Aquatic Ecology

Barrierefreiheit: Kurzbeschreibung des BildesOur group covers a wide range of research questions from basic to applied aspects of zoological ecology. 

The role of aquatic protists within the planktonic microbial food web forms a focus of our experimental laboratory and field work, with an emphasis on the abiotic and biotic factors potentially affecting the occurrence of mixotrophic protists, their biodiversity and their contribution to the cycling of nutrients and energy in aquatic ecosystems. Within the framework of the EU initiative “Aquacosm” the effect of anthropogenically caused light pollution on freshwater mixotrophs will be investigated in the summer of 2018.

Through collaborations with colleagues from various regional institutions (e.g. Magistrat Salzburg, Haus der Natur Salzburg, various environmental consulting offices) we are further investigating the impact of ecological restoration on the macrofauna of urban streams, and are conducting studies aimed at population dynamics and improved management strategies for the protection of endangered amphibians, reptiles, crustaceans and others. In collaboration with Stephen Wickham and Jana Petermann we are involved in a long-term monitoring project in the National Park “Hohe Tauern”, investigating the effects of abiotic parameters on the species composition in high alpine lakes in the context of global change. Our approach is experimentally oriented and methods include microscopy, experimental design and field work.

Aquatic Ecology

Barrierefreiheit: Kurzbeschreibung des BildesIn our research team we are focussed on the interaction between biodiversity and trophic interactions in aquatic food webs.  We work in both marine and freshwater systems with primarily an experimental approach.  We work mostly with the “lower” trophic levels, from bacteria to krill, but with emphasis on ciliates, copepods and cladocerans. 

Major themes of our research include the role of metacommunities in regulating biodiversity and ecosystem stability in bothstanding and flowing aquatic communities, how species composition and diversity influences the efficiency of trophictransfers, and measuring species-specific grazing rates to understand how species-specific differences influencecommunity-level parameters. In addition to traditional microscopic methods, we are increasingly applying automatedcounting technologies, using flow cytometry and particle counters.

We are currently looking for students for a major new monitoring project in the Hohe Tauern National Park, where we will focus on how abiotic parameters determine the species composition in high alpine lakes.

Protistology

Barrierefreiheit: Kurzbeschreibung des BildesThe research of our team focuses on the biodiversity of protists, specifically ciliates(Alveolata, Ciliophora), by the descriptions of new species and redescriptions of insufficiently known species from marine, freshwater, and terrestrial habitats collected during field trips. By means of light microscopy (bright field, interference and phase contrast), scanning and transmission electron microscopy, and application of a wide spectrum of histochemical staining methods, we investigate the cell morphology and division, resting cysts, conjugation processes, cell ultrastructures,and the chemical composition of ciliate loricae and cysts. Our computer-based cladistic analyses of the yielded characters provide together with molecular studies(primarily gene sequencing) insights into the evolution and adaptations of these organisms as well as into the phylogenetic relationships among protists, that again represent the base for the classification.

Our research yields not only everlasting publications, but is also very important assequencing of environmental samples clearly demonstrated that protist diversity is anorder of magnitude larger than previously assumed and that the vast majority of species are undescribed. Since protists are crucial components of all food webs,species circumscriptions are essential for studies concerning the ecological role and geographic distribution of species, and especially when the taxa are modelorganisms (e.g., Nobel Prices 1989 and 2009) or used for barcoding (identification bymarker genes). Accordingly, taxonomic expertise is urgently required, particularlyas there are only a few ciliatologists worldwide. Generally, our investigations are conducted in collaboration with international scientists, e.g., from Canada, China,France, Korea, Germany, the USA, and Austria.

We welcome students for Bachelor-, Master-, and Doctoral Thesis who are interestedin learning and applying the whole spectrum of methods for ciliate taxonomy and phylogenetics.

Multitrophic Biodiversity

Barrierefreiheit: Kurzbeschreibung des BildesAnimal and plant species are lost from this planet at increasing rates due to habitat destruction and climate change. To understand the related processes and alleviate the effects of biodiversity loss,we need to answer two central questions:

(1)How can species even coexist naturally or in other words, how is biodiversity maintained inhealthy ecological communities?

(2) And what happens to natural ecosystems when species go extinct, so what are the consequences of biodiversity loss? Since all ecological communities consist of species feeding on each other, our work has a special focus on multitrophic interactions and food webs.

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Vertebrate Biology

Barrierefreiheit: Kurzbeschreibung des BildesOur research work focuses on anatomy, morphology and organogenesis of vertebrates during development and evolution. In this context we study epithelial tissue barriers, which are highly conserved among all species and are essential for the evolution of multicellular organisms. Further, we are pursuing the question on how the vertebrate brain´s architecture and function relates to our environment from an evolutionary and modelling perspective.

Concerning our teaching activities, we are developing a novel interactive teaching/learning tool, which will enhance student´s motivation to acquire a broad knowledge of animal macroscopic and microscopic anatomy and physiology.

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