Department of Evolutionary Genetics

Evolutionary epi-/genetic research for species conservation by bridging genotype and phenotype

The department’s vision is to understand how the genotype defines adaptation and how this knowledge can be used to enhance the viability of wildlife populations. To realise its vision, the department’s main mission is the study of evolutionary diversity in vertebrates. We use genomics, epigenomics, bioinformatics and biostatistics to decipher how past conditions have shaped current vertebrate genetic and phenotypic diversity and apply this knowledge to predict the effects of future environmental conditions on species demography.


Selected projects of the department

Comparative environmental epigenomics in wildlife

Epigenetic changes function as flexible mechanisms to increase a species' adaptability to environmental changes, but past studies have focused mostly on maternal effects. Here we study parental transmitted epigenetic responses and ask also if different environmental changes invoke different or similar responses.

The genomic basis of convergent evolution in modern sloths

The sloth lifestyle of hanging from trees has actually evolved independently two times. The convergent anatomical and physiological changes have an unknown genetics basis. We are triying to understand this by comparing high-quality whole genome sequences from living sloths.

Novel computational methods in wildlife research

Many of our research projects require new computational methods for processing and evaluating the data obtained. We develop these analysis tools either ourselves or in cooperation with partners, and also make them available to third parties.

Genetic monitoring of threatened European carnivores

By developing SNP marker systems to genetically monitor European carnivores, we provide tools to understand how these elusive species co-exist with humans and recolonize densely populated areas with intensive land-use. In this network project, research at the IZW focused on the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) and the Eurasian brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos).