The central research themes of the IAR are bird migration and avian life-history biology.

The institute has a long-standing tradition in fundamental research on birds. We maintain long-term studies, and combine them with shorter projects on specific questions, to gain a comprehensive understanding of the physiology, ecology and evolution of birds and their adaptation to the environment. Birds are mainly studied in their natural habitats, but we also breed birds in captivity to study their behaviour and physiology under controlled conditions.

Long-term studies are extremely valuable for advancing our understanding of ecological and evolutionary processes, which now, more than ever, is of great importance in our rapidly changeing world. Long-term studies generate a wealth of data that allow the study of adaptation to change and its long-term consequences, while also laying the foundation for questions that can be answered with the collection of specific data or experiments, both in the field and in the lab. The location and infrastructure of the institute are ideal in this respect. The facilities at Helgoland provide a unique opportunity to study changeing migration patterns and the importance of stopover strategies in birds. The proximity of Wilhelmshaven to the coast facilitates studies on migration and life-history biology of waders and seabirds, with the long-term study of a colony of common terns being one of the largest, and technologically most advanced, avian population studies in the world. The laboratory and aviary facilities at the main division in Wilhelmshaven are state-of-the-art and allow close investigation of the physiology and genetics of patterns observed in the wild.

The institute is also very dedicated to local outreach, and invests in regular public seminars and collaborations with the local government and environmental organisations. Many projects are funded by third-party sponsors and we maintain close collaborations with national and international experts in our fundamental research on birds to achieve the greatest advancement of science.

To guarantee the integrity of scientific results, we commit to the code of scientific conduct that is established in agreement with the German Research Foundation.