Aquatic Ecology & Evolution


About Me

DFG Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Research Interests

Currently I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the group of Prof. Ole Seehausen and collaborate with the Sensory Neurobiology Group of Prof. Justin Marshall at the Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland in Australia, and the Carleton lab within the University of Maryland, USA..

My research focus lies in animal communication and sensory processing. In particular I am interested in vision, how animals perceive their environment, how evolutionary forces shape sensory systems, and how flexible visual systems cope with varying visual needs arising from environmental, developmental or ecological changes. As vision is so multifaceted, I use invertebrate and vertebrate model organisms to unravel the diverse roles and effects of vision in an animal’s life. During my PhD I documented plastic changes in visual brain centers of predominantly visually guided desert ants as the ants increased their visual abilities during their transition from interior workers to outdoor foragers. Currently I study vision in reef fish inhabiting the Great Barrier Reef – one of the most diverse and colorful habitats on our planet. I investigate the role of visual adaptation in reef fish by comparing visual pigment genes across and within species that show a great diversity in regards to habitat preferences, feeding habits, and behavior.



Projects: Visual communication in reef fish

In my current work I study the role of visual communication in coral reef fish. Coral reef fish are powerful model organisms to study the high species and color diversity in coral reefs, and to understand the role of visual communication that is crucial in the survival of species. The central aim of this project is to study the visual system and its plastic nature triggered by environmental and developmental factors in colorful and diverse damselfish (Pomacentridae) species. My multidisciplinary approach combines molecular (e.g. RNAseq), neuroanatomical (e.g. in situ hybridization combined with retinal mapping), and physiological (microspectrophotometry) methods, behavioral assays and visual modelling. Results so far have shown that damselfish have at least five cone opsin genes and that different species vary in which are expressed, comparing both juvenils and adults. Further, I could show that gene expression is linked to feeding habit, visual communication (UV channel), and differs between populations living at different depths. This demonstrates a strong role for ecology and environment in shaping visual sensitivities.

05.2017 – today Postdoctoral Fellow with Prof. Seehausen; UniBe and EAWAG
10.2014 – 04.2017
Postdoctoral Fellow with Prof. Marshall; University of Queensland
04.2012 – 09.2014
Postdoctoral Fellow with Prof. Salzburger; University of Basel
03.2008 – 02.2012
Doctoral Student with Prof. Rössler & Prof. Wehner; University of Würzburg
05.2007 – 09.2007
Student assistant at the Dep. of Behavioral Physiology & Sociobiology; University Würzburg
10.2001 – 06.2002
Student assistant at the Center for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT); University of Bremen