Department of Reproduction Biology

The department of Reproduction Biology investigates the evolution of reproductive traits and the impact of environmental factors on fertility. In addition to this, our research focuses on the long-term preservation of germ cells and gonadal tissues of wildlife animals, and on the determination of hormones in diverse matrices, like serum, faeces, urine, hair and cell culture medium.

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 levels of research and allows comparative experimental investigations across species in vitro.

We use our expertise on gamete biology to continuously develop and refine assisted reproduction techniques (ART), in particular in-vitro-maturation and -fertilization of oocytes and long-term preservation of sperm cells for a variety of species. ART are increasingly required to support reproduction in endangered species. Based on the long-term access to wildlife samples provided by IZW pathology and stakeholders from the zoo community, we operate and supervise the IZW cryobank with cryopreserved individual samples from more than 100 species with a special focus on felids. Besides ejaculated and epididymal sperm, oocytes and embryos, the cryobank also comprise testicular cells and ovarian tissue.

In our endocrine lab, we develop and implement new approaches for non-invasive hormone monitoring and explore metabolomics to unravel reproductive processes and to assess the allostatic load in wildlife. Our methods are validated for a great variety of species and our expertise is shared with established and new researchers in the field. Our endocrine lab is one of the leading labs world-wide for non-invasive monitoring of reproductive and adrenocortical hormones and is therefore involved in many field projects of the IZW and other institutions.