Institute of Evolution and Ecology (EvE)

EVEREST students

The currently elected student representatives are Carolin Röding (Paleoanthropology) and Anna Kirschbaum (Plant Evolutionary Ecology).

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.

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.

Dario Galanti ► Plant Evolutionary Ecology with Prof. Dr. Oliver Bossdorf

Interests

DNA methylation in plants was shown to be heritable and at least partially independent on the underlying genetic sequence. It was also shown to be responsive to some environmental stimuli and it was therefore suggested to provide plants with a mean of "rapid evolution". My research focuses on understanding the role of epigenetics in local adaptation of plants and its potential role in evolution.

Methods

European Thlaspi arvense natural populations, collected along a latitudinal gradient (South France to Middle Sweden) will be grown in common garden conditions and screened for DNA methylation variation through a novel custom-made RRBS method. The resulting DNA methylation patterns will be tested for correlation with climatic variables and phenotipic traits.

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

Interests

My research aims at the reconstruction of human economic behaviour during the Magdalenian period in the Achtal and Lonetal, by analysing the organic tools industry. The importance and impact that this new material culture had in the region will be evaluated: in order to tackle the ways the Magdalenian culture spread in the considered sites (around 16.3 – 12.7 cal Kyr BP), the results will be compared to the coeval surrounding areas. Besides, a diachronical investigation will be developed in order to understand the breakage/continuity in organic tools industry with the previous cultural period, i.e. Gravettian.

Methods

The methods that will be adopted for the research are the ones currently developed and well established in the academic network. The technological analysis will help me to infer the steps composing the Reduction Sequences of the main tool typologies, and to understand the relationship between past human groups and available faunal resources. The use-wear analysis will allow to identify the past function of tools, and to reconstruct the activities in which they have been involved. The observation of tools surface for the record of macro traces will be performed using an optical stereomicroscope, whereas a metallographic or metallurgical microscope with high power magnifications will be suitable for the record of micro-wear traces. The analyses will be developed in parallel to experimental activities in order to create a reliable comparative collection of traces. Taphonomical analyses will take place in order to skim natural surface modifications from anthropic traces.

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

Sophie Habinger ► Biogeology with Prof. Dr. Hervé Bocherens

Interests

I am interested in the interactions of humans and other animals with the changeing environment in which they live and evolve. How do they move within the landscape? How do the different specien of a community interact? How is evolution influenced by the environment?

The main focus of my PhD research is to characterize the environments and habitat of the mammalian commonities from two fossil formations in Myanmar (Pondaung, and Irrawaddy) dating to the Eocene and Miocene. I will answer questions concerning niche partitioning, and seasonality and evaluate the impact of these environmental factors on the evolution the anthropoid primates.

Methods

For my PhD research I am using stable isotope analysis of enamel carbonates and 3D dental microwear textural analysis to describe the paleoecological and paleoenvironmental conditions in Cenozoic Myanmar.

Heiko Hinneberg ► University of Applied Forest Sciences with Prof. Dr. Thomas Gottschalk

Interests

The world is currently facing a rapid loss of biodiversity. In order to create effective conservation measures, a profound knowledge about population ecology and the response of species to a changing climate as well as altered land use is needed. So far, my research has focused on amphibians and grassland plants. During my PhD I study threatened butterfly species of open woodlands. My main research questions are:
i) Do larval survival rates differ between edges of forest tracks and clear cuttings?
ii) What are the main drivers of larval mortality (climatic extreme events, host plant senescence, ...)?
iii) How large are the remaining populations of the Southern White Admiral (Limenitis reducta)? Are they part of a metapopulation?

Based on my results, I will finally develop conservation strategies which help ensuring the long-term viability of butterfly populations and which are applicable in regular forest management.

Methods

- field ecology (monitoring of species, evaluation of habitat suitability)
- GIS
- capture-mark-recapture
- population viability analysis

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.

Jun Hee Jung ► Plant Evolutionary Ecology with Prof. Dr. Oliver Bossdorf

Interests

I am interested in elucidating factors determining plant phenotype.  My master's thesis was focused on the genotype of the plant and for my PhD project I was to incorporate not only the role of plant genotype on the phenotype but the environmental factors as well to study the interaction between plant microbiome and pathogen, and how stable they are across plant genotypes and various environments.

Methods

I am incorporating both classic ecological experimental method such as fitness tests with Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) techniques to measure role of microbiome in host-pathogen interaction under different environmental stressors.

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.

Anne Kremmer ► Biogeology with Prof. Dr. Hervé Bocherens

Interests

My main research interests focus on the evolution and reconstruction of living conditions of past populations, including reconstruction of diet and mobility patterns but also the effects of environmental and biomechanical stressors on the human skeleton during and after bone development. My PhD project aims to investigate, with palaeoanthropological approaches, secular changes in living standards through the analysis of ~400 stratified graves from the medieval/post-medieval Fransiscan cemetery on place Guillaume II in Luxembourg City. The analysis will focus primarely on the effects of environmental stressors on teeth as those are directly involved with dietary intake, but will also consider effects of biomechanical stressors on bone growth and development such as bilateral asymmetries.

Methods
  • Recording of severity of calculus, caries, periapical abscesses, periodontal disease, dental attrition and enamel hypoplasias following established scoring systems (Hillson (1996), Roberts and Manchester (2007) and Trautmann (2012) )
  • Metric analysis of bones and specifically joints
  • Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen and Strontium Stable Isotope Ananlyses will be used to determine the dietary composition and geographical origin of a carefully selected sample of individuals from the cemetery
  • Comparison of the results for individuals from the different recorded archaeological layers in order to track changes in living conditions over time
  • Statistical analyses to interpret the collected data

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.

Laura Sophia Limmer ► Palaeoanthropology with Dr. Sireen El Zataari

Interests

My research interests in paleoanthropology are the development and life history of extinct hominin taxa. This includes diet and subsistence as well as pathologies and developmental stress during childhood. As a PhD project, I analyse dental enamel hypoplasia and microwear in the dentitions of Paleolithic subadults. Enamel forms during development and hypoplasia indicates growth arrests or developmental stress often interpreted to be related to dietary stress. Neanderthals as well as early anatomically modern humans are included in this research to compare life history parameters and diet across hominins and to allow for subsequent interpretations on the Neanderthal extinction.

Methods
  • Molding and casting fossil dentitions with President MicroSystemTM (Coltène-Whaledent) impression material and Epo-Tek 301 epoxy resin and hardener (Epoxy Technology).
  • Examination of dental microwear and occlusal surfaces using a Confocal Imaging Profiler [Sensofar Neox]
  • Mountains software for analysing and evaluating tooth surfaces and microwear patterns
  • Multivariate statistics

Annabelle-Louise Lockey ► Palaeoanthrologie with Prof. Katerina Harvati

Interests

My primary interest is primate dental development and biomechanics, with a focus on hominin evolution. Secondarily, I also concerned with non destructive methodologies. My Ph.D. concerns the investigation of Palaeolithic non-adults subsistence and metabolic stress through exploring dental micro wear and hypoplasia using high resolution dental casts. Evaluating when adult dietary and behavioral practices first appear in different Palaeolithic populations, to better understand child rearing practices and life history events within a ecological context.

Methods

Microwear texture analysis and analysis of dental hypoplasia defects from high resolution casts, consisting of paleolithic adults and non-adults, and a comparative sample of recent individuals.
Dental microwear data collection will employ the latest technological development using the Sensofar Plμ Neox confocal imaging profiler available at the Paleoanthropology Imaging Laboratory at the University of Tuebingen.
For scoring of hypoplasia defects a new highly objective technique will be applied using the Sensofar Plμ Neox confocal profiler will be used instead of the 3-D imaging microscope since it provides higher resolution and much faster scanning speed. Presence/absence of all kinds of hypoplastic defects will be recorded for all the available teeth, yet the focus will be on defects that affect concurrently forming teeth since these would indicate systemic stress as opposed to localized trauma.
Data will be analyzed with multivariate statistics.

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

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

Interests

My research concerns the investigation of pyrotechnology in the Paleolithic in order to understand the evolution of the relation between human and fire. Further, the analysis of the combustion features is useful to provide new information on how Neanderthals and Modern humans organized their living space. The aim of my project focuses on the diachronic investigation of the continuities and changes in human behavior from the Middle to Upper Paleolithic, through the microcontextual study of the combustion features and related in two transitional sites.

Methods

To perform my research, I will employ the typical analytical techniques used in geoarchaeology such as micromorphology, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (Micro XRF) and organic petrology. The application of these methodologies will provide new information about fire use and fire making by humans during the Paleolithic.

Tobias Massone ► Terrestrial Palaeoclimatology with Prof. Dr. Madelaine Böhme

Interests

I came in contact with fossil crocodiles for the first time during my master thesis. I made a morphological description and a phylogenetic classification of a new species (Orientalosuchus naduongensis). Since then I am interested in crocodilian morphology and decided to go deeper into this field. During my PhD, I am now working on the complete fossilized crocodile fauna of an Eocene basin in eastern Asia, containing multiple individuals of three different species.

Methods

For the descriptional work I use a good camera, a graphic tablet and a measurement tool. For the phylogenetic classification, I use a morphological data matrix with which I can score a species. This matrix forms the basis of the dataset, which is then used further to calculate a phylogenetic tree with a more specialized program (e.g. T.N.T.).

Tommaso Mori ► Palaeoanthropology with Prof. Katerina Harvati

Interests

Based on the synapomorphies previosly described in my master dissertation, during my doctorate, I want to study Homo erectus morphology in a comparative developmental context. My interests focus on undeveloped fossils, such as KNM-ER42700, and in the understanding how much this feature influences morphology. Taxonomic affiliation of this fossils will be then discussed based on the results of the research. I am studying with geometric morphometric methods also the morphology of fossils (KNM-OL 45500 and Kocabaş) which have a difficult classification.

Methods

I use virtual anthropology method in order to acquire Landmarks (or semilandmarks) based dataset. After acquisition of 3d coordinates, I use them to make quantitative morphological analysis following geometric morphometric methods described in published literature.

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.

Jordy Orellana ► Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology with Dr. Claudio Tennie

Interests

My research deals with lithic production, the manufacture of stone tools, and seeks to answer questions related to early human evolution, as well as that of related hominins. My research will also involve plenty of work related to my computer science background, such as machine learning, and the application of computational methods to attempt to solve challenges faced in archaeology. Whilst my work is focused on questions regarding early humans, I am also very interested in the history and archaeology of the Bronze and Iron Ages.

Methods

My research will involve applying computer science methods such as machine learning to various different lithic assemblages in order to obtain a predictive computer-based model to use for the study of lithic production.

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.

Robert Rauschkolb ► Plant Evolutionary Ecology with Dr. Niek Scheepens

Interests

I am interested in plant adaptation and rapid evolution. For my master thesis I have used the ex-situ collections from the Botanical Garden of Tübingen to investigate possible maladaptative processes caused by cultivation. After using living plant material to study adaptation and rapid evolution during my Masters I have decided to use stored seed material for my PhD Project (Back to the Future). In this project I aim to investigate recent adaptation to environmental changes (e.g. climate change) using the resurrection approach.

Frank Reis ► Plant Evolutionary Ecology with Prof. Dr. Oliver Bossdorf

Interests

My main interest is the evolution and adaptation of organisms to environmental conditions. In this context, I am particularly interested in the influence of such developments on other species and the associated adaptation of different organisms to each other. These interactions are especially strong in closely associated systems such as host-symbiont-interactions.
After studying the relationship between reed beetles and their closely associated symbiotic bacteria in my master's thesis, my PhD thesis focuses on the ecology of the microbiome in natural Lotus corniculatus populations. I am investigating the effect that different influences like climate, land use, soil composition, plant genotype or plant age can have on the plant microbiome.

Methods

We will sample L. corniculatus palnts at the plots of the research platform Biodiversity Exploratories and analyze the microbiome of the roods shoots, flowers and seeds of each plant by amplicon sequencing. Furthermore, we will create a collection of cultured core microbe, based on these results. To test the effects of plant genotype on plant microbiome we will create microbe-free plants and infect them with this synthetic microbiome. Subsequently we will RADsequence all plants used in our experiment to obtain precise genotype data and compare these results to the microbiome of the plants. To combine all data we will use the software package CoNet.

Carolin Röding ► Paleoanthropology with Prof. Dr. Katerina Harvati

Interests

While completing my bachelor’s degree in Biology I developed an interest in human evolution with a special emphasis on brain evolution. The application of virtual anthropology, as non-destructive method, for the analysis of hominin cranial remains is my main research focus. Further my research interests include hominin variation, the interaction between brain and braincase as well as cranial integration and modularity. For my doctoral dissertation in the framework of CROSSROADS, I am reconstructing and analyzing Middle-Late Pleistocene hominin crania and teeth from Greece.

Methods

William Daniel Snyder ► Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology with Dr. Claudio Tennie

Interests

I am interested in the interplay between culture, technology, and cognition, specifically in the framework of hominin evolution during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic. I wish to understand whether lithic artefacts in the earlier parts of human prehistory were the result of human-like cumulative culture or something more akin to the culture of non-human primates.

Methods

The main means of data collection in this project is the experimental replication of Paleolithic stone tool technologies.

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

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.

Nina van Schepdael ► Palaeoanthropology with Prof. Dr. Katerina Harvati

Interests

My broader interests are palaeoecology/environments palaeobotany, Paleolithic archaeology and prehistory. I am specialising in palaeobotany: macrofossils and pollen. My current research includes a palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of an archaeological site (Palaeolithic) to see in what environment the hominids were living and how that could have affected their settlement/migration/food provision strategies. Also, this contributes to the biostratigraphic research on the site.

Methods

My main methodology is pollen analysis. I sampled pollen from a long stratigraphic profile on the archaeological site. I will systematically subsample throughout the whole profile. I each sample I will identify which vegetation was present at that horizon, based on the morphology of the pollen grains. This will give me insight on the vegetation and landscape present at the time of the deposition of these pollen grains.

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.

EVEREST Alumni

Catherine Bauer ► Paleoanthropology with Prof. Dr. Katerina Harvati

Interests
 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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)

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.

Anubhav Mohiley ► Plant Ecology with Prof. Dr. Katja Tielbörger

Interests

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.

Clara Nesongano ► Plant Ecology with Prof. Dr. Katja Tielbörger

Interests

Climate change, rangeland ecology and restoration ecology

Methods

Alexander Peltzer ► Palaeogenetics & Bioinformatics with Prof. Dr. Johannes Krause

Interests

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.