ACE Doctoral Students
Robert Dünner I am an evolutionary biologist with a keen interest in host-parasite interactions. During my Masters in Ecology and Evolution at ETH I have conducted research in two main areas: modeling of change in host life history traits upon infection with a parasite and population genetics in metapopulations with complex mating systems in freshwater bryozoans. During my ACE PhD I plan to work on host-parasite coevolutionary dynamics, especially concerning parasites with complex life cycles. I plan to build an interaction network of host and parasite to determine how network motifs influence the evolution of parasite life history traits in different life cycle stages and how environmental change within subpopulations can influence the whole metapopulation via the interaction network.
Ever since completing my degree in environmental science, I have been interested in how abiotic factors can affect the stability and functioning of ecosystems. In the past I have investigated how photo-respiratory processes of stony corals from Indonesia are affected by short term heat stress, and how microhabitat partitioning affects a seagrass mesograzer community in northern California. Under the supervision of Blake Matthews and Jukka Jokela I will investigate how evolutionary dynamics are coupled with environmental variability and ecosystem stability. We are planning to manipulate genetic diversity of benthic arthropod communities from Swiss lakes to test if microevolution affects resilience of ecosystems against local environmental changes.
Ursina Messmer I studied environmental science with a major in ecology and evolution. For my master thesis I joined the plant ecological genetics group (PEG) where I got highly fascinated by the methods that allow us to link all levels of life; from the ecosystem to the genes. Within the scope of the thesis I studied gene expression differences in individuals of Arabidopsis halleri originally growing along an altitudinal gradient. With gene expression data, measurements of environmental conditions at the collecting sites and the knowledge about annotated gene functions I could build a network of information to get indications for relations between differently expressed genes and their ecological associations. In my current PhD project in ACE I am studying gene expression and genetic adaptation in Dianthus sylvestris and carthusianorum. My main interest lies on the floral traits of the two species and how they might be affected by the plant’s interactions with the pollinators and the fungus Microbotryum.