Do you have questions about the German Environmental Specimen Bank?

About us

What is the Environmental Specimen Bank?

We investigate the exposure of humans and their environment to chemicals and document the sampling. Since 1985 we have been collecting thousands of samples every year, which are stored permanently. The Environmental Specimen Bank offers every interested person the possibility to access these data directly.

Who is intended to use the Internet service?

Our service is aimed at interested citizens, the scientific community, as well as politics and administration.

In the following sections, we will explain how to access and make use of the topics and results of the Environmental Specimen Bank.

Therefore, we hope that both first-time visitors and regular visitors of our site will be able to quickly and easily make their way through its content and find useful information.

How is the Internet service of the Environmental Specimen Bank used?

There are different ways to approach the subject matter of chemical pollution of humans and their environment.

The profiles, for example, provide an overview of what we investigate and why. Furthermore, they serve as an entry point to the data search allowing you to obtain direct information about the chemical pollution data and the biometric parameters.

Via the selected results you have the possibility to view specific, commented findings and you can jump from there directly to the data search.

However, you can also directly access the data search and view the data as tables and diagrams.

What does the Environmental Specimen Bank offer?

The Environmental Specimen Bank provides a current overview of the chemical exposure of different ecosystems within Germany. This overview is created using several specimens that we have carefully selected with respect to their relevance and representativeness.

In addition, the Environmental Specimen Bank offers a description of these ecosystems, of the specimens as well as of the analysed substances, and the areas in which the investigations have been carried out.

The ESB's basic functions

The homepage

The homepage offers three thematic blocks for direct access to the information. You can jump directly to the data search, read news and notes on our services and you can jump directly to the profiles, that is, the descriptions of the ecosystems, sampling areas, specimens, and the parameters we have investigate. Just click on one of the topics.


The profiles are a core component of the Environmental Specimen Bank. They describe the parameters of our investigations: What has been investigated in which specimen type where and when. They are intended as an entry point to the actual data search and as a support for the interpretation of the data. Profiles are available in four categories.

Ecosystems, Specimen types, Sampling areas and Parameters.

The latter three differ from the ecosystems in that they correspond directly to the parameters that can be selected in the data search. Therefore, the profiles of these four categories always represent a direct entry point to the data search: You always have the possibility to switch directly to the data search by using a corresponding link below the description.

Many profiles have subordinated profiles attached to them, e.g. one for each of the investigated organs of a sample or one for each of the segments of a river. If present, these subordinated profiles are displayed following the data search link. If the topic has an explicit profile attached to it, a corresponding link will be displayed, and you can navigate deeper into the information structure. If not, you can directly initiate the data search for this subordinated profile by clicking the link "Data search".

The subordinated profiles are followed by a list of profiles corresponding to the other three parameters. If, for example, for the eelpout in the Wattenmeer (Wadden Sea) different metals have been analysed between 1990 and 2009, the profile of the 'eelpout' will include references to the profiles of the 'Wattenmeer' and the 'metals', as well as information about the sampling period. The references, in turn, each include a data search link that allows starting the data search with exactly this parameter combination. In the above example, e.g. with 'eelpout' + 'Wattenmeer', or 'eelpout' + 'metals'.


In order to keep you up to date on changes in our data, we publish news on an irregular basis. To display an overview of all the published news, click in the main menu on "Service" and then "News".


You can send us a message via our Contact page. You can reach the contact page via the the entry "Contact" in the category "Service" in the main menu.

The relevant privacy and data protection laws will apply to each piece of information that you provide.


The Glossary provides an alphabetic list of the technical terms used in the Environmental Specimen Bank. By clicking on a letter in the bar below the heading, you can navigate directly to the section with the respective initial letter.

There you will find a short explanation of each term. If you like to know more details about a term, please click on the term itself.

The sitemap

The sitemap is a list of all the base pages of the Internet service of the Environmental Specimen Bank. It provides a list with the structure of all the pages, as well as a short description of each page.

Data search

The data search enables you to search for chemical exposure data and for biometric characteristics of the analysed specimen, e.g. "length" or "weight".

How to perform a data search

The Environmental Specimen Bank offers several ways to access specific data that might be relevant to you.

We recommend using the way via the profiles. Depending on the data you are interested in, you can choose a relevant entry point, i.e. a specific specimen, analyte or area. Using the links to the data search displayed in the profiles, you can go directly to the search form. The form will already be filled in with the corresponding data from the profile.

Of course you can also open the search form directly by clicking on the button "Data search" on the homepage or on the menu item "Data search".

Selecting the search parameters

In order to perform a precise data search and keep the number of returned results manageable, you can specify search parameters from up to five categories. For the result display, your selection must not exceed 1500 time series. The categories for selecting the result set are:

The specimen type (the analysed specimen or parts thereof), the parameter (the analysed chemical substance or biometric parameter), the sampling area (the area where the sample was taken), and the "Time reference" (the year in which the sample was taken).

For some specimen types, the gender is also determined, which you can limit in this category. By default, no gender differentiation is displayed in the result. This corresponds to the preselection "overall". In the category "Extended Options", you can explicitly select characteristics that are then added to the standard result display. The selection options are:

  • Show extended statistics (for explanations, see next chapter)
  • Show measurement institute and measurement method
  • Show selected normalisations of measurement values (see next chapter for explanations)
Click on the "Select" link in the respective category to open the category and make a selection. A list of selectable parameters appears, which matches your previous selection of the other categories. This means that you can only select parameters for which there are measured values in your current selection. If you open the data search directly, the category "Specimen type" is already open.

The parameters are displayed in their systematic order. Selecting a higher level in the classification also selects the levels below. To select levels with sublevels, click the checkboxes. Parameters of the lowest level are displayed in a box. To select parameters of this level please click directly on the box. Clicking a box or checkbox again clears the selection. Parameters for which a profile is available can be called up via a link. The link is visually marked with an arrow.

After you have selected one or more values in a category, click on "Select" of the next category, which closes and saves the selection for the previous category and displays the parameters of the new category.

The button "Show time series" below the selection area starts the search and displays the number of selected time series. If the number of time
series to be displayed is within the permissible range, the button is activated and clickable and you can display the time series.

If more than 1500 time series are selected, the following message is displayed "Please make a selection. The maximum number of searchable time series is 1500, the current selection contains **** time series." and the button is deactivated.

A click on "Reset" resets the entire selection.

Show extended statistics

If you select the checkbox "Show extended statistics" in the category "Extended options" all available statistical parameters are displayed. The parameters in detail:

  • count (the underlying sample size of single individuals)
  • arithmetic mean
  • standard deviation
  • geometric mean and the associated 95% confidence intervals (for underlying analyses on single individuals)
  • 5th, 25th, 50th (median), 75th, and 95th percentile (for underlying analyses on single individuals)
  • measurements count (number of analysed aliquots (subsamples) of pool samples)
  • measurements count ≥ LOQ (number of measurements greater or equal the limit of quantification (LOQ))
  • lowest LOQ and highest LOQ (the lowest and the highest determined limit of quantification over the course of analyses)

Descriptive statistics were generated using the inline functions of Oracle® 12c Standard Edition. Analyte concentrations that were below the respective limit of quantification (LOQ) were assigned a value of LOQ/2. The percentiles were generated using the Oracle® function PERCENTILE_CONT.

Show selected normalisations of measurement values

The chemical analyses are carried out either in the fresh or dried state of the samples. For this reason, the measured values are given as standard in relation to "dry weight" or "fresh weight". The water content and lipid content of the samples are also determined. By selecting "Display selected normalisations of measured values" in the data search, it is possible to have the measured values displayed in the search result also in relation to other base weights. If the necessary data is available and a conversion depending on the analyte and the matrix examined makes sense at all, the values are then also displayed in the search result. Conversions between dry and fresh weight and between fresh and lipid weight are displayed.


You can save the current state of your search as a bookmark.

The address of your data search will remain valid over a long period of time.

Search results

Initially, a search result is always displayed in in the browser, but can also be exported (see chapter Export). You can switch between the functions by pressing the buttons Search parameters or Export. The display of the result in the browser (Search parameters) is preselected, which is described below.

Displaying the result in the browser

The first section shows an overview of the search parameters selected in the specific categories. If you want to change the current selected parameters, you can return to the data search by clicking on the button "Edit search".

The second section contains the actual results for the measurement series, which are displayed in table form and in a diagram. This section of table and diagram is displayed repeatedly for each combination of selected parameter and sample type(-matrix). The table itself contains one to several sections for the selected sample type matrix (individual part of the specimen) and the sampling areas of your search. Within these sections you will find the values for various statistical parameters, such as "Arithmetic mean" or "Standard deviation" for each sampling year.

Depending on the type of the underlying data, a selection of characteristics is displayed in the data tables by default. If the option "Show extended statistics" have been selected in the data search category "Extended options" these parameters are also displayed in the tables. You can find a description of all characteristics in the chapter "Data Search, Show extended statistics".

The characteristics are visualized in a diagram directly below each table. Information on the diagrams can be found in the chapter "Diagrams". If applicable, some foot notes will be displayed below the table that provide you with specific information about certain measurement values. In any case, you will find there the legends for the abbreviations used in the tables as well as information on when the measurement method and measurement institute were changed within the measurement series.


If you hover the mouse over individual points or bars in the diagram, details of the measurements will be shown (tooltip).

Furthermore you can enlarge parts of the diagram by dragging the mouse (zoom). If you want to enlarge another part of the diagram or return to the normal display, click the Reset Zoom button in the right upper area of the diagram.

You can hide individual measurement series by clicking on the legend entry and show them again by clicking repeatedly.

By clicking the symbol with the three horizontal linesIcon export options in the upper right corner of the diagram, you get several options for processing the diagram. You can print the diagram, or download it as a PNG and JPEG image, or as PDF document and SVG vector diagram.

Note: In order to view diagrams, you need javascript activated in your browser.

Diagram types

By default, diagrams are displayed as line charts. In the respective chart view you have the option of displaying other chart types, if it makes sense for the type of measured values. To do this, select a different chart type in the "Display as" list.

Available diagram types are:

  • Line diagram: The default representation as line diagram.
  • Bar chart: This alternative representation is always available.
  • Box and Whisker diagram: The representation as so-called "boxplot" is only available in combination with human and biometrical data.

If aggregated individual data are displayed, the "Percentile" link can be used to display the parameters as a box and whisker diagram (box plot) or as a line or bar chart of the median. The box and whisker diagrams are represented by the following five parameters: the lower limit of the box by the first quartile (25th percentile) and the upper limit by the third quartile (75th percentile). The median (50th percentile) is also shown. The whiskers extend to the smallest (minimum) or the largest measured value (maximum).


You can export the data in the Excel XML format (support as of MS Office 2003 and later), as well as the CSV format (Comma-Separated Values) in order to use them for further processing in other applications. To export data, select one or more measurement rows in the tabular search result, and click on "Export". Next, you can select whether you want to export the data as MS Excel XML file or as CSV file. In the case of the CSV format, you can select the delimiter character to use. After clicking the button "Export", your browser will display a download dialogue that allows you to save the data or open them directly..

The CSV files are encoded with the character set latin 3. In some cases, it is necessary to provide this encoding information when opening the file with the spreadsheet application, since otherwise some special characters might not be displayed correctly.