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News 2017

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EvoPAD PI Jürgen Schmitz reveals secrets of Tasmanian tiger

The Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) was the largest carnivorous Australian marsupial to survive into the modern era. The last known specimen died in 1936 in captivity. EvoPAD PI PD Dr. Jürgen Schmitz was part of a team led by the University of Melbourne who sequenced the genome from a 108-year-old juvenile held by the Museums Victoria, Australia. Their results confirm that the Tasmanian tiger belongs in a sister linage to the families Dasyuridae (e.g., Tasmanian devil and dunnart) plus Myrmecobiidae (numbat). Moreover, the consortium suggests that positive selection on cis-regulatory elements might have been an important driver of convergent phenotypic evolution in case of the Tasmanian tiger whose appearance is almost a dingo with a pouch, although they do not share a common ancestor since the Jurassic. Scientists consider them as one of the best examples of convergent evolution. Finally, the genome revealed a low genetic diversity which started to decline well before the arrival of humans in Australia. The results may help to unravel the genetic basis of extinction to help other threatened species like the Tasmanian Devil. The study has now been published in Nature Ecology and Evolution: Feigin et al. (2017) Genome of the Tasmanian tiger provides insights into the evolution and demography of an extinct marsupial carnivore. Nature Ecology & Evolution. 10.1038/s41559-017-0417-y [doi]. Press release of the WWU

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Meeting the EvoPAD Coordinator over a piece of cake

The university newspaper wissen | leben includes in its December issue (no. 8 in 2017) an article about EvoPAD Coordinator Dr. Vanessa Kloke. She reports about her duties and responsibilities within the MGSE and EvoPAD and describes the benefits and challenges of working in an interdisciplinary setting. The article is part of the column “Auf ein Stück Mohnkuchen mit ...“ (Meeting over a piece of poppy-seed cake with…) in which an editor of the newspaper visits employees of the WWU with a piece of cake to learn about features and characteristics of the various workplaces at the university. ePaper PDF of the issue

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Four EvoPAD PIs are part of new transregional Collaborative Research Centre

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has granted funding for a new transregional Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) on “A Novel Synthesis of Individualisation across Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution: Niche Choice, Niche Conformance, Niche Construction“ or in short NC3 (SFB TRR 212). The CRC will integrate latest knowledge derived from behavioural biology, ecology, and evolutionary biology to investigate how individuals adapt to their environment and, thereby, occupy a specific ecological niche. In contrast to traditional approaches, NC3 will focus on how individual phenotypes rather than populations interact with their environment and study the evolutionary and ecological consequences of this interaction. The transregional CRC is a cooperation between the Universities of Bielefeld and Münster with Prof. Dr. Oliver Krüger from Bielefeld as its Speaker and Prof. Dr. Joachim Kurtz from Münster as its Vice Speaker. In addition to Prof. Dr. Kurtz, also EvoPAD PIs Prof. Dr. Ulrich Krohs, Prof. Dr. Helene Richter and Prof. Dr. Norbert Sachser are members of the CRC as well as associated PI Prof. Dr. Sylvia Kaiser.  It is funded by the DFG for 4 years with 8.5 Million EUR starting from January 2018. Press release by the DFG Press release by the University of Bielefeld Press release by the University of Münster

Summer School 2017 Group
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First EvoPAD summer school in Kyllburg

The first EvoPad summer school took place from 19 – 22 September 2017 at the Stiftsberg Bildungs- und Freizeitzentrum in Kyllburg in the beautiful Eifel region. The aim of the summer school was to bring the PhD students who have completed different kind of basic studies to the same level of knowledge regarding “Evolutionary processes in adaptation”. The programme included lectures but also ample time for discussion about, e.g., how philosophers of science work or how to pursue a career in science. In addition to the scientific programme, the participants explored Trier - Germany’s oldest city. More...

© Annina Lottermann

EvoPAD at ESEB 2017 in Groningen

At the invitation of the German Research Foundation (DFG), EvoPAD participated in an information booth of the “Research in Germany” initiative at the 2017 Congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) in Groningen. The information booth brought together representatives of the DFG, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the German Academic Exchange Service, the Leibniz Research Alliance Infections ’21, the Volkswagen Stiftung as well as renowned scientists in the field of ecology and evolutionary biology to inform conference participants about research and funding opportunities in Germany. In addition, EvoPAD Speaker Prof. Joachim Kurtz participated in a Science Lunch where he meet international students interested in “How to do a PhD in Germany”.

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Official opening of the RTG EvoPAD

On 17th May 2017, the RTG EvoPAD held its Kick-off Symposium in glorious sunshine and summer temperatures at the Vom-Stein-Haus in Münster. The event opened with welcome addresses from Prof. Joachim Kurtz, Spokesperson of the RTG, and Prof. Michael Quante, Vice-Rector for Internationalization and Knowledge Transfer on behalf of the Rectorate of the WWU. Afterwards, Prof. Quante switched into his role as EvoPAD Philosophy PI and highlighted with his talk on “Ethics – lost in the lab?” once again how Philosophy and the Life Sciences will intertwine within EvoPAD. The second session of the symposium featured presentations by two promising junior scientists: Marjon de Vos from Wageningen University gave interesting insights into eco-evolutionary interactions in polymicrobial infections, while Christoph Preuss from The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor demonstrated how evolutionary principles improve our understanding of human disease and what role mouse models can play in this. The session was closed by Prof. Joachim Kurtz with a talk about his research on host-parasite coevolution and how this relates to the core research idea of EvoPAD. The final highlight of the symposium was a public lecture by Prof. Bert Hölldobler – Pulitzer Prize winner and member of the National Academy of Sciences – who offered a deep look into cooperation and conflict in ant societies and the concept of superorganisms. After an inspiring afternoon, the EvoPAD members enjoyed networking during a dinner at the Botanical Garden of the University. Pictures of the day can be found here.

© Lucas Wahl

Interview with EvoPAD PIs Helene Richter & Norbert Sachser

The university newspaper "wissen|leben" (No. 2, 26th April 2017) of the WWU includes an interview with EvoPAD PIs Helene Richter and Norbert Sachser about trends, challenges, and areas of focus in animal welfare research. The full interview can be found here. The article is one of many dealing with the appointment of Helene Richter as Professor for Behavioural Biology and Animal Welfare at the Institute for Neuro- and Behavioural Biology at the WWU. Further interviews have been published, e.g., in the Welt, Süddeutsche Zeitung, or the Westfälische Nachrichten.

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EvoPAD welcomes its first doctoral students

The big day has arrived: EvoPAD has officially started on 1st April 2017. To welcome the new PhD students (ten of them being already in Münster, two more following until July) a meeting was organized introducing the PhD students to the EvoPAD PIs, the WWU, and the city of Münster. The meeting started with an introduction by the EvoPAD Spokesperson Prof. Joachim Kurtz who summarized the aims and objectives of the RTG and provided an overview of the qualification programme. Afterwards there was time for some coffee and cake before Dr. Jan Schmidt introduced the PhD students to the WWU Graduate Center and gave a crash course on living in Münster. Finally, PhD students of the Münster Graduate School of Evolution (MGSE) informed the EvoPAD students about offers of the MGSE and shared their experiences as senior PhD students at the WWU. In the evening, PIs and PhD students got together for some further networking while enjoying some Flammkuchen.
Taken together, the welcome meeting has been a very promising start to the first funding period and whetted the appetite for more. The official opening ceremony for EvoPAD will take place on 17th May 2017 in course of a Kick-of Symposium.

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© Uni MS/Peter Grewer

Helene Richter appointed as Professor for Behavioural Biology and Animal Welfare at the WWU

EvoPAD PI Helene Richter has been appointed as Professor for Behavioural Biology and Animal Welfare at the Institute for Neuro- and Behavioural Biology at the University of Münster. The new professorship is supported by the Ministry for Innovation, Science and Research of the state of North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW). It is the first professorship for animal welfare in NRW. Helene Richter aims to develop scientific concepts and methodological approaches for the refinement of animal experiments and laboratory animal housing conditions. Her further research interests include reproducibility and generalizability of findings from animal experiments, cognition and emotion in mammals, and the emergence of individuality. Within the RTG EvoPAD Helene Richter supervises project B6 on the emergence of individuality and its effects on vulnerability to disease.
Since January 2016 Helene Richter is also member of the Young North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanities and the Arts ("Junges Kolleg"). Furthermore, she has been appointed manager of the Ethologische Gesellschaft e.V. at the beginning of 2017. Press release of the WWU

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12 PhD positions announced

12 PhD positions have been announced at the University of Münster for the first phase of EvoPAD starting in April 2017. The candidates should have a Master’s or equivalent degree in Biology, Biomedicine, Bioinformatics, Biotechnology, Philosophy or related fields and show willingness to interact with colleagues in an interdisciplinary setting. Application deadline is 8th January 2017. Afterwards, shortlisted candidates will be interviewed by Skype. The most promising candidates will then be invited to Münster to take part in an admissions workshop in February. The detailed job advertisement can be found here.

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DFG approves funding for EvoPAD

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has granted the WWU funding for a Research Training Group on „Evolutionary Processes in Adaptation and Disease (EvoPAD)”. PhD students within EvoPAD will use knowledge derived from the theory of evolution to achieve a deeper understanding of the processes that are underlying adaptation and disease. They will be mentored by 17 scientists from the Faculty of Biology, the Medical Faculty, and the Department of Philosophy. EvoPAD is one of 20 new Research Training Groups funded by the DFG which offer PhD students the chance to complete their theses in a structured research and qualification programme at a high academic level. The project will be funded for a period of 4.5 years starting from April 2017 with almost 4 Million Euros. Press release by the DFG in German and English. Press release by the WWU in German.