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  • Chemical Ecology

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Student Projects

Students who are interested to do a project in our group within their "Projektmodul", Bachelor or Master Thesis, are welcome at any time. Most of the projects are linked to the different PhD projects and thus contribute important data, which will not disappear in a drawer but are substantial to promote our common science. Students are also welcome to bring their own ideas. If possible we try to implement these as well in respective projects.

Suggested Projects

The environment that an individual experiences during early life can heavily influence its adult phenotype and in turn the phenotype of its offspring. Using the turnip sawfly (Athalia rosae) we investigate how such effects might function in species with a complex life cycle and furthermore how they might interact with factors that influence individuals in adult life, specifically the presence or absence of specific pharmacophagous chemicals.

The turnip sawfly, Athalia rosae, collects chemical compounds (‘clerodendrins’) from bugleweed plants (Ajuga reptans), that in other Athalia spp. are known to influence predation rates and mating success, a behaviour known as pharmacophagy. Furthermore, adults are also known to aggressively ‘feed’ on clerodendrins that are present on the bodies of conspecifics previously exposed to A. reptans plants. Here we aim to elucidate the different effects of clerodendrins (or metabolites thereof) on the adult phenotype, with a focus on immunity and predation risk as well as comparing the effects of clerodendrins collected from plants and those obtained from conspecifics

On several invasive plant species, herbivorous insects as well as pathogenic fungi are rather rare in abundance. The responsible deterrent compounds should be isolated by bioassays in combination with chromatographic methods. Native specialists or generalists or fungus species of our breeding stocks may be used.

Herbivorous insects must have several ways to cope with plant toxins. We are interested in the detoxification of specialized plant compounds. Putative enzymatic degradation pathways and degradation products are investigated using feeding bioassays and liquid and gas chromatography coupled mass spectroscopy.

Sublethal insecticide concentrations do not kill animals, but can influence various life history traits and behaviour of exposed individuals. Here, insects of distinct feeding types will be kept on host plants that are treated with different concentrations of insecticides and their performance will be tested. Moreover, the individual behaviour will be tested at different developmental stages and in various contexts.

Rhizobia are bacteria associated with the roots of plants that change the nutrition of the plant. These changes in nutrition may also cause changes in plant chemical defence aboveground. Using bioassays it will be tested whether rhizobia association of the roots influences the feeding behavior of herbivores.

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