Dr. Jake Alexander studies two of the most pressing challenges for environmental biologists: forecasting the spread of non-native plant invasions and predicting the response of native species to global climate change. His research explores leading questions at the intersection of these global challenges, rooted in a fundamental curiosity in the ecological and evolutionary factors that shape species distributions. His current work focuses on three core questions: what limits the spread and impacts of invasive species? To what extent can species evolve to rapidly changing climate? How do species interactions shape responses to climate change?
Dr. Martin C. Fischer is a population geneticist with bioinformatics background and his research focuses on the genomic basis of adaptation and early phase of speciation in various biological models. Currently he works with various Alpine plant species of the family Brassicaceae. For his research he uses molecular genomic and bioinformatics approaches. In the past he investigated adaptation to environmental heterogeneity from an ecological, population as well as landscape genetic and functional genomic perspective. His current and future research aims to understand better the adaptive signal of biotic plant-bacterial-community interactions and plant-herbivore interactions in Alpine environments.
Dr. Chris Kettle is a Group Leader in Molecular Ecology and Conservation Genetics. His research aims to advance our understanding of how habitat degradation, especially fragmentation impacts on plant biodiversity. He divides his research into three core areas: plant reproduction and the consequences of habitat degradation on genetic variation; trees species coexistence in tropical forest and tropical forest restoration. Across all of these themes he applies a combination of molecular, genomic and traditional ecological approaches to address fundamental research questions, applicable to the sustainable management of natural systems.
Dr. Oliver Martin is mainly interested in how the interplay of natural and sexual selection affects biodiversity. In particular he is currently studying how rapid environmental change affects population viability, reproductive isolation and extinction. This involves assessing effects of temperature and other important factors (e.g. inbreeding) on key reproductive traits. His research also focuses on evolutionary conflicts between and within species (sexual conflict, host-parasite conflict, reproductive parasites, selfish genetic elements). The impacts of all these processes on individuals and populations are assessed experimentally, mainly via experimental evolution using insect model systems.
Dr. Mark Mescher studies the role of chemical signaling and other forms of biological communication in mediating ecological interactions between species. Key areas of interest include the chemical ecology of interactions among plants, insects, and microbes in natural and agricultural communities and the ecology of pathogen transmission by insect vectors in plant and animal disease systems. The overarching goal of his research program is to create new knowledge relevant to basic questions in ecology and evolution that also has societal relevance for ecological conservation, sustainable food production, and human health.
Dr. Otto Seppälä focuses on the role of environmental variation and changes in modifying the ecological and evolutionary processes in host-parasite interactions. He experimentally examines (1) how host immune function and susceptibility to infections as well as parasite infection success and within-host growth and reproduction respond to environmental variation (e.g. ambient temperature, resource availability, presence of co-infecting parasites), and (2) how natural selection operates on defence traits of hosts and what are their evolutionary responses in natural populations. He mainly uses aquatic snails and their trematode parasites in his work.
Dr. Thomas Städler is a population geneticist with broad interests in evolution, speciation, and processes of adaptation at the molecular level. His long-term research encompasses large-scale sequencing studies to address questions in molecular evolution, demographic history and the impact of mating system differences, using cultivated tomatoes and their wild relatives as a model system. In a second line of inquiry with a more mechanistic focus, he studies genomic imprinting and other epigenetic phenomena in wild tomatoes as an avenue to evaluate their potential involvement in the rapid build-up of reproductive isolation between closely related taxa.