E.C.O. Institute of Ecology

We are a research and consulting company for ‘nature conservation in the 21st century’ with focus on protected areas and certified regions.


  • specialised ecological planning,
  • vegetation surveys,
  • innovative communication concepts
  • and sustainable development cooperation,

we are actively committed to fulfilling the global Sustainable Development Goals.



E.C.O. in numbers






long-standing customers




hours in nature




km² mapping





Ecology | Communication | Organisation

E.C.O. stands for Ecology, Communication and Organisation. These 3 pillars form the basis of our company's success in nature conservation.

'Ecology' stands for our ecological proficiency, our team's knowledge in natural sciences and our expertise that we place all at the service of our customers.

'Communication' means translating scientific knowledge and insights into the language of different stakeholders. Successful communication and involving all stakeholders is essential for a nature conservation project to be successfully realised.

'Organisation' describes our elaborate project management and professional business infrastructure - from book keeping to IT proficiency. Thus, we guarantee our customers professional and efficient project realisation.


Together we accomplish more – our networks

We are embedded in several national and international networks.


As a company we cooperate with international institutions, NGOs and associations such as Alparc, EUROPARC, IUCN, Ramsar, UNESCO, WWF.

In our projects, we place our expertise at the service of various public institutions such as ASFINAG, Carinthia University of Applied Sciences, Joanneum Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW), Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB), Austrian Federal Forests (ÖBf), Austrian Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology, Austrian environmental umbrella organisation (UWD), Vienna University of Technology, Federal Environmental Agency (UBA), Natural History Museum Vienna (NHM), University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU).
We are also active for municipalities, cities and regions.

Research activities
In the context of our research activities, we are embedded in a local network and are in close exchange with actors such as the University of Klagenfurt, the build! start-up center Carinthia GmbH, the Carinthian Economic Development Fund, the Educational Lab, the Lakeside Science and Technology Park, the State of Carinthia, the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) and the ScienceCenter network.

International support
Project sponsors and supporters are often international organisations such as the Austrian Development Agency, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), ECO Consult, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the GFA Consulting Group, the OeAD, the Oesterreichische Entwicklungsbank (OeEB), the UNIQUE Forestry and Land Use GmbH.

Individual commitment
On an individual level, our staff members are represented with their expertise in various expert committees. E.C.O. Managing Director Hanns Kirchmeir is a Board Member of the European Beech Forest Network and part of the Working Group on Forests and Nature of the European Commission, a subgroup of the Coordination Group for Biodiversity and Nature (CGBN). Christina Pichler-Koban is, among other things, a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Wienerwald Biosphere Reserve, a board member of the Environmental History Cluster Austria and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Ökolog Network.

Some of our employees share their knowledge and experience as lecturers at universities and colleges. For example, company founder Michael Jungmeier has held the UNESCO Chair of Sustainable Management of Conservation Areas at the Carinthia University of Applied Sciences since 2020.

Thanks to our dedicated employees and our worldwide customers and partners, we have been able to successfully implement a large number of conservation projects for more than 20 years.

A little journey through time | Milestones of the E.C.O. company history

1992: Starting off as 'souvenir dealer'

Michael Jungmeier founds the Institute for Applied Ecology together with a partner, initially as a ‘souvenir dealer’ because there is still no suitable trade for conservation work.

1997: Michl and Hanns | ecological concept Hochobir

E.C.O. Institute of Ecology is founded. Hanns Kirchmeir has been part of the team from the very beginning. Together with Michael Jungmeier, the two have been the stable core of our team for over 20 years, which continues to develop.

Still in summer 1997 we start our first project: Ecological overall concept Hochobir.

1998: Cultural Landscape Programme Aggtelek National Park

Development of the Aggtelek Cultural Landscape Programme in the Hungarian Aggtelek National Park, the first international project.

1999: Feasibility study Gesäuse National Park

A milestone project starts: the preparation of the feasibility study Gesäuse National Park, accompanied by heated discussions. 20 years later, the Gesäuse National Park has become an integral part of the Austrian national park scene.

2000: New office | EXPO Hannover

Move from our tiny downtown office to a new office at Kinoplatz 6 in Klagenfurt with enough space for the growing team.

E.C.O. at the world exhibition EXPO 2000 in Hannover with the agroecological project Krappfeld/Carinthia as world project for sustainability

2001: Long-term vegetation monitorings

Interim evaluation of the long-term vegetation monitoring in Metschach/Carinthia started in 1989, meanwhile one of the longest vegetation ecology data series in Austria.

2002: Regional climate change research

Our vegetation survey at the nunatak of the Kleiner Burgstall in the Hohe Tauern National Park provided new scientific insights into primary successions of ice-free sites and thus made an important contribution to regional climate change research.

2003: Longterm Biodiversity Index | Wienerwald Biosphere Reserve | IPAM-Toolbox

We develop the Longterm Biodiversity Index (L.B.I.), which has since been used in European quarries and gravel pits.

The planning process for the Wienerwald Biosphere Reserve begins – a long series of projects and the first intensive examination of the Seville Strategy, which is still new in Austria.

With the aim of optimizing, further developing and making better use of the tools for integrated management of protected areas, the international project ‘IPAM Toolbox’ has been launched, which we are helping to coordinate and communicate.

2005: Natural forest communities

As part of the research project on natural forest communities as a basis for sustainable forest development, we are developing principles for forest management that is consistently oriented toward the potential natural forest community. 

The idea for the study ‘Management of Conservation Areas’ is born.

For the guideline ‘Research and Monitoring Biosphere Reserve Wienerwald’ we accompany a discussion and participation process to identify particularly relevant research questions, in which the population is included for the first time by means of an online questionnaire.

2006: Developing the Nockberge Biosphere Reserve

We start with the development of the Nockberge Biosphere Reserve, which will occupy us for many years.

2007: Celebrating 10 years of team and pioneering spirit

10 years of team and pioneering spirit! In the meantime, nine of us are working for nature conservation in the 21st century.

2009: Biosphere Reserves Ethiopia mission | National Parks Austria criteria catalogue | Turkmen national parks

The global economic crisis hits us with delays and stops in some projects. The annual balance sheet is disastrous, but we continue with motivation.

In the Biosphere Reserves Ethiopia mission, we support the identification of potential biosphere parks to represent Ethiopia's archetypal landscapes, including cultural landscapes that are thousands of years old.

For the guide to the evaluation of the National Parks Austria we develop the criteria catalogue.

We accompany the establishment of the first Turkmen national parks in the Kopetagh mountains and in the Sumbar region with cost calculations and financing models.


2010: German Caucasus Initiative | Being detectives

Feasibility study for strengthening the protected area system in Armenia was carried out within the framework of the German Caucasus Initiative.

With the macroscopic examination of soil and plant remains on the wheel case of a car, we are making a contribution to establishing the truth in the criminal proceedings surrounding a devastated golf course. Methodologically, the expert opinion is a rare example of forensic ecology.


2012: UNESCO recognition of the Salzburger Lungau & Kärntner Nockberge Biosphere Reserve

After extensive preparation, the UNESCO recognition of the Salzburger Lungau & Kärntner Nockberge Biosphere Reserve takes place in 2012. We have accompanied the development of the Reserve for almost ten years in front of and behind the scenes.

With BRIMnockberge we develop method and technique for the Biosphere Reserve Integrated Monitoring in the Salzburger Lungau & Kärntner Nockberge Biosphere Reserve. The monitoring is based on 12 indicators and is the basis for an annual performance report of the park.

2013: Natura 2000 site Lendspitz-Maiernigg | Science_Linknockberge | Our first yearbook

Within the framework of the project City meets Nature we take over the area management of the urban Natura 2000 site Lendspitz-Maiernigg in Klagenfurt. Important activities since then are visitor and riparian information, maintenance measures, monitoring and research.

In a socio-economic baseline study for the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, one of the largest protected areas in the world, we are surveying the living conditions of the local population on the basis of 1800 interviews. From this, we are developing a monitoring system to observe the effects of the large-scale protected area in the long term.

Science_Linknockberge, a cooperation between the Nockberge Biosphere Reserve and the University of Klagenfurt starts. Since then, we have been supporting this bridge-building between the world of science and the UNESCO model region with our expertise and experience.

Our first yearbook, an annual review of our project and team work, is published.

2014: Introducing E.C.O.pteryx | National Park Hohe Tauern Monitoring | Erosion Control South Caucasus

E.C.O.pteryx, our conservation drone, enriches our team from now on and provides us with high-resolution aerial images for completely new perspectives on vegetation, landscape and nature.

In the project ‘Monitoring alpine meadows in the Hohe Tauern National Park’ we are establishing a network of 283 permanent vegetation ecological monitoring plots in alpine pastures and mountain meadows after stratified sampling. These now allow long-term documentation of grazed and ungrazed FFH habitats.

 The project ‘Integrated Erosion Control in the South Caucasus’ starts and shall accompany us for 6 years.

2015: Innovation and Research Award of the State of Carinthia | Sustainable Hydropower Use in Bhutan

We receive the Innovation and Research Award of the State of Carinthia for our mobile mapping tool map&go.

With a team that has continued to grow over the years, we move to the Lakeside Science and Technology Park in Klagenfurt.

In the course of the move, we hand over an analog slide archive with almost 25,000 botanical images to the Carinthian State Museum.

In the project ‘E-flows: Sustainable Hydropower Use in Bhutan’, we are working with an international team to develop guidelines for ecologically sound residual flows. 

2016: Our Round Table as regional discussion platform

Our first ‚Round Table’ takes place. Since then, we have regularly presented and discussed current topics there and networked knowledge and decision makers. 

2017: Celebrating 20 years of E.C.O. Institute of Ecology | Education programmes | Austria's first World Natural Heritage Site

Celebrating 20 years of E.C.O. Institute of Ecology!

Starting signal for the training to become a nature conservation engineer, which we are developing together with the Carinthia University of Applied Sciences.

 Austria's first World Natural Heritage Site ‘The Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe’ was inscribed on the UNESCO list. Meanwhile, the serial World Heritage Site includes primeval beech forests from Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Ukraine.

 The 5-year study together with the Vienna University of Technology on the ecosystem services of the Austrian Federal Forests is completed and presented to the Management Board, Supervisory Board and Ministry.

2019: 5-year study on the ecosystem services of the Austrian Federal Forests

The 5-year study together with the Vienna University of Technology on the ecosystem services of the Austrian Federal Forests is completed and presented to the Management Board, Supervisory Board and Ministry.

2020: Preparing the UNESCO submission for the world's first 5-country Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube

We are preparing the UNESCO documents for the submission of the planned, world's first 5-country Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube.

2021: ...

With now more than 20 motivated and highly qualified heads, we continue to work for nature conservation in the 21st century.


You can find more E.C.O. milestones in our anniversary brochure 2017.

We look forward to continuing the E.C.O. company history together with you.