Research Statement

The International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) in Jena is the first graduate school worldwide where modern chemical, molecular and neuroethological techniques are used systematically to study ecological systems. Students have the unique ability to combine the advances of new developments in genomics, proteomics, metabolomics and neurobiology with the most advanced techniques in ecological analysis for a whole-organismic and inter-organismic analysis of function. As a consequence of the limited cross-fertilization between ecology and both molecular biology and chemistry, few ecologically useful tools are readily available. Such tools are being developed for the IMPRS.

Organisms in nature interact in complex ways, and the traits that are important for the outcome of these interactions are largely unknown. The interactions of plants with plants, of plants with herbivores, of herbivores with predators, and microorganisms as mediators between and in all trophic levels, crucially affect the individual fitness of the interacting partners, community structure, and the functioning of whole ecosystems. They determine how an ecosystem functions. Understanding these interactions on a mechanistic level is a prerequisite for understanding the fundamental processes that structure all ecological systems.

Thus, the overarching research topic of the IMPRS in Jena is the use of molecular, chemical and neuroethological techniques, to experimentally explore ecological interactions under natural conditions. An additional central focus of our research training program is on the analysis of interactions at surfaces and interfaces. We examine the role of chemical signals that mediate the interactions between plants, animals, and their environment, as well as the evolutionary and behavioral consequences of these interactions.

For further details on the research interests of our faculty members and the questions which are under investigation see here.