Molecular Ecology

The Research Group Molecular Ecology uses the exciting opportunities offered by molecular biology to study ecology as a snap-shot of evolving biodiversity. We have been doing research in four areas, integrating genetic and genomic data with those from other sources (e.g., niche ecology, morphology, behaviour, chemistry, karyology, life-history research). Integrative biodiversity research: We have identified pitfalls of using single disciplines, elaborated a protocol for combining multiple disciplines, and completed a series of multisource case study. Projects in progress include ones on the diversity of ants, bristletails, grasshoppers, harvestmen, and spiders, mostly with a focus on the Alps and partly on the evolution of endemism. For these projects, we have also developed bioinformatic tools. Symbiotic interactions: Building on previous work, we explore proximate and ultimate causations in an ant-fungi mutualism and various symbioses of Wolbachia bacteria and insects. Social evolution: We are continuing our research on colony organisation in ants, including in invasion-biological context. Currently, we are characterising the social organisation of a facultatively supercolonial ant and sequencing its transcriptome and genome, as basis for sociogenomics research. We have also discovered a system of colony mixing and hybridisation. Rapid evolution: Recently, we have started exploring evolutionary and ecological effects of rising temperature on mountain biodiversity at the phenotypic and genotypic level. To investigate the extent of rapid thermal evolution, its costs, and molecular foundations in Alpine Drosophila, the project combines selection experiments, life-history assays, and next-generation genome sequencing of pooled individuals. We collaborate with 36 national and international institutions.

Molecular Ecology Group 2017

Group Members

MSc and Diploma Students

Raphael Gronauer
Marlene Haider
Kristin Lang


Alice Czarnowsky (position: MSc student)
Milan Danilovic (position: MSc student)
Christoph Eberl (position: Diploma student)
Stefanie Fischnaller (position: MSc student)
Alexander Gamisch (position: Postdoctoral Fellow)
Melitta Gassner (position: MSc student)
Florian Glaser (position: PhD student)
Cornelia Gufler (position: Diploma student)
Nadine Hochenegger (position: MSc student)
Martina Nindl (position: Diploma student)
Stefanie Pfeifenberger (position: MSc student)
Zeng-Qiang Qian (position: PhD student)
Hannes Rauch (position: MSc student)
Lukas Rinnhofer (position: MSc student)
Hanna Rosinger (position: MSc student)
Lucia Russo (position: MSc student)
Brigitta Seifert (position: Diploma student)
Raphael Strohmaier (position: MSc student)
Magdalena Tratter (position: MSc student)
Michael Url (position: MSc student)  
Gregor Wachter (position: PhD student)
Herbert C. Wagner (position: PhD student)

Research Topics
  • Adaptation
  • Alpine endemism
  • Biogeography and faunistics
  • Biodiversity
  • Bioinformatics
  • Biological-pest control
  • Climate-change biology
  • Conservation biology
  • Development and application of genetic markers
  • Ecological niche modelling
  • Ecology and evolution of symbioses
  • Ecological speciation
  • Embryology
  • Experimental evolution
  • Genome and transcriptome biology
  • Hybridisation
  • (Integrative) taxonomy
  • Invasion biology
  • Life history
  • Morphology
  • Ornithology
  • Parthenogenesis
  • Phylogeny and phylogeography
  • Polyploidy
  • Population genetics and genomics
  • Routine identification tools
  • Selection
  • (Sexual) behaviour
  • Social organisation
  • Speciation and gene flow  
  • Waste management and monitoring
Current Projects

Genome-wide gene flow in the Daphnia longispina complex (funded by: FWF, Austrian Science Fund)

Genomic patterns of wing pattern introgression in Heliconius (funded by: FWF, Austrian Science Fund)

Origin of steppe flora and fauna in inner-Alpine dry valleys (funded by: FWF, Austrian Science Fund)