Evolutionary Ecology and Genetics

Parasites decrease host fitness, they evolve rapidly, and they are extremely ubiquitous. Therefore, they impose extremely strong selective pressure on host organisms. At the same time, specific host defences impose strong selection on parasites. As a consequence, host-parasite interactions are expected to be highly dynamic, of major importance for the evolution of organisms and biological systems, and often of particular concern for human health. Our department focuses on the dynamics of these interactions as a model system to study the mechanisms of evolutionary change, taking into account ecological factors as well as the underlying molecular genetics. We further try to broaden our perspective by looking at the full breadth of host-microbe interactions that may range from parasitic to mutualistic associations. Our studies are based on Caenorhabditis nematodes (e.g. C. elegans) as the model host and different microbes (e.g. the invertebrate pathogen Bacillus thuringiensis or the opportunistic human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa) as antagonists. The practical work is based on an interdisciplinary approach, combining methods and tools from different research areas such as ecology, microbiology, genetics, and immunology. Evolutionary biology serves as the integration point, providing the focus and the core questions of the research projects. We are interested in several specific topics:

Please also check out our publication list. Our work is funded by the German Science Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG), the VW foundation, the Alexander-von-Humboldt foundation, the European Science Foundation (ESF), the DFG Excellence Cluster Inflammation at Interfaces, and the University of Kiel.