Department of Evolutionary Ecology

Evolutionary ecology research for species conservation

The Department Evolutionary Ecology investigates the influence of social, ecological and anthropogenic environments on the survival and reproductive success of wild animals. Ultimately, we aim to evaluate the adaptability of free-ranging wildlife populations to environmental changes such as climate and land use changes. We focus on long-term field studies in Europe and Africa, where we investigate multiple generations of individuals with known life-histories. We use high-throughput GPS and telemetry for spatial tracking alongside behavioural and physiological biologging. We apply minimally-invasive methods such as stable isotopes and nutritional analyses; services we also offer to external collaborators. >> More information

Selected projects of the department

Evidence-based solutions for the farmer-cheetah conflict in Namibia

Conflicts between humans, their livestock and carnivores are globally widespread. Developing sustainable solutions is challenging, particularly for threatened carnivore species. We demonstrate with the example of cheetahs in Namibia how detailed information on spatial movements of cheetahs can be used by farmers to adapt their cattle management. This results in substantial decrease of cattle losses and thus in reduced killing of cheetahs by farmers.

Movement ecology of common noctule bats in anthropogenic landscapes

The research of this project is dedicated to the questions of how highly mobile species such as the common noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula) survive in intensively used farmland or in city landscapes and which factors influence individual behaviour and local populations.

Behavioural ecology and evolutionary biology of the spotted hyena population in the Ngorongoro Crater

How – and how well – do group-living animals respond to social and environmental change? To address this question, we study the evolution of social behaviour and behavioural and evolutionary processes shaping the life history and fitness of group-living animals using an entire population of wild spotted hyenas (eight groups, more than 2500 individuals) that we have been monitoring since 1996 and for which we compiled an almost complete genetic pedigree across nine generations.

Evidence-based habitat and species protection of African and Asian rhinos

Rhinos are severely threatened by poaching and the loss of their habitat. As a consequence, the remaining individuals are confined to small, fractured populations. This project investigates the reasons for this drastic decline and attempts to identify solutions that may prevent imminent extinction events.