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History of the Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity

"Evolution and Biodiversity" is one of three focus areas of the School of Biology (Fachbereich 13) in Münster. Within this focus area the newly founded Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity (IEB) has a central role. It integrates several groups that work on evolutionary ecology of animals and plants, (molecular) phylogeny and evolution, aquatic ecology, biocomplexity, and evolutionary bioinformatics. In contrast to most other German Universities, the School of Biology Münster has decided to strengthen activities in the area of Evolution and Biodiversity, rather than cutting down activities in "organismic biology" for the sake of other subjects such as biotechnology, molecular biology and genetics. The School of Biology views evolutionary biology as the foundation of biology, echoing Dobzhanski's famous words "Nothing in Biology makes sense but in the light of Evolution". The Insititute is a merger of the Institutes of "Animal Evolution and Ecology", "Plant Ecology" and the Group "Evolutionary Bioinformatics of Biochemical Pathways and Biopolymers". The concept of the newly founded Institute of Evolution and Biodiversity (IEB) is to focus on research revolving around the questions ''how biodiversity and biocomplexity at all levels of the biological hierarchy arises through evolutionary processes''. Explicitly included in the concept is the causal analysis of alarming losses of biodiversity (natural, and also human induced) and changing environments (e.g., global warming) if the adaptive potential of species is exceeded and/or genetic erosion led to loss of functionally important genetic variability. Scientific progress will be fastest where complementary research strategies are followed: A 'top-down' approach that analyses the fitness of phenotypes in the wild or controlled laboratory settings, and a 'bottom-up' molecular genetic approach that analyses effects of key genes and gene networks.

The highly integrated and interdisciplinary structure of the IEB will combine both evolutionary ecology (=microevolutionary) groups that use experiments for studying selection, adaptive evolution and variation, groups that work on larger time scales in the 'macroevolutionary' fields of molecular evolution, protein evolution, or phylogenetics, and ecological groups that analyse present-day patterns of biodiversity. A bioinformatics group aims at integrating between empirical groups, and will help providing theoretical stimulus through reciprocal exchange of ideas and questions. The groups of the IEB

The history of Evolutionary Biology in Münster

The Biology Faculty in Münster has a long-standing tradition in research and teaching evolutionary biology. Bernhard Rensch was a widely known evolutionary biologist who taught and researched at School between the late 1940s and 1970s. Rensch had close contacts with many internationally leading scientists from around the world. Among others, Julian Huxley, Theodosius Dobzhansky, John Haldane, Ludwig von Bertalanffy and Ernst Mayr are known to have had a close personal and scientific relationship with Bernhard Rensch. In reference to this historical background, the School of Biology organises the Bernhard - Rensch Lecture on an annual basis. It features an internationally renowned scientist who gives a talk on research revolving about the main subject of evolution and which is typically geared at undergraduate students.

See a list of invited speakers of the annual Bernard Rensch lecture