The Faculty of Biology is highly research oriented. Research fields of our research groups cover a variety of innovative biological subjects.
In our effort to unravel how perception of the aquatic environment is achieved and how sensory-motor interactions influence each other, we employ various techniques ranging from quantitative behavior to neurophysiological approaches, theoretical modeling and technical implementations.
Photosynthetic microalgae use light energy for growth and can exhibit comparably high biomass yields, therefore offering the potential for sustainable production of numerous renewable products. Targets in the focus of our current research include hydrocarbons, carbohydrates, lipids, recombinant proteins and other bioactive molecules.
Combining individual life histories with experiments, comparative approaches and population-level data, our research evaluates the fitness value of behaviour but also tries to understand the mechanisms by which behavioural variation evolves.
We have pursued this long-standing interest through investigations of lakes, rivers and other types of aquatic habitats. We are interested in the interactions of the benthic food web, from bacteria to meiobenthos, macrobenthos, and young fish.
Ecotoxicology is another field of our work. The inflow of harmful substances into the environment has steadily risen over the past several decades. Our major are to assess the potential risk of these chemicals and to evaluate and define thresholds below which they impose no deleterious effects on the living environment.
Besides the systematically structured collection for teaching and reference many fascinating and instructive exhibits may be found. In research we are interested in plant-pollinator interactions.
To this end, we study the adaptive locomotion abilities of insects with a research focus on the function of active tactile sensing (touch) and distributed proprioception (the sense of posture). Methodologically, we combine approaches from behavioural physiology (e.g., motion capture), electrophysiology (e.g., intracellular recordings) and biomimetic modeling in software and hardware.
By involving university students in various project and laboratory courses (teutolab-biotechnologie, Kolumbus-Kids, Biologie hautnah, Experimentier AG), they are given the opportunity to practice working with pupils on a sound theoretical background and also to conduct didactical research.
Our research focusses on self-regulated and self-determined learning, respectively, comprising learning processes within heterogeneous learning groups. Key aspects of our research and further research in our domain are continuously integrated into our teacher training to ensure a contemporary biology teacher education.
Currently, we are focusing our research on a new additional topic: isolation and characterisation of adult human neural crest-derived stem cells from various sources for the potential use in cell based therapies.
Using microalgae as model organisms, we search for key genes in development and explore the molecular requirements for multicellularity and cellular differentiation. We also study the molecular and cellular mechanisms that effect pattern formation and morphogenesis in multicellular organisms.
Another focus is on the molecular processes in light reception and phototaxis. Microalgae possess a sophisticated light-sensing system including photoreceptors and light-modulated signaling pathways to sense environmental information and secure the survival in a rapidly changing environment. Light-sensitive proteins from microalgae are used for the development of molecular tools in optogenetics.
These natural products mediate interactions between plants, herbivorous insects and their antagonists (predators, parasitoids) as well as interactions between mutualistic partners such as fungi. We focus on the isolation and identification of such compounds and the elucidation of their functions in an ecological, behavioural, genetic, population-biological and evolutionary context.
The view we take is that in many aspects of behaviour, motor actions and multisensory processing are inseparably linked and therefore they have to be studied in a closed action/perception loop. We believe that human perception and action is tailored to the statistics of the natural environment and when the environment changes our perceptions will follow these changes through the process of adaptation minimizing potential costs during interaction.
We study the evolution of these often sex-specific traits with a combination of theoretical and experimental approaches. For the empirical studies we conduct field and lab experiments, using insects, birds and flatworms as model species. Advanced statistical methods and analyses of literature data complement our research program, which strives to detect and test general concepts in behavioural ecology and evolutionary biology.
We are also interested in population ecology of invasive alien plants and morphological and physiological stress adaptation processes. Furthermore we work in the field of science communication and develop scientific exhibitions.
Our focus lies on (1) Characterization of global gene regulation and metabolic pathways, (2) Systems Biology on Corynebacterium glutamicum and Bacillus methanolicus as model organisms, (3) White Biotechnology with emphasis on rational strain development for the production of value-added chemicals.
The model system is the accumulation of pigments and colorants in Arabidopsis thaliana. Our research focusses on (i) transcription factor gene families, networks of transcription factors, (ii) structural and functional genomics of dicotyledonous crops, and (iii) on elucidating the function of genes that are initially only known as a DNA sequence in genomes.
We are interested in unravelling posttranscriptional networks controlled by ribonucleoproteins that are connected to circadian timekeeping and stress responses. Furthermore, we investigate molecular underpinnings of microRNA biogenesis and function.
We aim to understand the underlying computational mechanisms. Insects, such as flies or bumblebees, manage to solve complex spatial tasks: They avoid collisions with obstacles, and are able to detect appropriate landing sites and to approach them. We want to elucidate the computational principles, down to the level of neurons and neural networks that generate and control visually guided behaviour in complex cluttered environments.
Using up-to-date methods of proteomics, transcriptomics incl. translatome analysis, dynamic cell imaging, molecular biology and recombinant protein analyses, we aim to decipher the molecular and physiological mechanisms of damage development and efficient stress acclimation. To this end, we investigate e.g. high light acclimation, salinity and heat stress in Arabidopsis, sugar beet and rice, and pharmacological impact in plant and human cell models.