Specifically, he does participatory research on alternative trade arrangements and their role in sustainability transformations. He is focusing on systematic literature reviews, social network analysis and mixed-methods.

Anna-Lena Rau has a background in biology and sustainability science and does research on the sustainable use of ecosystem services. She is particularly interested in ecosystem services in agriculture and their temporal dynamics and is mostly applying systematic literature reviews. She is a PhD student with the 2042 initiative at Leuphana University.


Alexa Böckel finished her Bachelors in Business Administration and Environmental Sciences at Leuphana University and is interested in sustainable entrepreneurship and crowdfunding. She currently works on digitizing the processes and communication of the working group.


Student assistants

Christopher Franz did his Bachelor’s in Environmental Sciences in Jena until 2016 and started his master’s program in Sustainability Science at Leuphana in 2017. He has been working in an environmental authority, on closed aquaculture systems at AWI (Bremerhaven) and natural conservation in Madre Dios (Peru) during internships. At Leuphana, he is currently focusing on social science approaches to sustainability challenges.

Lisa Gotzian has earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Psychology and now turned to a statistical method for her Master’s Degree. The master’s program Data Science focusses on Machine Learning and ways to analyze Big Data. She supports the team with any kind of analysis in R, Python and other technical solutions.


Johann Julius Beeck already did his Bachelor’s program in Business Administration in Lüneburg. Since 2017, he studies Management & Data Science and focuses on data processing.


Prabesh Dhakal is pursuing MSc. in Management & Data Science. He is interested in machine learning and visualization. Currently, he works with R and Python to solve data science problems. He also has experience in business strategy and management consulting.


Max Kretschmer’s motivation is to co-create ideas and visions to further develop approaches for a sustainable society with a socio-economic focus. His goal at university is to broaden his perspective, provided by his economic studies, with a cultural and environmental input to get an idea of society’s character and possibilities of changing it.