Recent projects

  • Powering endurance: Fuel selection in migratory bats Adaptation

Mammals that engage in high intensity endurance exercise will deplete their glycogen reserves and then reach a point of sudden fatigue. Migratory birds, however, have the capacity to sustain energetically expensive activities over extended periods via lipid oxydation, almost without any signs of exhaustion. Our aim is to decipher how migratory bats can generate high levels of power needed for a long distance migration. Do they metabolize endogenous fat depots (just like birds), or do they refuel on the way, either in air or at stop-over sites?

The project is realized under the leadership of Department 1 (Evolutionary Ecology) together with other collaboration partners (Helmholtz Center Munich, Technical University Munich)

Funded by the Leibniz-Association (Leibniz Competitive Fund 2019-2021, K101/2018).


Project team:
Dr. Currie, Shannon
Dr. Camila MazzoniMSc. Maximilian Driller
  • Signatures of fe-/male fertility - Using long-term selection for high fertility to decipher the genetics of increased reproductive performance Adaptation

By comparing genomes of high fertility mouse lines with genomes of non-selected mice we aim to identify signatures of selection (= occurrence and frequency patterns of alleles causal for the selected reproductive trait). General applicability of results will then be tested in other mammal species (pigs, lions;) Sperm parameters to correlate male fertility will be evaluated by colleagues in the Dept. of Reproduction Biology.

The project is realized under the leadership of the FBN together with other collaboration partners (IKMB Kiel, IFN Schönow, BHZP, Geolifes).

Funded by the Leibniz-Association (Leibniz Competitive Fund 2018-2020, FBN-3-SOS-FERT).


Project team:
  • Invertebrate-derived DNA for monitoring (urban) Wildlife in Berlin Conservation

The use of mosquitoes and flies (in particular the blood of animals they fed on), collected in parks in and around Berlin, offers a non-invasive way to survey wildlife occurrence and distribution in cities. The meta-barcoded sequence data from the blood ingested by the insects will also be correlated to the “collection systems” (flies vs. mosquitos) to analyse the impact the choice of the “collection system” has on the outcome.

This study is part of the ongoing Bridging in Biodiversity of Science (BIBs) project funded by the BMBF (2017-2020).

Project team:
Dr. Renita Danabalan
Dr. Sebastien Calvignac-Spencer (Robert Koch Institute, Berlin)
Former taem members:
Susanne Butschkau (Msc. Student, FU Berlin)
Dr. Pierre Gras
Seeta Deeg (Msc. Student, FU Berlin)
Madlee Einsiedler (Msc. Student, FU Berlin)
  • Comparative Environmental Epigenomics in Wild life Adaptation

Epigenetic changes function as flexible mechanisms to increase a species' adaptability to environmental changes, but past studies have focused mostly on maternal effects. Here we study parental transmitted epigenetic responses and ask also if different environmental changes invoke different or similar responses. (See also archive: "Paternal epigenetic effects: Do fathers transmit their experiences to their sons?")

Funded by the Leibniz-Association (Leibniz Competitive Fund 2018-2020, IZW Project).

Related publications: Weyrich A, Lenz D, Fickel J (2019) Environmental change-dependent transgenerational epigenetic response. Genes 10(1), 4. Special Issue on Epigenetics and Adaptation (invited)

Project team:
Prof. Yoav Soen
Selma Yasar
Dr. Katharina T. Schrapers
  • The genomic basis of convergent evolution in modern sloths (Xenarthra, Pilosa) Adaptation

Although the (only) two extant sloth lineages (Bradypus and Choloepus) are separated by about 30 Mya of evolution, they both have evolved a very specialized feature - the obligatory arboreal suspensory behavior. As this similarity is superficial, it represents an extreme example of convergent evolution. In order to investigate the genomic basis of this convergent evolution we will compare whole genome sequences of sloths and other mammals, looking for signs of positive selection. The first step for this study is the sequencing of a high-quality sloth genome, which is performed in partnership with the Vertebrate Genome Project (VGP) within the Genome 10K Consortium.
This project is funded by a Marie Sklodowska Curie Individual Fellowship to Dr. Marcela Uliano-Silva.
Project team:
Dr. Marcela Uliano-Silva
  • Computational methods in ecology and evolutionary research Adaptation Conservation   

We identify challenging computational tasks in the research projects in which we are involved in and implement general solutions that can also be used by others. Some of the tools we have created or significantly contributed to (usually R packages) are used by many scientists around the world (e.g. camtrapR, climwin).


Project team:
Dr. Liam Bailey
Colin Vullioud
Christoph Alt (MSc.-Student, University of Potsdam)
  • Understanding demographic change in an expanding population through simulation modelling  Adaptation Conservation

Understanding the demographic pathways that affect population growth (e.g. survival, reproduction, and dispersal) is difficult as they are interconnected and undergo complex feedback loops. Based on data from a 22+ year study of the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania, an individual based simulation model is built to understand the demographic pathways that facilitate such growth, how they may limit population expansion, and what evolutionary consequences may arise.

This project is funded by a DAAD Fellowship to Dr. Liam Bailey.

Project team:
Dr. Liam Bailey
  • Conservation genomics of the Hooded Grebes Podiceps gallardoi in Argentina Conservation

The Hooded Grebe Podiceps gallardoi is a critically endangered endemic bird of the southernmost part of continental Argentina. The species very restricted reproductive conditions in lakes of basaltic pre-andean plateaus led to its discovery only in 1974. Since then, population size has dropped by 80%, leaving about 800 individuals. Identified threats include, invasive American minks, introduced trouts, and climate change. In winter, hooded grebes migrate towards the estuaries of the Atlantic Ocean returning to the plateaus in spring. A relatively constant number of individuals at each plateau during successive breeding seasons suggests that Hooded Grebes are phylopatric to breeding plateaus. We test this hypothesis using a ddRADseq approach, on populations of three different plateaus. We expect to find a significant population structure if Hooded Grebes are phylopatric to these plateaus.

This project is funded by an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation "Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers" to Dr. Bettina Mahler.

Project team:
Dr. Bettina Mahler (Guest Scientist, Assist. Prof. Universidad de Buenos Aires)
  • Wild boar in rural and urban environments Adaptation

We are generating and analysing wild boar population genetic data to be matched with behavioural and dietary data to test the hypothesis that there are genetic, behavioural and dietary differences between city dwelling wild boar and their rural conspecifics. In the long run we aim to identify traits reflecting adaptations to the respective habitat.

This project is conceptually led by colleagues from the “Urban Ecology Group”.

Project team:
Dr. Kostantin Börner
Former team members:
Justus Hagemann (MSc. student, University of Potsdam)
Dr. Pierre Gras
Dr. Milena Stillfield
  • Population genetics in hedgehogs in the city of Berlin Adaptation Conservation

By genotyping a large number of hedgehogs we test the hypothesis that the urban hedgehog population of Berlin is genetically structured. Given the highly structured urban landscape we predict that a higher structured landscape will lead to smaller subpopulations (structured meta-population). If such population genetic structure is detected we aim to identify the urban landscape barriers responsible for such structure.

This project is conceptually led by colleagues from the Urban Ecology Group”.

Project team:
Former team members:
Dana Wehner (BSc. Student, FU Berlin)
Leon Barthel
  • Inferring genetic patterns of on-going recolonization of Central Europe by elusive, large carnivores using novel SNP marker systems for non-invasive samples Conservation

By developing SNP marker systems to genetically monitor European carnivores, we provide tools to understand how these elusive species co-exist with humans and recolonize densely populated areas with intensive land-use. This network project, headed by the research institute Senckenberg Gelnhausen, focused on five species: European wildcat, wolf, otter, lynx, and brown bear. Research at the IZW focused on the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) and the Eurasian brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos).

Funded by the Leibniz-Association (Leibniz Competitive Fund SAW 2011-2014, SGN-3).

Member of


Project team:
Deniz Mengüllüoğlu (PhD project)
Anke Schmidt
Former team members:
Marijke Autenrieth ( MSc. Student)
James Bull (DAAD project)
Veronica T. (Msc. project)
Tanja Noventa
Last updated on November 11, 2019