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  • Behavioural Ecology

    Zebra finch research at Bielefeld University
    © Sarah Golüke

Team

Team of the Behavioural Ecology department

The Department of Behavioural Ecology was founded in 2019 and employs an international team with different backgrounds. Our lab believes in equality, respect and tolerance. We are open to everybody who is passionate about research and seeking for an opportunity to work in a small team with a harmonic and supportive working atmosphere.

Opportunities

Student projects, Phd- and postdoc applications are always welcome!

Prof. Dr. Barbara Caspers (she/her)

Research Interests

I am a behavioural ecologist mainly interested in the function and mechanism of chemical communication,  the evolution of chemical cues in vertebrates and how relatedness is encoded in body odours and the impact of microbes on communication.

Thanks to a Freigeist Fellowship of the VolkswagenFoundation I am currently investigating the function and mechanism of olfactory kin recognition in zebra finches, trying to understand how relatedness is signaled in body odours. With a combination of behavioural experiments, chemical analysis of body odours and skin microbe community analysis  I am aiming to gain knowledge on this question.

I am working on different taxa such as amphibians, birds and mammals, including humans.

My main research interests are:

  • Avian Olfaction - The impact of chemical communication in songbirds (and others), and how is relatedness encoded in body odours?
  • Host microbe interactions - What is the role of bacteria on body odours and kin recognition?
  • Niche choice and niche conformance in fire salamanders.
Prof. Dr. Barbara Caspers

Prof. Dr. Barbara Caspers

Telephone
+49 521 106-2825
Telephone secretary
+49 521 106-2837
Room
VHF-116

Shortlinks

Dr. Isabel Damas Moreira (she/her)

Research Interests

I am a Postdoc working on the behaviour and cognition of lizards. I am deeply interested in understanding how animals can cope and thrive in changing environments. Consequently, my research has been focusing on invasive and urban lizards. These are fascinating models to study behavioural adjustments to environments that go through quick and abrupt changes.

My postdoc project focuses on the behaviour of several lacertid lizard species from Croatia, that differ in their ability to endure anthropogenic conditions. In particular, I am studying lizards’ cognition, social skills and personality. Only by understanding how animals can deal with changing environments, can we successfully manage our decisions and direct conservation efforts. Furthermore, such knowledge is increasingly important, since the anthropogenic impact on ecosystems is becoming more profound and shows no signs of slowing down.

I am also a field enthusiast, in love with travelling and being outdoors, and passionate about communicating science.

Dr. Isabel Damas Moreira

Dr. Isabel Damas Moreira

Telephone
+49 521 106-2701
Room
VHF-115

Shortlinks

Dr. Öncü Maraci (she/her)

Research Interests

I am a molecular biologist by training, with a broad interested in behavioural ecology and evolution. Currently, I am studying the interactions between animals and their microbial symbionts. I am fascinated by the potency of microbial symbionts in modulating a wide range of biological processes of their hosts. I am particularly interested in the ways that microbial symbionts influence the behaviour and adaptive capacity of their hosts.

My ongoing project aims to identify the factors shaping gut microbial communities in two estrildid finch species: the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) and Bengalese finch (Lonchura striata domestica). I am trying to disentangle the environmental factors from host-specific factors, most importantly host genetics, to understand whether individual microbial communities are a trait of an animal itself. This information would allow us to further evaluate the potential function of gut symbionts in the social communication of the birds.

Furthermore, as a part of a collaborative project, I am investigating the impact of anthropogenic perturbations on the gut microbiota of birds. In the scope of this project, we are studying the gut microbial communities in great tits (Parus major) across a gradient of urbanisation to understand whether gut microbes can facilitate the adaptation of their animal hosts to anthropogenic stress.

Dr. Öncü Maraci

Dr. Öncü Maraci

Telephone
+49 521 106-2834
Room
VHF-146

Shortlinks

Dr. Christoph Ptatscheck (he/him)

Research Interests

Dr. Christoph Ptatscheck

Dr. Christoph Ptatscheck

Telephone
+49 521 106-2705
Room
VHF-117

Shortlinks

Kilian Topp (he/him)

I am a political scientist with a strong interest in interdisciplinary research and collaboration between social and natural sciences. At Bielefeld University I coordinate the interdisciplinary research project InChangE - Individualisation in a Changing Environment. Funded by the Ministry of Culture and Science NRW scientists from different disciplines - ranging from biology, philosophy, sociology, economics to health science and psychology - do research on origins, mechanisms and consequences of individualisation. Before joining the University I have been working as communication & project manager in the energy industry and was a Senior Researcher at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy.

Kilian Topp

Kilian Topp

Telephone
+49 521 106-2194
Room
VHF-113

Barbara Fuchs (she/her)

Barbara Fuchs

Barbara Fuchs

Telephone
+49 521 106-67929
Room
VHF-113

Stefanie Gehner (she/her)

Stefanie Gehner

Stefanie Gehner

Telephone
+49 521 106-2700
Room
VHF-114

Kathrin Engel (she/her)

Research Interests

I am a veterinarian and in addition to my interest in animal health and welfare, I have a great interest in animal behaviour, ecology and microbiology. 

In my PhD project, I investigate the skin microbiome of different bird species. Besides known pathogens, there is a vast number of bacteria on the bodies of all kinds of animals whose ecology and function is not yet understood, especially in avian taxa. I am particularly interested in the compositions of bacterial communities on the skin of different species, social groups and individuals. Further, I aim to explore how bacterial colonisation develops during ontogeny and whether environmental or genetic factors are the main drivers for the formation of group-specific bacterial communities. I am fascinated by the idea that volatiles emitted by bacteria on the skin may be important in shaping a bird’s body odour and therefore communicating information on the individual to conspecifics.

Kathrin Engel

Kathrin Engel

Telephone
+49 521 106-2811
Room
VHF-113a

Shortlinks

Marc Gilles (he/him)

Research Interests

I am a behavioural ecologist (PhD student) interested in the smell of birds.
Previously, I have studied animal behaviour and ecology in Strasbourg (France), Bergen (Norway) and Turku (Finland). I wrote my Master thesis on the effect of early food availability on the development of personality in wild blue tits.
For my PhD, I investigate the role of preen oil and body odour for communication in birds. I conduct chemical analyses and behavioural experiments on different bird species (plovers in Madagascar, blue tits and pied flycatchers in Germany).

 
Marc Gilles

Marc Gilles

Telephone
+49 521 106-2811
Room
VHF-113a

Shortlinks

Avery Maune

Research Interests

Avery Maune

Avery Maune

Telephone
+49 521 106-2835
Room
VHF-149

Shortlinks

Max Mühlenhaupt (he/him)

Research Interests

I am a PhD student interested in evolutionary ecology and herpetology. Previously, I have studied Biology (B.Sc.) at Free University Berlin and M.Sc. Biology with a focus on Biodiversity, Evolution and Ecology at FU Berlin. During my Bachelor's studies, I compared different methods of testing endurance capacity in lizards and in my B.Sc. thesis, I investigated the relationship between behavioural and morphological
anti-predator traits in damselfly larvae. During my M.Sc. thesis, I examined evolutionary drivers of biological invasions in African toads.

During my PhD I would like to study animal personality in fire salamanders within the collaborative research center NC³ ("A Novel Synthesis of Individualisation across Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution:
Niche Choice, Niche Conformance, Niche Construction (NC³)" funded by the DFG. Specifically, I want to investigate how different behaviours influence niche choice in adult fire salamanders and if different personalities covary with individual dispersal, growth rate, and coloration.

Max Mühlenhaupt

Max Mühlenhaupt

Telephone
+49 521 106-2811
Room
VHF-113a

Shortlinks

Pia Oswald (she/her)

Research Interests

As a behavioural ecologist I am interested in the behaviour of animals with regard to ecological factors. I was raised in a small city with the German word for “croak” (the sound frogs are producing) in its name and a frog as the city mascot. Thus, it was kind of fate that my research was directed to the field of herpetology, specifically amphibians. Starting with conservation genetics of the European tree frog, I continued with the investigation of genetic diversity and infections with a fungal pathogen in yellow-bellied toads. Currently, I work with fire salamanders as part of a collaborative research centre (SFB-TRR 212: A Novel Synthesis of Individualisation across Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution: Niche Choice, Niche Conformance, Niche Construction (NC³)). In our study population, females choose a specific habitat for their offspring (either ponds or streams) which corresponds to a genetic clustering within the population. Those two larval habitats provide different selective pressures for the salamander larvae which might drive the need for adaptive responses.

I am trying to understand how the mother’s choice for a larval habitat influences the larvae’s morphology and behaviour from the larval stage until adulthood. Therefore, I investigate the development and survival as well as different traits such the dorsal skin pattern and the behaviour of fire salamander larvae before and after metamorphosis.

Pia Oswald

Pia Oswald

Telephone
+49 521 106-2835
Room
VHF-149

Shortlinks

Laura Schulte (she/her)

Research Interests

I studied Fundamental and Applied Ecology at Bielefeld University and wrote my master thesis about the colonization of a new habitat with pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca). I have established a nest box site for pied flycatchers in 2020 near the city of Oerlinghausen which will be the start of a long-term monitoring.

For my PhD, I am working on the functions and mechanisms of niche conformance in fire salamander larvae (Salamandra salamandra) within the collaborative research center NC³ ("A Novel Synthesis of Individualisation across Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution: Niche Choice, Niche Conformance, Niche Construction (NC³)" founded by the DFG.

 

Laura Schulte

Laura Schulte

Telephone
+49 521 106-2835
Room
VHF-149

Shortlinks

Michael Schulte (he/him)

Research Interests

I am an ecologist and interested in interactions of predator-prey-systems. I studied Environmental Science (B.Sc) and Fundamental and Applied Ecology (M.Sc) at Bielefeld University. In my Master thesis I investigated the “Feeding ecology of Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx) in the Harz Mountains, Germany”.
For my PhD I will study interactions between grey wolves (Canis lupus), Eurasian lynx and their prey species (ungulates) along the gradient of human presence in different regions of Croatia. As method I will use camera trap and GPS-telemetry data to reveal possible anthropogenic impacts on the predator-prey-community.

Michael Schulte

Michael Schulte

Telephone
+49 521 106-2835
Room
VHF-149

Shortlinks

Jonas Tebbe (he/him)

Research Interests

I am a molecular ecologist working towards my PhD that focuses on the combination of genetic and chemical data to investigate chemical phenotypes in Antarctic fur seals.

The Antarctic fur seal is an extensively studied model species for which genetic and long-term life history data is readily available. Only recently, investigations on the body odour of those animals brought to light that instead of environmental effects, genetic background might be more important for the chemical composition and chemical similarity of related individuals or those who live close to each other.

Showing that such olfactory patterns seem to be stable over time in my graduate studies (M.Sc.), I am now interested in how well chemical patterns are genetically encoded. My work mainly focuses on the association of inbreeding as well as genomic relatedness on chemical diversity and similarity and how the chemical phenotype develops over different seasons. Additionally, I aim to investigate effects of immunocompetence mediated by the MHC genotype on odour and a possible connection to the microbial communities in these interesting marine predators.

In addition to my work on the seals, I am interested in canine sciences, especially cynology.

 

Jonas Tebbe

Jonas Tebbe

Telephone
+49 521 106-2833
Room
VHF-204

Shortlinks

Manuela Schmidt (she/her)

Master student Manuela Schmidt
© Manuela Schmidt

I am currently studying “Ecology and Environmental Change” at Bielefeld University to achieve my Master of Sciences degree. Due to the sudden decline of fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) populations by the current threat of the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, actions are needed to prevent further extinction. For my master thesis I am investigating which housing condition is preferred by wild fire salamander.

Carmen Schwietz (she/her)

Master student Manuela Schmidt
© Carmen Schwietz

I am a master’s student at Bielefeld University in the “Behaviour: From Neural Mechanisms to Evolution” programme. For my master's project, I am investigating the connections between the gut microbiome and the differences in the individual behaviour of bi-directionally selected wild-type zebra finches.

Dr. Sarah Golüke (she/her)

Alumni Sarah Golüke
© Sarah Golüke

The perfume of zebra finches - The use of odours and the mechanism of kin recognition

 

Shortlinks

Meike Pust (she/they)

Master student Meike Pust
© Meike Pust

I graduated from the master program “Behaviour: From Neural Mechanisms to Evolution”. Throughout my studies I was interested in the link between environmental factors and animal behaviour. During my master thesis I investigated the establishment of the skin microbiome in chicks of two estrildid finch species, the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) and Bengalese finch (Lonchura striata domestica), and the role of their social environment and their genetics.

Theresa Stipp (she/her)

Master student Theresa Stipp
© Theresa Stipp

I studied for a master's degree in "fundamental and applied ecology". During my studies I developed a great interest in the European fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra). As part of my master's thesis and in cooperation with the nature conservation authority of „Kreis Lippe“, I collected data on a fire salamander population on the grounds of an open-air museum in Detmold. This data collection is an important component to ensure the protection of this amphibian species. With my work, I used the „Capture-Recapture-Method“ to answer the question of population dynamics, especially population size.


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