General research interests
My general research goal is to generally promote our understanding of the ecological and evolutionary consequences of animal construction by integrating the function (biomechanics) and form (morphology) of animals in their relationship to the environment. I am especially interested in further developing the ecomorphological approach, i.e. understanding the function of morphological structures in the ecological (environment) and evolutionary context (history). In this context, our goal is to find adaptive explanations, i.e. considering the external environment as the main evolutionary causation of the observed morphologies. However, in order to evaluate the role of the phylogenetic history as an additional or even alternative explanation, it is required to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships among the investigated taxa, if such information is not already available from the literature. These relationships can be used as a template for explaining the evolutionary origin and diversification of the investigated ecologically relevant structures.
Methodically, we use techniques such as light and electron microscopy (transmission and scanning), high speed cinematography, synchrotron X-ray imaging (including tomography), geometric morphometry, direct behavioural observation (including videography), force measurements, and ecological field and laboratory studies.
Special research interests
Ecological and evolutionary morphology of insects:
We investigate a broad spectrum of insects, including cockroaches, locusts, bugs, and beetles.
Ultrastructure of arthropods:
Our divison runs an electron microscopic laboratory with an Environmental Cryo-SEM, 2 TEMs, and 2 ultramicrotomes.
Synchrotron microradiography of insects:
For X-ray imaging, synchrotron light sources offer a photon beam that (i) propagates quasi-parallel, (ii) has fluxes that are higher by orders of magnitude than laboratory sources, and (iii) allows one to exploit more sophisticated contrast modalities. Imaging with X-rays offers the chance to investigate complex kinematics of, for example, feeding and locomotion devices of animals, as the penetrating nature of the radiation reveals internal information. We use the tomography beamlines at the synchrotron facilities Argonne Lab (USA), ESRF (Grenoble, France), and ANKA (Karlsruhe, Germany).
Biological phenomena discovered in our lab are tested in cooperation with material scientists and chemists with respect to their technical applicability.
Field ecological and faunistic investigations as relevant for conservation issues:
We conduct faunistic inventories with respect to various groups of insects as well as autecological studies on endangered species that shall help to advance conservation issues.