Students of EVEREST

The current elected student representatives are Judith Beier (Paleoanthropology) and Lara  Braun (Plant Ecology).

 

Current participants of EVEREST:


Chris Baumann

Zooarchaeology with Dr. Britt Starkovich

Interests

My main research interest is the interaction between hominins and (medium-sized) carnivores during the late Pleistocene. This includes on one hand the use of these animals by the Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans (AMH), on the other hand the impact of hominin behavior on the niches of these animals. This main complex includes more detailed questions, for example:  Is there a special hunting strategy concerning the medium-sized carnivores? How did hominin behavior affect the niches of medium-sized carnivores? Are there any indications for taming of (medium-sized) carnivores? Are the interaction patterns between hominins and medium-sized carnivore the same in Middle Paleolithic context and Upper Paleolithic contexts?
Additionally, I am very interested in the analysis of microvertebrates (microfauna) to reconstruct carnivore’s diet and the palaeoecology of the sites.

Methods

I use zooarchaeological methods, e.g. analysis of butchering marks, burning and fragmentation as well as morphometrical analysis of the postcranial bones (reconstruction of hunting patterns and population structures) to reconstruct the hominin use of carnivores. To investigate the hominin impact on the carnivore’s niches, I use stable isotopes (C, N and S) from carnivore’s bone collagen and reconstruct the individual diet and origin. The combination of these methods helps me to reconstruct the interaction of hominins and carnivores during the last glacial period.

 

 


Judith Beier

Paleoanthropology with Prof. Dr. Katerina Harvati

Interests

My areas of interest are paleoanthropology, bioarchaeology, paleopathology and prehistory. My PhD research focuses on the investigation of traumatic injury frequencies in Neanderthals and Upper Paleolithic modern humans. The analysis of trauma types and frequencies is a useful approach to reconstruct behavior and life circumstances of past humans. The project aims at characterizing Paleolithic trauma patterns on a population level to address the question of whether there are differences in trauma rates between Neanderthals and Upper Paleolithic modern humans.

Methods

The study is based on the published literature on Middle and Upper Paleolithic fossil remains from Eurasia. Following a comparative approach, skeletal remains are quantified to place particular emphasis on the factor of differential skeletal preservation. I will characterize trauma patterns, analyze potential differences between Neanderthals and modern humans, and contextualize the findings using archaeological and anthropological data.

 


Svenja Block

Plant Evolutionary Ecology with Prof. Dr. Oliver Bossdorf

Interests

The establishment and invasion of species in areas where they are not native is an important field of research in ecology. Due to ongoing climate change, it is assumed that even more exotic species will spread. I am interested in assessing the invasion potential of plant species that are currently inconspicuous ornamentals, but might become invasive in the future because of altered climatic conditions. In my PhD I focus on the effect of predicted reduction in summer precipitation and precipitation variability on the competitive ability of these exotic plants in native communities. This study is part of the international BiodivERsa project "WhoIsNext - Climate change and escaping ornamentals: Predicting the next generation of European plant invaders."

Methods

In my first garden experiment I am working with 26 exotic plant species which are placed in a semi-natural native grassland community. By applying appropriate amounts of water I create different precipitation scenarios. I measure biomass and reproduction related traits like flowers, fruit production and clonal growth in order to assess the ornamental's performance relative to the native's under altered soil moisture conditions. In addition to garden experiments I also want to work in the field and use rain-out shelters to manipulate rainfall.

 


Abel Bosman

Paleoanthropology with Prof. Dr. Katerina Harvati

Interests

My  research focus is on the application of virtual anthropology in the study of human evolution. For my doctoral dissertation, I will be reconstructing and analyzing Middle-Late Pleistocene hominin crania. My research interests are in hominin variation, the effect of masticatory stress on the cranium, and the possible influence of language on the anatomical variation of the vocal tract system.

Methods

Geometric morphometrics, 3D models, phenotypic/genotypic variability, hominin anatomy

 


Lara Braun

Plant Ecology with Prof. Dr. Katja Tielbörger

Interests

Traditionally, it is believed that an increase in habitat heterogeneity has a positive effect on biodiversity, as more species with different ecological needs will find a suitable habitat. However, some empirical data suggest that the effect of heterogeneity on biodiversity might as well be negative, neutral or unimodal. Kadmon and Allouche (2007) built a model to explain this non-positive heterogeneity-diversity relationship, according to which environmental heterogeneity has two opposite effects on species richness: it increases opportunities for niche partitioning but at the same time reduces the amount of suitable area available for each individual species and thereby increasing the probability of stochastic extinctions. This is referred to as the Area-heterogeneity trade-of (AHTO).

Methods

In my PhD project I will set-up long term microcosm experiments to directly test the predictions of the AHTO. As this project is part of the joint research project 'Biodiversity Exploratories', which focuses on the effect of land use and management on biodiversity, I simulate different types and combinations of land use to create different types of habitats. These habitats will then be organized in different combinations and spatial arrangements in order to create different heterogeneity levels. The individual number and biomass of forty common grassland species will be evaluated in two consecutive years to yield results.

 


Martin Cotte

Biogeology with Prof. Dr. Hervé Bocherens

Interests

I’m interested in the evolution and palaeoecology of placental and metatherian, carnivorous mammals during the Cenozoic. Carnivores are an integral part of all ecosystems, but are often overlooked in palaeontological contexts as herbivores are more diagnostic in terms of palaeoenvironment. Carnivorous mammals show a lot diversity in terms of geographical range, habitat, diet & prey choice as well as ecology and therefore show a broad range of specific and interesting adaptations. This makes them an excellent study group to address broader evolutionary questions. I am investigating the Great American Biotic Interchange and here specifically in the evolution and ecology of carnivorous mammals before and after the exchange. This includes their position in the food web, interaction with other carnivores and of course their interaction with potential prey species. This gives also the opportunity to study extinctions of carnivores and broader animal communities over a long time range.

Methods

I use isotopic tracking to investigate the process of extinction and replacement during and after the Great American Biotic Interchange. I try to reconstruct animal diets, environment, habitats and predator-prey interactions with the help of the geochemical proxy of stable isotopes. Stable isotopes are reflective of diet and environment factors and can be preserved in animal tissues such as bone, dentine and tooth enamel that can be preserved in the fossil record. In my study I focus mainly on the use of tooth carbonate, namely enamel. This allows me to utilise carbon and oxygen isotopes for my ecological reconstructions. If possible my investigations are also complemented by the use of carbon and nitrogen isotopes in bone and dentine collagen.

 


Shirley Ying Deng

Plant Evolutionary Ecology with Prof. Dr. Oliver Bossdorf

Interests

I am interested in epigenic variation in plants and its dynamics in changing environments. During my master study at Fudan Univerity, I worked with an invasiv plant Alternanthera philoxeroides and explored the epigenetic variations (DNA methylation an miRNAs) in its response to flooding. Currently I am working with Arabidopsis thaliana to investigate epigenetic variation under variable heat stress, and test its heritability.

Methods

We are currently planning to use both Methylation-sensitive AFLP and HPLC to investigate genome wide methylation pattern and global methylation level in plants under different stress treatments. We will integrate these data with phenotypic and genetic data to examine their relationships.

 


Michal Feldman

Paleogenetics with Prof. Dr. Johannes Krause

Interests

My main research interest is in ancient pathogen genetics, focusing on disease causing bacteria that infected ancient and historical human populations, some still remain leading causes of global morbidity and mortality. The DNA molecule represents the genetic history of an organism and as such provides direct evidence to its evolution. Obtaining the genome data from an ancient specimen is a challenging task due to degradation over time and the difficulty of differentiating sequences belonging to our organism of interest from others present in the specimen.

Methods

For this purpose I use molecular methods optimized for ancient DNA extraction and enrichment techniques developed to "fish-out" the ancient genome of interest. Samples are sequenced using High throughput sequencing technology and analyzed using bioinformatics tools developed for this purpose.

 


Roland Fritsch

Animal Evolutionary Ecology with Prof. Dr. Nico Michiels

Interests

I work in the field of marine visual ecology, and I am generally interested in questions like "How do fish see their (underwater) world?" and "Why do they have their particular colour patterns?". Specifically, I work with the Mediterranean triplefin Tripterygion delaisi and investigate whether they use aspects of their colouration to boost their own visual performance: T. delaisi features several phenomena (oculight, ocular sparks, and fluorescence) that allow it to redirect and/or manipulate ambient light and to re-emit that light into the environment. I work mostly on the morphology of these mechanisms and want to find out how they work and whether they can be actively used by the fish, for instance to detect prey more efficiently.

Methods

Since I work on very different morphological aspects of T. delaisi's visual system, I use several approaches to get a comprehensive picture:
- magnetic resonance imaging and digital 3D-reconstruction for general anatomy and geometric relationships between components
- thick and semi-thin histological (serial) sections for structural aspects on tissue and cellular level
- transmission electron microscopy for ultrastructural aspects of the mechanisms
- retinal wholemounts to get an idea of the retinal topology and to assess key factors of the visual system of T. delaisi, like visual acuity

To investigate the potential function of these effects, I will carry out behavioural experiments, both in the lab and in the field. In one group, I will manipulate the light-emitting mechanisms such that the fish cannot use them anymore, in the other group I will sham-treat the mechanisms such that they stay intact. I will then compare foraging success and prey preference in the two groups.

 


Bence Gáspár

Plant Evolutionary Ecology with Prof. Dr. Oliver Bossdorf

Interests

My project is part of the Biodiversity Exploratories where the main focus is on the relationship between different levels of biological diversity and land use intensity, as well as other environmental factors.

More specifically, I will investigate the natural epigenetic variation in plant species from grasslands.

In the first part of my work, I will assess variation in DNA methylation from field-collected leaf samples.

A second step will be to sow the seeds originating from these populations in a common garden and see how much of this variation is inherited.

In a third step, specific loci with variation in DNA methylation will be analysed by epigenotyping-by-sequencing.

Methods

In the first two phases of my work I will be using methylation-sensitive AFLP (MS-AFLP of MSAP) to obtain neutral markers of epigenetic variation.

In the last part I will retrieve DNA methylation data at a single-nucleotide resolution using bisulphite sequencing.

The data will be analysed in light of land use intensity and former population genetic and phenotypic data.

 


Julia Geue

Comparative Zoology with Prof. Dr. Katharina Foerster

Interests

I am interested in ecology, conservation and biodiversity of species and genetics, especially in conservation and landscape genetics. In my PhD project I am testing a novel conservation approach with three species (House sparrow, Buff-tailed bumblebee and Narrowleaf plantain). I will investigate the intraspecific genetic variation of these species in an environmental context and compare this biodiversity measure with other measures of biodiversity. I want to assess the efficiency of different measures of biodiversity for two surrogate countries (Bulgaria and Romania) for future conservation prioritization.

Methods

Testing a novel conservation approach by mapping  intraspecific genetic variation in an environmental context

  • molecular work (NGS)
  • fieldwork in Romania and Bulgaria
  • ecological assessment of habitats and species richness
  • landscape genetic modelling techniques

 


Eleanor Gibson-Forty

Plant Ecology with Prof. Dr. Katja Tielbörger

Interests

The occurrence of plants in almost every environment on the planet is a reminder of how evolution can drive local adaptation and phenotypic plasticity. The question remains whether plants can survive in a changing climate through phenotypic plasticity and/or through genetic adaptation. My interests lie in how changes in rainfall can affect plants at the species, population and individual level and whether plants subject to altered rainfall patterns and amounts are able to survive, adapt and thrive. My PhD research focuses on disentangling the processes underlying community change and to establish just how vulnerable plants are to environmental changes.

Methods

My PhD research is comprised of two parts; I will travel to Israel and Jordan in the Middle East to collect seeds and leaf samples of Brassicaceae species situated along a natural rainfall gradient, as well as being manually subjected to more or less rainfall. Furthermore I will establish pollination and herbivory experiments in the field. Back in Tübingen, I will establish and maintain controlled greenhouse experiments using seeds collected from the Middle East and subject all plants regardless of site origin to a common environment: These glasshouse experiments will enable me to determine whether populations of species are genetically or phenotypically different from one another. This will highlight whether plants can adapt to changing climatic conditions or whether species may become extinct.

 


Melania Ioannidou

Paleoanthropology with Prof. Dr. Katerina Harvati

Interests

My research interests focus on the evolution of the Eurasian Miocene hominoids and their phylogenetic relationships, using virtual anthropology and geometric morphometrics. My Ph.D. topic aims to reevaluate the phylogenetic position of Ouranopithecus macedoniensis, a Greek hominoid dated back to approximately 8 million years. Over the years, O. macedoniensis poses as a plausible candidate either as a sister group of the australopithecines and Homo or as the ancestor of Gorilla. Hence, the use of more advanced three dimensional techniques provides more reliable results about the phylogenetic affinities of our distant ancestors.

Methods

I work with three dimensional geometric morphometrics and virtual anthropology techniques.  I primarily use high resolution Micro-CT scans in order to develop three dimensional models of fossil and extant great apes crania. As a following step, I use various software packages (e.g. PAST, MORPHOLOGIKA, MORPHEUS, EVAN Toolbox, etc.) in order to conduct multiple statistical analyses.

 


Alexander Immel

Paleogenetics with Prof. Dr. Johannes Krause

Interests

My work is concerned with the evolution of the human immunity system, particularly as a potential adaptation to major pandemics such as the Black Death in the 14. century. Especially, I am interested in the  evolution of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes, which play an important role in the human immune response. The reconstruction of the HLA genes from victims of the Black Death before and during the period of this pandemic can reveal the evolutionary effect of human host-pathogen interactions.

Methods

Using molecular genetic methods for the treatment of ancient DNA, it will be isolated from human remains of the Black Death originating from different geographic locations. I will use methods to capture and enrich the HLA genes as well as other immunity related genes before sequencing. Using bioinformatic tools and customized analysis pipelines the DNA sequencing data will be analyzed.

 


Fotios Alexandros Karakostis

Paleoanthropology with Prof. Dr. Katerina Harvati

Interests

Hand biomechanics, Musculoskeletal stress markers, Bioarchaeology, Sexual dimorphism

Methods

Scanning methods: 3D surface scanning (Breuckmann, Nextengine), microCT scanning

Analysing methods: Morphometrics, Geometric morphometrics (landmarks, sliding surface and curve semi-landmarks)

 


Anna Kirschbaum

Plant Evolutionary Ecology with Dr. Niek Scheepens

Research

My research interests are both within plant and animal ecology, focusing on population and community structure and dynamics as well as on invasions. I am interested in the effects of a changing environment on community interactions and how this affects biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. 
During my PhD I will investigate how landuse type and intensity (environmental conditions changed by humans) affected the evolution of phenotypic plasticity, an important part of biodiversity, in three grassland species.

Methods

I will conduct common garden experiments with three grassland species from the Biodiversity Exploratories, which experienced variable landuse types (grazing, mowing, fertilization or a combination) and intensities (LUI index - calculated as the standardized sum of the different landuse types). In two experiments plants will either receive a fertilization or a clipping treatment that further allows to calculate an index of phenotypic plasticity per species. PP will also be compared to spatial (vegetational composition) and temporal (change in landuse) heterogeneity in the place of origin. I will further investigate whether PP is adaptive and/or costly and how it relates to general genetic diversity in these species.

 


Nicola Lechner

Plant Ecology with Prof. Dr. Katja Tielbörger

Interests

I am a PhD student in plant ecology focusing on the effects of increasing drought and extreme events in temperate ecosystems.
Droughts are rare climatic events and therefore cannot be observed easily. For a better understanding of drought events it is important to design manipulative field experiments.

Methods

To test the response of vegetation to decreasing precipitation I want to establish field experiments in forests and grasslands along a gradient of natural water availability on the Swabian Alb. To simulate different drought scenarios and test for ecosystem resistance and resilience I will establish rainout shelters with reduce precipitation approximately 30% and 70%. Three drought treatments (Resistance – permanent moderate drought, Resilience 1 – one-year extreme drought, Resilience 2 – two-year extreme drought) and one control treatment with one replicate each will be established in each experimental site. To control for the ecosystem response, vegetation assessments will be done every year. Additionally, biodiversity will be manipulated by removing plants from the experimental areas. I hypothesize that ecosystems on naturally dry sites will be more resistant to permanent drought than ecosystems on wetter sites. Additionally I hypothesize that ecosystems occurring on sites variable in water availability will show higher resilience to extreme drought than ecosystems with constant water supply.

 


Deike Lüdtke

Comparative Zoology with Prof. Dr. Katharina Foerster

Interests

My focus lays on sexual selection on female body colouration. Traditionally, it is the female that is considered to be the choosing sex in mate choice and the male the one that competes for access to females with extravagant colourations and decorations. However, there is also a potential benefit for males for choosing the "best", high quality female to mate with. Male choosiness is expected to evolve also in non sex-role reversed species as a response to individual variation in female fecundity or maternal ability. In addition, conspicuous (colour) characters in females are often considered as a genetically correlated response to selection for male ornaments. However, male choice might select for ornamental traits in females. Many ectothermic vertebrate species show brightly coloured females but very little attention has been directed to the hypothesis, that female colouration evolved in response to sexual selection through male mate choice.

Methods

In my project Iwill investigate male-mate choice in the alpine newt (lchthyosaura alpestris). Iwill correlate male and female phenotypic characteristics with their reproductive success as well as their success of recruitment and measure male investment into mating.

  • behavioural tests in a large group aquarium and as mate choice trials
  • molecular work: parentage analysis
  • analytical work: chemical composition of the skin colour
  • colour manipulation through supplement feeding

 


Kerttu Majander

Paleogenetics with Prof. Dr. Johannes Krause

Interest

I am working on the bioinformatic analyses for several projects of the Archaeo- and Paleogenetics work group in Tübingen University. My research interests include ancient human-pathogen interactions, such as transmission patterns in historical epidemics, and phylogenetic relations of both pathogens and their hosts. Addressing these questions, a further interest is set upon the pathogen evolution, and living conditions of the past human populations. I am currently starting up a project on ancient pathogen research in Finnish collections from historical burials. The aim of the project is to test the latest aDNA analysis techniques on Finnish samples from different centuries and locations, and to recognize the pathogens extracted from the remains. The project will illuminate the variety of diseases historically occurring among the Finnish population, and investigate the causative agents of local outbreaks. It also hopes to answer questions on the possible connection with wider scale catastrophic infectious events, such as the European epidemics of plague.

Methods

  • latest aDNA analysis techniques
  • bioinformatic analyses

 


Anubhav Mohiley

 

Plant Ecology with Prof. Dr. Katja Tielbörger

 

Interest

My research interests are in the fields of plant ecology, ecotoxicology, and climate change. My PhD research focuses on investigation of why plants hyperacumulate heavy metals. A variety of hypotheses have been proposed to explain the trait of metal hyperaccumulation (mh). For example, the elemental defense hypothesis suggests that mh may function as a defense strategy against herbivores, while the elemental allelopathy hypothesis suggests that plants may interfere with neighboring plants through phytoenrichment of metal in the soil surface under their canopies. Moreover Metal tolerance and hyperaccumulation in the following are common traits in many Brassicaceae species.

Methods

Particularly, we would like to explore the two hypothesis of mh on two Brassicaceae species, Arabidopsis halleri and Noccaea caerulescens. Allelopathy will be evaluated as the effect of leaf litter of plants growing with and without heavy metals on the germination of coexisting species. Herbivore defense will be investigated by exposing leaves of these plants to herbivores and measuring the leaf metal content. Finally, we intend to investigate cooperative interactions in A. halleri, whose clonal propagation is expected to play a key role in mh.

 


Alba Motes Rodrigo

Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology with Dr. Claudio Tennie

Interests

My research is focused on the evolution of tool use in great ape species as well as in the mechanisms of emergence and transmission of behavioral traits. At the moment, I study stone tool production and use. I am interested in comparative approaches that allow us to explore the origins of human culture and specially if and when cumulative culture appeared in the Homo lineage.

Research

I design and conduct ethological experiments with great apes and humans, as well as perform 3D scannings of stone tools.

 


Clara Nesongano

Plant Ecology with Prof. Dr. Katja Tielbörger

Interests

Climate change, rangeland ecology and restoration ecology

Methods

  • Field observations
  • Experimental approach
  • in the field
  • in greenhouse and climate chambers
  • Literature review

 


Alexander Peltzer

Palaeogenetics & Bioinformatics with Prof. Dr. Johannes Krause

Interests

  • Palaeogenetics
  • Analysis of next-generation sequencing data
  • Parallelization (Grid-/Cloud-Computing, GPGPU Computing)
  • Automization and Usability of Softwaretools in Palaeogenetics

Methods

I work on the EAGER project, a pipeline for the efficient ancient genome reconstruction. EAGER is offering an interactive interface for the general preprocessing, processing and analysis workflows that are required for ancient DNA projects. The pipeline is meant to improve the handling of ancient DNA samples from a bioinformatics point of view, in implementing standard operating procedures in a simultaneously user-accessible way. A further main aspect of EAGER is the enhanced efficiency and modularity of the pipeline, to allow for further additions and operating procedure changes in this both challenging and quickly changing new field of research.

 


Peter Pogoda

SMNS Zoology with PD Dr. habil.  Alexander Kupfer

Interests

I´m interested in the evolutionary history of salamanders of the family Salamandridae and there especially of the "primitive salamanders" (Pleurodelini). In recent years many new species were described mainly of the genus Tylototriton. The evolution of external and osteological characters as well behavioural traits like the mating mode will be investigated in this group. A further interest of mine is to detect sexual dimorphisms in this group. In anuran species it is already known that males often inhabit longer and stronger forearms due to the fact that males use an amplexus during mating. In the group of primitive newts species are present which do and do not use an amplexus for mating purpose. Hence, there might be differences in the manifestation of sexual dimorphism among species that differentiate in the mating mode.

Methods

For my studies I will work with voucher specimens of the target species. By applying morphometrical measurements on a variety of external traits differences among species and sex will be determined. Further, micro CT scan will be used to characterize osteological traits.

 


Ronja Ratzbor

Plant Ecology with Prof. Dr. Katja Tielbörger

Research

I am a PhD student in a DFG funded project on the effect of habitat heterogeneity on species diversity in semi-natural grassland ecosystems (HEDGE 2), which is part of the DFG Priority Programme ‘Biodiversity Exploratories’.

I studied Geoecology at the University of Tübingen. My main research interest is population ecology of grassland species and how they are influenced by land-management.

My PhD work continues the HEDGE project which focuses on heterogeneity and diversity in grassland ecosystems. With the experimental work I continue a large microcosm experiment of the first phase of the project, conduct a new pot experiment and field work in the three Biodiversity Exploratories. All parts are designed to test the area-heterogeneity trade-off (AHTO) [Allouche et al., 2012]. This model rethinks the effect of heterogeneity on diversity depending on area. There are also possibilities to do a Master or Bachelor thesis on this project as well as to join as a HiWi.

Methods

Prior to my PhD I already worked on plant populations of the species Pedicularis sceptrum-carolinum L. at lake Federsee. In my Master thesis I implemented a matrix model in R to run a population viability analysis (PVA) for this species.

I was founding member of the University initiative “Bunte Wiese” (Colorful Meadow). This group motivates the University and the City of Tübingen to change over from intensive to extensive management of within-city greens to foster species richness. A monitoring through scientific works about different meadow species takes place.

For my Bachelor thesis I studied habitat preference in dependence of fish density of the species Cottus gobio in an artificial stream and a small creek in Switzerland.

 


Matteo Santon

Animal Evolutionary Ecology with Prof. Dr. Nico Michiels

Interests

"Active photolocation” is defined as emitting light with the goal of inducing and spotting reflections in other organisms. The principle assumes the presence of reflective eyes in many organisms, which will appear to blink from the perspective of an observer that has a light-emitting area in or near the eye. This process has been already hypothesized in chemiluminescent deep sea dragonfishes and flashlight fishes, which possess a light organ underneath their eyes. During my PhD I will try to understand the proximate and ultimate mechanisms of active photolocation. My focus will mainly be on diurnal fishes, as many of them possess highly reflective or fluorescent structures in proximity to their eyes.

Methods

My model species are the triplefin Trypterigion delaisi and one of their common predator, the scorpionfish Scorpaena porcus. I will conduct my research combining different approaches:
 

  • Spectrometry: necessary to describe the light spectrum in the environment and to quantify other important phenomena, like the reflectance of an illuminated object;
  • Modelling: implementing accurate visual models will allow to predict under which environmental conditions active photolocation is physically possible;
  • Behavioural experiments: behavioural experiments, both in the lab and in the field, will be used as the ultimate way to test my hypothesis.

 


Maria Spyrou

Palaeogenetics with Prof. Dr. Johannes Krause

Interests

My work on is focusing on the genetics of ancient pathogens, particularly ones involved in the most destructive historical pandemics such as that of the Black Death during the 14th century. I am interested in the evolution of pathogenic microorganisms over time, especially with respect to how changes have affected their fitness and virulence.

Methods

I use molecular biology techniques specifically designed for ancient DNA work, to isolate DNA from bones and teeth. Pathogen screening of the DNA extracts involves the production of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) libraries. Subsequently the libraries are subject to hybridization capture, a technique that allows to separate genetic material of interest from a complex DNA mixture. The captured material is then sequenced using high throughput sequencing technologies. Finally, the outcome is analysed using bioinformatics tools developed for NGS data analysis and phylogenetics.

 

 


Julia Staggenborg

Animal Evolutionary Ecology with Dr. Nils Anthes

Interests

The agricultural intensification resulted in a deprivation of suitable breeding habitats and food sources for birds adapted to open landscapes. To develop and establish effective protection measures for birds in the course of agricultural extensification programs, I investigate the effect of agricultural land use on the abundance, reproduction success and habitat use of a representative farmland bird, the corn bunting (Emberiza calandra). In Baden-Württemberg, the corn bunting occurs in very small population sizes (up to 20 pairs) in about six breeding areas, which differ considerably in habitat composition. I want to detect the used habitat structures for nest building and foraging in each area. In collaboration with nature conservation agencies and farmers, I want to promote the establishment of those preferred structures. By comparing the population dynamics in areas with and without or rather before and after the implementation of protection measures, I will be able to evaluate their efficiency. The conditions of more stable corn bunting populations in adjacent countries or states should be used as a reference for ideal habitat features and effective protection measures. 

Methods

  • Documentation and comparison of habitat structure, bird abundance, reproduction success and habitat utilization within and between each study area
  • Detection of habitat structure preferences with regard to nest site and food search
  • Promotion of regional preferred habitat structures
  • Repeated detection of population structure (number of individuals, survival rates, reproduction) and habitat utilization (acceptance or rather use of established measures) to evaluate the efficiency of protection measures
  • Development of an effective management concept to save the corn bunting and other open landscape birds

 


Jessica Starke

Geology and Geodynamics with Prof. Dr. Todd Ehlers

Interests

  • Earth surface processes and their quantification using cosmogenic radionuclides
  • Application of cosmogenic nuclides to quantify the influence of tectonics and climate change on landscape evolution
  • Fluvial Geomorphology, Quaternary Geology

Methods

  • Cosmogenic radionuclides 10Be, 26Al
  • Major element analysis (ICP-OES)
  • Landscape evolution and analysis by means of Topotoolbox (Matlab), GIS and remote sensing

 


Ashild Vagene

Paleogenetics with Prof. Dr. Johannes Krause

Interests

I am working on detecting and isolating ancient genomes of bacteria and DNA-viruses that infected human populations in the past. Using genome data it is possible to assess the evolutionary histories of specific pathogens by comparing ancient and modern forms. Thus, allowing a better understanding of human (host) -pathogen interactions in the past and present. For me this is highly interesting in regard to re-emerging diseases, particularly those that have caused pandemics or large-scale epidemics in the past.

Methods

Isolating pathogen DNA from human remains (bones and teeth) from the archaeological record can be difficult, because it is often preserved in low amounts in comparison to human and other contaminating environmental DNA. To obtain ancient pathogen DNA I use various molecular techniques for targeted DNA-enrichment, coupled with high-throughput sequencing. Sequencing data is analysed using bioinformatics tools tailored for metagenomic and phylogenetic analysis.

 


Liesbeth van den Brink

Plant Ecology with Prof. Dr. Katja Tielbörger

Interests

The space-for-time approach, where spatial gradients are taken as a proxy for temporal change, is often used in biological and geological research. I try to combine this approach with manipulated environmental conditions on-site, to study if short-term responses in plant-soil feedbacks follow the same trajectory as the long-term dynamics.

Methods

In my PhD I use transplant experiments and rainout shelters to disentangle the relationships between climate, vegetation and geochemical effects on nutrient cycling along a climate gradient. My project is part of the EarthShape project, which explores how biological processes from soil, influence topography, and thereby shape the Earth surface and modulates the impact of climate change on the Earth surface.

 


Franziska Merle Willems

Plant Evolutionary Ecology with Prof. Dr. Oliver Bossdorf

Interests

Within my PhD project I investigate how land use and climate change affect the flowering phenology of forest understory plants. I combine field surveys with the study of herbarium collections to track potential changes of phenology over time as a consequence of changing forest management and environmental conditions. Genomic changes in the same plants will be studied as part of a close collaboration with the Ancient Genomics & Evolution group at the MPI for Developmental Biology.
Having worked on plant animal interaction – especially pollination and seed dispersal behavior – during my master studies I am also interested in behavioral ecology and, due to my background in the social sciences, in interdisciplinary approaches especially the philosophy of biology.

Methods

  • Monitoring of the phenology of common spring flowering herbs in the forest plots of the Biodiversity Exploratories Hainich-Dün and Schwäbische Alb.
  • Analysis of phenological data in relation to forest management, weather, and other factors
  • Herbarium surveys of historical specimen from the same species and regions. Tests for long-term trends and climatic correlates.
  • Comparisons between historical and current phenological data.
  • Synthesis: Contrasting phenological vs. genetic changes, comparison between species

 


Gillian Wong

Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology with Prof. Dr. Nicholas J. Conard

Interests

I am interested in exploring how large-scale changes in climate and environment affect prehistoric hunter-gatherer behavior at the regional and local level. Specifically, I am interested in changes in human subsistence behavior and landscape and site use. For my master's degree I explored this question by examining late Quaternary oscillations in the El Nino Southern Oscillation system in northern Baja California. Currently, my PhD work has shifted my research to Europe where I am exploring these questions in the context of the Pleistocene-Holocene transition in the Swabian Alb of Southwest Germany. My key research questions for this work include: What are the local environmental and climatic changes occurring in this region during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition as reflected in microfaunal assemblages? In what ways, if any, do hunter-gatherer subsistence behaviors and site use respond to these changes and how do these responses fit into our current understanding of the Magdalenian, Late Paleolithic, and Mesolithic cultures?

Methods

To explore these research questions, I am working with both macro- and microvertebrate remains from archaeological sites in the Swabian Jura that date to the Pleistocene-Holocene transition and have assemblages from the Magdalenian and Mesolithic. Microvertebrate analyses focus on local-scale paleoenvironmental reconstruction and taphonomic analyses that have implications for human and non-human predator use of the sites. Macrovertebrate analyses focus on reconstructing changes in human subsistence using both traditional zooarchaeological methods and isotopic analysis. Used jointly, and with the application of theories from behavioral ecology, these datasets have the potential to reconstruct human site use and create interpretations that are testable and easily comparable to previous and future work in the Swabian Jura.

 

Alumni


Catherine Bauer

Paleoanthropology with Prof. Dr. Katerina Harvati

Interests

  • Geometric morphometrics
  • Tooth morphology and dental tissue proportions within the genus Homo
  • Virtual reconstruction of CT-scanned, damaged human remains
  • Cranial shape variations within the genus Homo
  • Human evolution

Methods

I work on high-resolution or medical CT scans to analyze the shape and the tissue proportions of human teeth as well as internal structures o human bones or crania. With the help of powerful software, such as AVIZO or RHINO , the scans can be visualized and several non-invasive virtual techniques can be applied to gather data, e.g. tissue volumes or 2D/3D landmarks. Finally, using software such as MORPHOLOGIKA, MorphoJ, MORPHEUS, JMP or the EVAN toolbox, the data is evaluated on the basis of multivariate statistical methods, for example principal component analysis.

 


Tobias Gerlach

Animal Evolutionary Ecology with Prof. Dr. Nico Michiels

Now field ecologists in the Biosphere Reserve Rhön.

Interests

My dissertation is focussing on visual signals and their ecological functions in marine fish. Specifically, I investigate the role of red fluorescent fish colouration in a blue-dominated underwater environment.

I am especially interested in colour signals as an adaptation of sexual selection and potential private communication.

Methods

My methods encompass a combination of physiological characterisations within the teleost visual system and a range of behaviour experiments.

 


Ines Häderer

Animal Evolutionary Ecology with Prof. Dr. Nico Michiels

Interests

My main field of interest is sexual selection, in particular the quantification of sexual selection in both genders. On a more general scale I investigate the effect of mating system characteristics and their effect on the strength of sexual selection in both sexes throughout the animal and plant kingdom. In addition I want to show that the diverse methods used to measure sexual selection potentially affect the findings and their interpretation. In the second part of my dissertation I work on the hermaphroditic freshwater snail species Biomphalaria glabrata, aiming to shed some light on sexual selection in simultaneous hermaphrodites. On the one hand I focus on identifying male and female traits that are under sexual selection and on the other hand I want to provide a case study showing the effect of methods on the measured strength of sexual selection. Additional interest include self-fertilisation and inbreeding depression as well as benefits of polyandry.

Methods

We keep a large number of B. glabrata populations in our wet lab at the University of Tuebingen. The experimental work primarily includes behavioural observations and image analysis and some genotyping using Microsatellites. Furthermore we apply meta-analytic tools to approach general patterns of sexual selection.

 


Ulrike Harant

Animal Evolutionary Ecology with Prof. Dr. Nico Michiels

Interests

I am interested in the function of red fluorescence as commonly found in many reef fish. Red fluorescence is able to create a good contrast in deeper water were red light is usually absent. Hence, I am investigating whether some fish are actively using this light emitting mechanism to increase their prey detection efficiency on small crypto-benthic prey items such as copepods.

Methods

I mostly focused on extensive behavioral lab experiments within our facilities. However, I also take light measurements in the field to characterize the typical light environment for our target species which involves a lot of diving in the marine environment.

 


Alissa Mittnik

Paleogenetics with Prof. Dr. Johannes Krause

Interests

My work is on population genetics of prehistoric European humans (Upper Paleolithic anatomically modern humans up to Early Bronze Age). I´m especially interested in human migration and admixture and the question of how archeologically defined civilizations are in concordance with genetically determined populations.

Methods

I use molecular genetic methods developed for the work with ancient DNA (extraction, library preparation and handling up to sequencing) and processing of sequencing data. I would like to learn more about computational and bioinformatical methods that deal with population genetics and phylogenetic analyses.

 


Cosimo Posth

Paleogenetics with Prof. Dr. Johannes Krause

Interests

I´m working on population genetics of early modern human evolution focusing on the genetic variation between populations through time. Comparing ancient with modern DNA would allow to clarify how humans evolved under selective pressure as adaptation at different environments. I´m also fascinated by the interaction between biological and cultural evolution especially looking at archeological settlements.

Methods

I extract ancient DNA form bones and teeth and convert it into indexed libraries in a sterile condition laboratory to prevent contamination. This process is know as immortalization of DNA because the entire genetic  library of one individual can be stored and amplified forever. After amplification steps I use different capture techniques to enrich certain regions of human DNA. Finally the enriched genetic material is sequenced using high throughput sequencing technologies. The obtained sequences have then to be processed with bioinformatic tools to implement phylogenetic analyses and to assess genetic relationships.

 


Hugo Reyes-Centeno

Paleoanthropology with Prof. Dr. Katerina Harvati

Now an assistant researcher at the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment in Tübingen.

Interests

I am a graduate student in paleoanthropology, with my dissertation focusing on craniodental variation in Middle-Late Pleistocene humans. As an extension of my master thesis and in collaboration with international colleagues, my current projects look at the association between cranial and linguistic phenotype, genotype, and biogeography.

Methods

The primary methods used in my work are three-dimensional geometric morphometrics, virtual anthropology / biomedical imaging from computed tomography (CT), and population genetics with use of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).

 


Andrea Schuster

Comparative Zoology with Prof. Dr. Katharina Foerster

Interests

I am interested in the fields of behavioural ecology, animal personalities, evolutionary genetics and nature conservation. I have been involved in several projects analysing individual behaviour and animal ecology in rodents (common and bank voles). Thereby, I mainly focused on the genetic coherence of behavioural traits and how these behaviours have evolved. I like the combination of genetic laboratory and ecological field work. Working with mammals is a part of my work I especially enjoy.

Methods

My PhD project will combine analyses of individual behavioural traits and cognitive abilities in the Eurasian Harvest Mouse (Micromys minutus). I will use a series of laboratory tests to confirm animal personalities in my study species. In an outdoor enclosure I want to follow individuals throughout their lifespan and I will analysis heritability and ecological consequences of the behavioural and cognitive traits.

  • behavioural and cognitive tests using video tracking (e.g. Open Field, Y Maze)
  • field work in outdoor enclosure (e.g. life-trapping, automatic RFID recording)
  • genetic lab work: parentage analysis

 


Alexandra Uhl

Paleoanthropology with Prof. Dr. Katerina Harvati

Interests

I am a doctoral student in Paleoanthropology interested in sexual selection and sexual dimorphism in modern humans and in human evolution. My Masters research focused on frequency dependent sexual selection in humans for eye colors. My dissertation research explores the levels of sexual dimorphism in the bony labyrinth across ontogenetically and geographically diverse populations. 

Methods 

My methods involve using high resolution and medical CT scans of skulls to segment and extract 3D models of the bony labyrinth using software such as AVIZO. Then linear measurements of the height and width of the semicircular canals and cochlea of the visualized bony labyrinth can be made. These non-invasive methods leave skeletal material completely unharmed and intact. Skeletal collections of known sex will be used in order for bony labyrinth results to be confirmed. Since the bone which houses the bony labyrinth is extremely well preserved at archaeological sites, while other sexually dimorphic features often are not, the aim is to confidently apply resulting formulas to skeletal material of unknown sex in the future.

 


Martin Vallon

Animal Evolutionary Ecology with Dr. Katja Heubel

Interests

My main research interests are filial cannibalism, reproduction in general and sexual selection. Studies on these topics often ignore the ecological and social context of the respective population. During my PhD, I investigate the effects of several abiotic and biotic factors on cannibalism, reproductive rates, competition and OSR, using the common goby, Pomatoschistus microps, as a model species. This small marine fish has a complex mating system with plastic sex roles and is highly suitable for aquaria-based research in the lab. Other general interests include the influence of intrinsic interindividual differences, i.e. animal personality, on paternal care.

Methods

While the theoretical work happens here at the University of Tuebingen, most experiments take place at Tvärminne Zoological Station, Finland. Fish are caught from the wild and kept under controlled laboratory conditions. After exposing them to different experimental manipulations, I typically characterise a set of behavioural and reproductive variables, which often involves video recording and photography of egg clutches.

 


Christoph Wißing

Biogeology with Prof. Dr. Hervé Bocherens

Interests

  • Climate change during the last Ice Age
  • Cultural and biological change in early humans, including Neanderthal extinction
  • Mammals and their environment during the last Ice Age

Methods

Around the Heinrich IV-Event (ca. 40k.a. B.P.), a diverse community of large herbivorous, omnivorous and carnivorous mammals lived under cold conditions in Belgium. I plan to reconstruct the ancient trophic webs and climatic conditions under which this community lived using isotopic tracers (δD, δ13C, δ15N, δ18O, δ34S) in fossil bones of various species in several cave sites in the Meuse Valley (Belgium).  In this time spam the replacement of Neanderthals by the anatomically modern humans is dedicated. Analyzing specimens from these humans using the same approach will allow me to establish their trophic position and to document the impact of environmental change on their evolution. I will test hypotheses regarding the possible role of climate on terrestrial ecosystems and human subsistence during this period and its possible relationship with cultural and biological change, including Neanderthal extinction. The use of deuterium and sulphur isotopic compositions of fossil bones will be a methodological development and will certainly improve the quality of palaeoecological reconstruction of Quaternary ecosystems.