Rain forest in French Guiana

Biodiversity is a product of evolutionary history. All organisms interact with the abiotic and biotic environment and these interactions are major drivers of evolutionary changes which have resulted in the biodiversity as observed today. Over the last decades, much progress has been made in understanding how interactions determine evolutionary processes. However, it has also become increasingly clear that multiple interactions can synergistically constrain or drive organismal evolution. For instance, changes in the abiotic and biotic environment are often correlated, and particular characters often serve multiple functions. It is therefore critical that evolution is considered in a “whole-organism-context”, taking multiple interactions into account.

The aim of our group “Understanding Evolution” is to study how the interplay of interactions determines evolutionary processes. We are in a particularly strong position to launch this research program, as the researchers of our group combine a unique set of different, but highly complementary skills and expertise. Our main research priorities are to: 1) unravel evolutionary shifts of interactions, 2) investigate the genetic background of these shifts, and 3) predict the fate of biodiversity in the light of altering interactions due to global change. To answer these questions we integrate a combination of phylogenetic, ecological, genomic, transcriptomic, morphological, and anatomical approaches and apply these to several target taxa in flowering plants and fungi. Therefore our research includes comparative descriptive and experimental tools, and implements both field- and collection-based research “to unlock the intriguing complexity of diversity”: our group mission.

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