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Meet an Ecology PhD - Daniela Sint

What’s on the menu?

Daniela Sint is a senior member of the working group Applied and Trophic Ecology headed by Michael Traugott, which is among the world leading groups investigating trophic interactions with molecular methods (www.uibk.ac.at/ecology/forschung/biodiversitaet.html.en).

Eating and been eaten is a basic concept of life and, no wonder, feeding interactions are a major topic in ecology. While it’s rather easy to watch a grazing cow or identify the prey of lions, most trophic interactions are much harder to observe. Be it due to the minute size of the organisms (e.g. springtails), their hidden life style (e.g. in the soil) or the inaccessibility of their habitat (e.g. the deep sea).

Fortunately, recent advances in molecular methods allow us nowadays to identify species and investigate their trophic interactions based on the presence/absence of DNA. This means we can identify on which roots a soil-living animal has nibbled, simply by tracking the plant DNA in its gut or faeces. Such information is essential to understand the mechanisms influencing the structure and function of species communities in different ecosystems – a main focus in many (inter-)national research projects conducted by the working group.

In projects funded by the FWF and the BMWFW Daniela and her colleagues are currently investigating the influence of fertilizers in cereal fields on the invertebrate community, food web interactions and associated ecosystem services such as pest control.

Dr. Daniela Sint

 

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