Field Research Station

Integrating interdisciplinary research on model species

As an international centre for wildlife research, one of the IZW’s aims is to elucidate the role of larger herbivores and predators in European ecosystems. In order to apply advanced experimental techniques to model species, we established a Field Research Station (FRS) in Niederfinow, Brandenburg in 1993. This facility offers the opportunity for interdisciplinary and comparative research on life-history strategies, conflicts, reproduction biology, nutritional physiology, epigenetics and behaviour of wildlife.

European roe deer, European brown hare and Guinea pigs are kept and bred in an area of about 4ha. A small number of Arctic hare, marmots, sheep, goats and donkeys are kept as well for comparative studies. The FRS consists of several semi-natural enclosures of different sizes and cages allowing observation, capture and handling of individuals. Furthermore, the FRS offers the infrastructure needed for maintenance and modern animal husbandry, i.e. examination and residence rooms. Three animal keepers and two animal keeper apprentices are continuously working at the FRS. We offer the opportunity for taking a gap year as a volunteer in the environmental sector (Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr).

The scientific and veterinary management of the FRS places emphasis on application of new non-invasive (e.g. ultrasonography, electroejaculation) or minimally invasive methods (blood sampling, fine needle biopsies) to investigate live animals under standardised conditions on a long term basis. Biologists and veterinary scientists of various disciplines work closely together in a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to study model species in the context of dynamic ecological processes. Therefore, the FRS is a central and integrating facility that allows the IZW to link experimental approaches with research on free-ranging populations.

Recent projects

Life-history strategies of female European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus)

Fecundity and costs of reproduction, factors and mechanisms of litter size and sex-ratio adjustment, pre- and postnatal maternal investment, conflicts within and between generations.

Minimally invasive investigations of the reproduction biology of European brown hares (Lepus europaeus)

Long-term ultrasonographic evaluation and characterisation of embryonic and foetal development as well as embryonic mortality, experimental investigations of superfoetation, ultrasound-guided biopsy techniques in European brown hare.

Seasonal adaptations

Environmental triggers and underlying genetics of seasonal coat colour changes in mountain hares (Lepus timidus).

Paternal epigenetic effects in wild cavies (Cavia aperea)

Effects of temperature and nutrition related stressors on the genetic make-up, energy budget and energy expenditure of male guinea pigs and mechanisms of passing alterations on to their offspring.

Selected publications

Drews B, Szentiks CA, Roellig K, Fickel J, Schroeder K, Duff JP, Lavazza A, Hildebrandt TB, Goeritz F (2011) Epidemiology, control and management of an EBHS outbreak in captive hares. Vet Microbiol 154: 37-48.

Roellig K, Goeritz F, Fickel J, Hermes R, Hofer H, Hildebrandt TB (2011) Superconception in mammalian pregnancy can be detected and increases reproductive output per breeding season. Nat Commun 1: 78.

Roellig K, Goeritz F, Hildebrandt TB (2010) Ultrasonographic characterisation of prenatal development in European brown hares (Lepus europaeus PALLAS, 1778): an evolutionary approach. Reprod Fertil Dev 22: 448-458.

Roellig K, Menzies BR, Hildebrandt TB, Goeritz F (2011) The concept of superfetation: a critical review on a 'myth' in mammalian reproduction. Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc 86: 77-95.

Schroeder K, Drews B, Roellig K, Menzies BR, Goeritz F, Hildebrandt TB (2011) In vivo tissue sampling of embryonic resorption sites using ultrasound guided biopsy. Theriogenology 76: 778-784.

Schwarm A, Albrecht S, Ortmann S, Wolf C, Clauss M (2011) Digesta retention time in roe deer Capreolus capreolus, as measured with cerium-, lanthanum- and chromium-mordanted fibre. Eur J Wildl Res 57: 437-442.