Department of Reproduction Biology
The main focus of our department is to understand the evolution of reproductive traits and the impact of environmental factors on fertility. We investigate the generation and maturation of germ cells, their functional interactions in the male and female genital tract as well as the endocrine regulation of reproductive processes. The implementation of cell-based techniques bridges the gap between the genetic and organismic level of research and allows comparative experimental investigations across species in vitro.
Assisted reproduction techniques (ART) are increasingly required to support reproduction in endangered species and relevant back-up populations. We use our expertise on gamete biology to continuously develop and refine ART, in particular cryopreservation of gametes and reproductive tissues, for a variety of species. Based on the long-term access to wildlife samples provided by IZW pathology and stakeholders from the zoo community, we curate the IZW cryobank and cryopreserved individual samples from >100 species.Besides ejaculated and epididymal sperm, oocytes and embryos, samples comprise testicular cells and ovarian tissue.
In our endocrine lab, we develop new approaches for non-invasive hormone monitoring and use metabolomics to unravel reproductive processes and to assess the allostatic load in wildlife. Our methods are validated for a great variety of species and we provide our expertise to new researchers in the field. Our endocrine lab is one of the leading labs world-wide for non-invasive monitoring of sexual and stress hormones and it is involved in many field projects of the IZW and other institutions.