Student theses in the Plant Ecology group


PhD in progress:

Completed PhD Theses:

Diploma/ Master

Master theses in progress

Completed Diploma / Master theses:


Bachelor theses in progress:

Completed Bachelor theses:

Upcoming theses opportunities

"Invasive Species" "Decision making in plants" "Plant competition" "Metal Hyperaccumulation" "Mycorrhiza and climate change" "Climate Change in Israel" "Environmental heterogeneity"

Please contact us (Tielbörger; Allhoff; Majekova; Ruppert) anytime for more detailed information or for other thesis opportunities!

1) Smart Monitoring of Vegetation (JR) - requires IMMEDIATE action

Advances in digital electronics and computational capabilities have boosted the appreciation of remote sensing in vegetation sciences. Contemporary remote sensing technologies are not limited to satellite-based sensors anymore, but are complemented by an array of camera-based technologies. In agriculture these technologies have already proven great potential to economize field monitoring of vegetation parameters related to performance and health. Due to the higher structural and temporal complexity of natural vegetation as compared to cropping systems, the transferability of the mentioned technologies is still very much unknown. This study seeks to fill this gap and assess the absolute and relative performance of camera-based smart monitoring for ecologically relevant vegetation metrics under near-natural conditions.

The study involves substantial field work as well as data / image processing in the IT-lab. Fieldwork will be carried in Germany and/or South Africa and hence may involve travelling. Due to the nature of the study, interest in digital image processing would be beneficial as well as interest in data-management and handling.

2) Primary Production Dynamics of Annuals vs. Perennials under Variable Climate (JR)

Dryland environments are considered relatively well adapted to climatic variability and grazing, and hence, well prepared for increased levels of global change (i.e. climate change and land use change). However, recent studies have underlined marked differences in ecosystem productivity during and after drought conditions for annual versus perennial dominated dryland systems.

This study seeks to shed light into within-community dynamics of primary production in order to better understand competition and compensatory effects within mixed annual and perennial vegetation stands in dryland environments. The study can build upon an existing global database of dryland primary production, but also will need to re-assess selected datasets based upon literature review and electronic data acquisition.

The study offers in-depth insights into big-data, data-fusion and meta-analytical approaches and offers the opportunity for cross-continental networking. Due to the nature of the study, good communicative as well as data-management skills are desirable or the will to develop these.

3) Can clonal plants smell soil? (MG)

Some clonal plants have little access to soil, for example, if they are surrounded by rocks or paved roads. Can these plants know in which direction to grow clonally to reach the soil? This project will try to answer this questions with a greenhouse experiment and will take place during the spring/summer (April–September, 2018) for 2-3 months.

4) Drought responses in (semi-)natural ecosystems of Southern Germany (KT)

Due to climatic change and overall decreasing precipitation, it becomes more and more important to look at drought responses of different ecosystems. A lot of studies investigated in drought impacts in dryland ecosystems but only few looked at temperate systems.

This study investigates in the response of temperate herbaceous vegetation to decreasing summer precipitation in forests and grasslands along a gradient of natural water availability on the Swabian Alb. The Swabian Alb provides a perfect study region because water availability varies over short geographical distances. We want to simulate different drought scenarios and test for ecosystem resistance and resilience.

The study includes intense field work on the Swabian Alb (April – August). It offers insight in field vegetation assessments, species recognition and diversity manipulation methods.

5) Can plants remember their future? (please contact Maria Majekova)

Plants respond plastically to aboveground competition via sensing the gradients in the photosynthetically active radiation and in the red to far-red ratio that indicate change of their neighbors’ density and height. Plants can choose a ‘confrontational’ strategy by increasing their vertical growth in case of dense but similarly tall neighbors.

We hypothesize that plants are able to further integrate this information and in their future choose the same ‘winning’ strategy before perceiving the actual light cues. We will test this hypothesis with a rosette plant Taraxacum sp. (dandelion) under a simulated competion ‘hula-skirt’ design in a 2-3 months greenhouse experiment (April - September).