Synthesis Grant Awardees
Dr. Rebecca Best
I am investigating feedbacks between ecology and evolution in the dietary niche of threespine sticklebacks in Switzerland, where these fish are diverging rapidly into lake and stream ecotypes. My goals are to identify the genetic basis of feeding niche and to determine to what extent performance variation among ecotypes depends on genetic differentiation vs. ecological context.
Dr. Simone Fior
My research aims to disentangle the genetic architecture of altitudinal adaptation in carnation (Dianthus, Caryophyllaceae) using two species as study systems: D. sylvestris and D. carthusianorum. Results achieved so far by genome scan analyses revealed a number of loci potentially under selection for the contrasting environmental conditions that characterize populations at different elevations. Hence, the genes present in these regions constitute primary candidate for adaptation. In this project, I plan to validate these findings by producing additional evidence by further sequencing of individuals from the target populations and to detect the signature of selection using complementary analytical methods.
Dr. Alessia Guggisberg
Climate change is predicted to affect both above- and below-ground community interactions, because of differences in life-history traits and dispersal capabilities among the various trophic groups along with coincidental alterations of physico-chemical soil properties. Together with Anna Lazzaro from the Institute of Environmental Microbiology, I intend to assemble experts with different competences and backgrounds in plant adaptation and soil microbiology, to review the current state of knowledge and the possibilities at hand to integrate state-of-the-art technologies for future, interdisciplinary studies on plant-soil interactions, with the ultimate goal to publish a synthesis paper on this very topic.
Dr. Anna Lazzaro
In collaboration with Alessia Guggisberg at the Institute for Integrative Biology, ETH Zurich, I will focus my attention on the composition of the microbiota in the rhizosphere of Arabidopsis lyrata plants which display edaphic adaptation to different soil types (calcareous vs siliceous). I will apply a metagenomic approach to identify key microbial groups and their relation to the plants.
Dr. Anita Narwani
I am using evolution experiments on the freshwater green alga, Chlamydomoas reinhardtii, to investigate the impact of evolution on the genetics, proteomics and phenotypic traits that control competitive species interactions and community assembly in freshwater algae. Previous work has shown that evolutionary history among species of freshwater green algae does not predict competitive outcomes. This leads to the exciting hypothesis that competitive traits in these algae are evolutionarily labile. I will use metagenomic sequence data to understand the genetic basis of evolutionary changes in competitive ability after ~300 generations of selection for improved competitive ability.
Dr. Marie Roumet
Rough topography in alpine environments leads to dramatic changes in abiotic and biotic environmental conditions over relatively short geographic distances. In very heterogeneous landscapes (i.e. when environmental factors vary on spatial scales less than the average dispersal distance), lineages are likely to experience different environments across generations and the ability of species to persist may rely on their ability to adjust their phenotype to suit specific conditions, or, in other terms, to be plastic. In the present project we propose to investigate the link between altitude, environmental heterogeneity, and phenotypic plasticity by characterising the importance and variability in plasticity of life history traits in natural populations of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana occurring along an altitudinal gradient.
Dr. Frank Schreiber
I am broadly interested in phenotypic variability of metabolic activities among single microbial cells in clonal populations and complex microbial communities. The goal of my ACE project is to question how we currently define biodiversity and link it to ecosystem functioning in microbial systems. I will experimentally test the hypothesis that phenotypic diversity better describes and predicts ecosystem functioning than genetic diversity. The proposed project will investigate the dynamics of phenotypic diversity in ecologically relevant, functional traits of single microbial cells along a productivity gradient in the meromictic lake Cadagno and compare it to traditional methods that assess microbial diversity based on gene sequences.