Department of Evolutionary Genetics

Evolutionary epi-/genetic research for species conservation
by bridging genotype and phenotype

We study mammalian evolutionary diversity and aim to understand how past conditions have shaped current mammalian diversity and how that diversity may change in the decades to come. We do this by focussing on four facets:

  • adaptive genetic variation, where we focus on the genetics of domestication. We want to generate insights into the genetics of adaptation in a context of intense selection pressures exerted on a small set of traits.
  • neutral genetic variation, where we characterize the genetic structure and demography of wildlife populations in order to address issues relevant to conservation (in particular in felids).
  • epigenetic variation, where we study how wild mammals cope with rapid environmental changes (e.g. temperature, nutrition).
  • life-history variation, where we investigate how physical and social environments drive fecundity and survival of individuals and, in turn, how changes in fecundity and survival influence the expression of other traits.

 Our target mammals are

  • species of conservation interest (e.g. tiger, lynx, elephant),
  • species of IZW long-term research projects (e.g. hyaena, cheetah, hedgehog),
  • and species particularly rich in historical data (e.g. domestic horses, humans).

 For particular aspects we develop specific methods, e.g. to monitor demographic changes in non-model species using various markers (genetic, isotopic, phenotypic).

We also contribute to open source software (e.g. R packages IsoriX, spaMM, camtrapR), and administrate, together with five regional partners, the Berlin Center for Genomics in Biodiversity Research (BeGenDiv), a platform of service and training for genomics and bioinformatics.

We also curate two large reference sample collections (ARCHE and EAZA Biobank). While the first one allows us to provide advisory and wildlife forensic services to governmental and non-governmental agencies, the second one provides a population management service for the European zoo community. We also provide consulting, teaching, and forensic expertise to legal authorities, NGOs, and the commercial sector(see also our Service web page).


Last updated on December 5, 2019