Peter is interested in social evolution and the evolution of mutualisms. Apart from the projects of the group, he is working on the ecological drivers of insect-fungus mutualisms and Darwinian agriculture. The latter tries to apply evolutionary processes to human agriculture and studies what humans can learn from farming insects for more sustainable agriculture. His main models are fungus-farming ambrosia beetles.
Janina is generally very interested in social evolution of animals and their behavioural ecology. The topics she already had contact with, like social immunity, influence of pathogens and symbionts on their hosts, factors that shape different kinds of behaviour (maternal care, sibling cooperation/conflict, food sharing, pathogen defence) aroused her interest for a career in science and she therefore looked for a PhD in this field. With research on the evolution of sociality in ambrosia beetles she can now dig deeper into the coevolution of sociality and fungiculture.
Max is generally interested in the ecology and evolution of beetle-fungus mutualisms, especially in the symbiosis of bark- and ambrosia beetles with their fungal and bacterial associates. Currently he aims to investigate the specificity behind the bacterial induction of nutrient-rich fruiting structures in several fungal clades associated with ambrosia beetles and further test effects against other non-ambrosia fungi and fungal pathogens. Moreover, he aims to examine the physiology of fungal symbionts focusing on their beneficial capabilities (e.g. enzymatic activity, nutritional quality, defensive characteristics) within the beetle-fungus symbiosis and compare results of individual experiments with the phylogenetic distance between examined fungi.
Mehdi is broadly interested in the evolution and ecology of social behaviours. Why do some species show extremely complex social behaviours, while others are invariably solitary? What can explain inter- and intraspecific variation in sociality? He finds these questions fascinating. In his master's, he studied various forms of social behaviours in vertebrates (aggression, parental care, cooperative breeding). In his PhD, he is taking a wider perspective and investigates the ecology and evolution of sociality in fungus-farming beetles (Scolytinae).
Mehdi is also looking into a career in science communication, in order to raise awareness about the scientific method and to inform the general public about the fascinating knowledge fostered by evolutionary research.
Markus's main interest in the biological field has always been ecology. He did his bachelor thesis at the Department for Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology (Zoology III). In his master studies, his main focus lies in animal ecology and behavioural biology, and he will work on a research project with Max.
Viesturs joined the lab in October for a semester, mostly working on fungal DNA sequencing and cuticular hydrocarbon extraction and analyses.
Giulio comes from southern Italy and joined the lab in January. He is currently developing his own research project with Max.