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News 2018

For news from 2017 click here.

The human within: Norbert Sachser publishes book on similarities between animals and humans

2018-06-27 Book Sachser
© WWU/Peter Grewer

According to our current state of knowledge, animals are much more similar to humans than we have long thought. Mammals, for example, display grief, trick opponents, feel empathy, learn, and communicate on a high level while their brain and body show similar reactions like in humans. EvoPAD PI Prof. Dr. Norbert Sachser now published a book in which he explains how paradigms have shifted in behavioural biology within the last 30 years and how this has changed our understanding of animals and humans: Norbert Sachser (2018): Der Mensch im Tier. Warum Tiere uns im Denken, Fühlen und Verhalten oft so ähnlich sind (Rowohlt-Verlag; ISBN: 978-3-498-06090-9). There are several interviews with Norbert Sachser on his new book, e.g. on the website of the WWU or as broadcast at the Deutschlandfunk.

EvoPAD welcomes Prof. Dr. Thomas Flatt as first Mercator Fellow

20180517 Meractor Fellow Thomas Flatt
© Photo: Thomas Flatt

Prof. Dr. Thomas Flatt from the University of Fribourg has now been awarded a Mercator Fellowship by the German Research Foundation (DFG) to start an intensive and long-term collaboration with the Research Training Group EvoPAD. Thomas Flatt is a Full Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the Department of Biology at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. His research addresses fundamental questions in evolutionary genetics of adaptation, life-history evolution, the evolution and mechanisms of aging and longevity (including the relationship between aging and immunity), and phenotypic plasticity, which meshes extremely well with the core topics addressed by EvoPAD. As Mercator Fellow, Prof. Flatt will be associated with EvoPAD over the long-term including regular stays in Münster. He will be integrated into the EvoPAD projects, contribute to the study programme, and expand on the current range of subjects addressed by the local researchers. His first stay is scheduled for 17 June – 15 July 2018.
The Mercator Fellow Module by the DFG enables intensive and ongoing project-based collaboration between DFG-funded programmes and high-profile scientists from abroad. Mercator Fellows are associated with the projects over the long-term and are at least partially on site at the host institutions. The aim is to bring additional expertise to the projects as well as to increasing their visibility.

EvoPAD PI Erich Bornberg-Bauer receives prestigious HFSP Research Grant

2018-04-09 Hfsp Grant Bornberg-bauer
© Portrait: WWU/Peter Grewer; Termites: CSIRO, licensed under

Prof. Dr. Erich Bornberg-Bauer has been awarded with a prestigious Program Grant by the International Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) Organization. The HFSP’s collaborative Research Grants are given for a broad range of projects under the umbrella theme “Complex mechanisms of living organisms”. The program funds only cutting-edge, risky projects and provides 3 years of support for international teams involving at least two countries. The selection process is highly competitive: Out of 770 proposals from 50 different countries only 31 have been selected after a multi-level selection process. Prof. Bornberg-Bauer is part of a team that will investigate the role of diet in long-lived termite reproductives. Each team member receives on average 110,000 – 125,000 USD per year. It is the third HFSP grant for Prof. Bornberg-Bauer who was selected by the HFSP Organization already in 2006 and 2013. Press release by the WWU

Training on good scientific practice

2018-03-27 Gsp Workshop

The quality of research is inextricably linked to good scientific practice. The EvoPAD PhD students now successfully completed a training on the basic rules and values of responsible conduct in research in all its stages. They explored differences and grey areas between good scientific practice, questionable research practice and scientific misconduct and learned how misconduct can be recognized and prevented. The workshop was held by Dr. Michael Gommel from the Institut für systemische Medizin- und Organisationsethik. The PhD students concluded after the workshop: “Actually every researcher should have had such a course at one point of his studies.”.

EvoPAD contributed to 7th MGSE Symposium

2018-03-21 Mgse Symposium 2018

On 21 – 22 March 2018, the 7th Symposium of the Münster Graduate School of Evolution was held at the Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity at the University of Münster. Around 60 participants attended the two-day event which offered the graduate students the opportunity to present their research in an oral presentation or a poster. Also the EvoPAD PhD students were invited to share their first results, to network with evolutionary biologists in and around Münster, and to gain presenting experience. In addition, EvoPAD organized a plenary session with National Academy of Sciences member Michael Lynch from the Arizona State University, who is famous for his work supporting neutral theories of evolution. The EvoPAD session was completed by talks of EvoPAD PIs Francesco Catania and Erich Bornberg-Bauer. Programme and pictures...

EvoPAD welcomes Jürgen Gadau as new member

20180223 New Member Gadau
© WWU/EvoPAD, Nasoina: AG Gadau

Good news from the DFG: The Grants Committee accepted Prof. Dr. Jürgen Gadau as additional Principal Investigator of EvoPAD. The RTG will be provided with funding for another PhD student including equipment costs. The decision of the Grants Committee is based on very positive peer reviews of the proposal which has been submitted to the DFG in October 2017. Prof. Gadau is appreciated as a leading figure in the field of sociogenomics, with an excellent track record and a high profile research portfolio. The project of Prof. Gadau will try to identify and understand the gene regulatory networks that keep the interaction between nuclear and mitochondrial encoded genes functioning. More specifically, the project will focus on the mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation system (OXPHOS) in Nasonia and how its evolution is linked to mitochondrial capacity, metabolic rates, and hybrid incompatibility in this parasitoid wasp genus. The project is supposed to start in April 2018. Together with Prof. Gadau, 13 Principal Investigators are now involved in the doctoral training within EvoPAD.

Successful introduction to Bioethics


On 7 – 9 February, the EvoPAD PhD students completed an intensive training in bioethics, taught by Konstantin Schnieder from the Center for Bioethics. The PhD students gained a concise overview about the basics of moral reasoning and the major traditions of ethical theory and applied their insights to some contemporary issues in bioethics. The course represented a challenge for both sides: While philosopher Konstantin Schnieder was confronted with a group consisting mainly of biologists, the PhD students wondered how the bioethical issues would be related to their daily work. Feedback from the participants shows, that the challenge has been met successfully.  Learn more...

EvoPAD and MGSE PhD students launch magazine "The Eyebrow"

Eyebrow First Issue

The MGSE and EvoPAD PhD students proudly present the very first issue of The Eyebrow – a magazine for and by PhD students of the MGSE. “It is a magazine written, edited, formatted, and ultimately yielded by PhD students of the Münster Graduate School of Evolution. We do not aim to inform, yet we will. We aim not to elucidate, but we will. We do, however, aim to entertain, by letting thoughts run freely,” describes Editor-in-Chief April Snøfrid Kleppe the vision of the magazine in the issue’s editorial. The magazine features reportages from different MGSE groups, news of future and passed events, essays as well as cartoons and riddles, providing beautiful distraction for long days in the lab. As associated members of the MGSE, also several EvoPAD PhD students are members of the Editioral Board and contributed significantly to the first issue. The Eyebrow is currently the only student paper at the WWU and is planned to be published quarterly. The fact that the first issue turned out as well as it is shows the potential of the upcoming issues. To convince yourself, you can pick up your copy of The Eyebrow in the MGSE office building in Hüfferstr. 1a. A PDF version of the magazine will be available soon.

Insights into molecular basis of termite eusociality

© WWU/Peter Leßmann

Termites evolved eusociality - the reproductive division of labour with overlapping generations and cooperative brood care - independently from and long before social Hymenoptera. A team of researchers led by EvoPAD PI Prof. Dr. Erich Bornberg-Bauer could now show evolutionary signatures of termite eusociality by comparing the genomes and transcriptomes of three termites and the German cockroach against the background of 16 other eusocial and non-eusocial insects. Their result provide further evidence that major changes in gene regulation and the evolution of sophisticated chemical communication are fundamental to the transition to eusociality in insects. Although this parallels molecular mechanisms of eusocial evolution in Hymenoptera, the specific solutions are remarkably different, thus revealing a striking case of convergent evolution. Original Publication: Harrison MC et al. (2018) Hemimetabolous genomes reveal molecular basis of termite eusociality. Nature Ecology and Evolution. 10.1038/s41559-017-0459-1 [doi]. The press release by the WWU can be found here.

SWR2 broadcast on parasites with EvoPAD Speaker Joachim Kurtz

Ql Stichling
© IEB - Animal Evolutionary Ecology Group

EvoPAD Speaker Prof. Dr. Joachim Kurtz and Dr. Jörn Scharsack from the Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity contributed to a broadcast on the role of parasites as „global players" in ecosystems on SWR2. The podcast and further information can be found here.