Associated Faculty

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Prof. Dr. Martin Ackermann studies microbial ecology and evolution and works on basic biological principles at the interface between evolutionary and molecular biology. His main contributions were on the discovery of aging in bacteria and the division of labor in clonal groups of bacteria. He often collaborates with people from different backgrounds and has expertise in experimental evolution, single-cell microbiology, molecular genetics and mathematical modeling of evolutionary processes.

Prof. Dr. Sebastian Bonhoeffer and his group study the population biology of infectious diseases. Their research is predominantly based on a combination of mathematical and computational modelling and data analysis. Recent work with particular relevance to the center involves the application of machine learning approaches to predict replicative fitness of HIV strains from sequence data, the test of the predicted replication fitness in a clinical context and the exploration of the resulting fitness landscape. The group has also worked on the reconstruction of transmission trees and the infererence of contact structure from pathogen sequence data.

Prof. Dr. Nina Buchmann studies plant and ecosystem physiology, biogeochemistry of terrestrial ecosystems and interactions among biodiversity, ecosystem functions/services, and sustainable resource use. Using classical as well as cutting-edge technology in the field but also under controlled conditions she aims to understand the functioning of forests and agroecosystems as well as interactions within the system and with external drivers.

Prof. Dr. Consuelo De Moraes  explores the role of chemical signaling in mediating interactions among plants and other organisms. Her work has shown that plant odors can convey previously unexpected levels of informational complexity to insect herbivores and their natural enemies. Some of her recent work has addressed the chemical ecology of disease transmission by insect vectors, the influence of genetic variation within plant populations on chemically mediated interactions, and the responses of plants themselves to olfactory cues.

Prof. Dr. Jaboury Ghazoul uses field experiments and genetic tools explores how gene flow is shaped by plant traits and distributions, and how this contributes to maintenance of genetic and species diversity, particularly in the context of land use change. Research has addressed competition in reproductive interactions using network theory, explored reproductive trade-offs underlying species coexistence and differential reproductive responses to fragmentation, and modelled indirect contributions to fitness by non-viable seed.

Prof. Dr. Alex Hall studies the ecology and evolution of microorganisms, particularly in the context of infectious diseases, using experimental evolution of bacteria and viruses. A key theme of current work in the group is understanding how different selection pressures interact and, ultimately, how this can help to explain properties relevant for understanding or treating infections (e.g. antibiotic resistance) or microorganisms in general (e.g. coevolutionary dynamics).

Prof. Dr. Wolf-Dietrich Hardt is an infection biologist focusing on Salmonella diarrhea and has pioneered tissue culture systems for single cell/high throughput screening and in vivo mouse models for studying pathogen invasion into the gut ecosystem and the elicitation of the diarrheal response. This has led to novel concepts in Salmonella virulence, bistable gene expression and the pathogen's growth in the host's intestine, thus setting the stage for studying the perturbance of microbiota and its consequences for pathogen exclusion from the gut ("colonization resistance"), as described in this proposal.

Rolf Holderegger

Prof. Dr. Rolf Holderegger and his research unit study biodiversity at all levels from genes to species and ecosystems. They use a wide array of methods including monitoring, field and greenhouse experiments, genetics, genomics and modelling. Study organisms range from insects to amphibians, mammals and birds and from lichens to vascular plants also considering trees. Recent contributions focussed on conservation genetics and landscape genomics using environmental association analysis. The research unit is positioned at the interface between basic science and application and thus puts much effort on the implementation of scientific results in conservation and management as well as on outreach activities.

Prof. Dr. Jukka Jokela has shown that frequency dependent host parasite coevolution is a likely explanation for why common asexual genotypes lose their initial fitness advantage over the coexisting sexuals. This work has involved long term field studies with natural populations of a New Zealand freshwater snail. He has also explored the cost of sex, and how coevolution driven clonal dynamics favor sexual reproduction. The intriguing conclusion of this long-term research program is that one of the key advantages of sex may be avoidance of rapid co evolutionary dynamics between hosts and their parasites.

Prof. Dr. Mark Lever investigates the role of microorganisms inhabiting aquatic sediments and the Earth’s crust in the global carbon cycle through analyses on natural samples, laboratory cultivation, and mesocosm experiments. His group examines how environmental variables such as redox conditions, organic matter chemical composition, temperature, seasonality, and macrofaunal bioturbation influence the community structure, diversity, carbon metabolism, and population size of microorganisms, from surface sediment and rock environments to the deep biosphere.

Prof. Dr. Jonathan Levine is an ecologist combining field experiments with mathematical theory to understand the factors maintaining species diversity in ecological communities. Recent contributions have revealed the critical importance of niche differences between competitors in stabilizing their coexistence. His papers have also explored the role of phylogeny, intransitive competition, competition-defense tradeoffs, and of particular relevance to ACE, rapid evolution in maintaining species diversity.

Prof. Dr. Bruce McDonald studies the evolutionary ecology of plant pathogenic fungi. His work lies at the interface of plant pathology, population genetics and genomics, evolutionary biology and mycology. Recent contributions have elucidated the origins of plant pathogens, the roles of horizontal gene transfer and host jumps in the emergence of new pathogens, the global distribution of genetic diversity for several pathogenic fungi, and the genomic basis of virulence and fungicide sensitivity. His group has conducted several field experiments that illustrated the effects of genetic diversity on pathogen-plant interactions.

Loïc Pellissier

Prof. Dr. Loïc Pellissier The properties of landscapes are constantly changing under natural processes or anthropogenic effects. Life processes, including species growth, dispersal, reproduction and evolution depend on the physical configurations of the landscape, which influence e.g. available resources and energy, connectivity and persistence of populations. Our group studies how physical and anthropogenic changes in landscapes shape biodiversity at different spatial and temporal scale. Our research spans the legacy of plate tectonics and of the Quaternary glaciation on species assemblages to the effect of ongoing anthropogenic global changes. We develop statistical and process-based models from eco-evolutionary theory to forecast the consequences of climate and land use changes on the future of biodiversity and ecosystem functions.

Prof. Dr. Tanja Stadler is developing evolutionary and epidemiological models in order to address questions on pathogen evolution, species evolution and their interactions, as well as epidemic spread of pathogens. She is interested in estimating epidemiological dynamics from molecular and epidemiological data using phylogenetic methods. In the area of macroevolution, she infers past diversification processes based on species phylogenies and fossils. Tanja improves phylogenetic tree reconstruction methods by adding epidemiological and fossil information to the genetic information and by assuming more realistic epidemiological and macroevolutionary models.

Prof. Dr. Roman Stocker and his group study the ecology of environmental microbes, with a focus on the oceans, using microfluidic experiments, imaging and image analysis, as well as mathematical modeling. The group, which is highly interdisciplinary, has worked on algal blooms, bacterial chemotaxis, bacterial biofilms, coral reef microbial ecology, oil spill bioremediation, turbulence, and the ocean’s biological pump. Roman’s research is often predicated on the idea that ’seeing is believing’ and the group continuously tries to push the envelope when it comes to visualizing the life of the very small.

Prof. Dr. Gregory Velicer studies microbial social evolution and utilizes both experimental evolution and comparative studies of natural variation to investigate how the complex social behaviors of the myxobacteria - motility, predation and development - evolve in specific ecological and biogeographical contexts. Recent work has shown that natural populations of the model species Myxococcus xanthus evolve mechanisms of social isolation at very fine geographic and genomic scales. Additional studies have investigated broad- and fine-scale biogeography, genetic, metabolic and social diversity within local populations, the evolution of behavioral cheater suppression, the molecular basis of social adaptations in laboratory populations, and the components, ecology and evolution of myxobacterial predation on other microbes.

Prof. Dr. Christoph Vorburger is an evolutionary ecologist exploring insect host-parasitoid interactions. His recent contributions focus on elucidating the role of defensive symbionts (endosymbiotic bacteria protecting hosts insects against parasitoids) in host-parasitoid coevolution. This problem is addressed theoretically as well as empirically, for which he has established a unique study system in which genetic variation in the host, symbiont and parasitoid can be readily manipulated.

Prof. Dr. Julia Vorholt is an environmental microbiologist in the research field of plant-associated bacteria. She developed metaproteogenomics studies of complex bacterial communities in the phyllosphere and demonstrated for the first time the power of combining metagenomics and metaproteomics to the same pool of cells for the analysis of complex microbial communities. She uncovered a high consistency of plant associated microbiota of different model plants suggesting unifying mechanisms by which bacteria adapt to the environment. Moreover, she uncovered new functions of plant associated microorganisms.

Prof. Dr. Alex Widmer and his group study the genomic basis of plant adaptation, the genetic architecture of ecologically relevant traits, the evolution of reproductive isolation, plant speciation and the evolution of separate sexes and sex chromosomes in plants. Projects typically lie at the interface between ecology, evolution and genomics and combine analyses of natural populations with field or greenhouse experiments and genomic or transcriptomic analyses of individuals, populations and species.


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