If you are interrested in a Bachelor or Master Thesis or a research project in our research group, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Bachelor-, Master thesis | Summer 2019 Butterfly communities of a high-mountain range

© J. Kallmayer

We are looking for motivated students interested in field work, landscape ecology, biodiversity monitoring and animal ecology to participate in this project. We want to investigate the effects of topography, habitat structure and land use on butterfly communities using standardized sampling methods. The study will take place in grazed grassland ecosystems of the northern Tian-Shan high-mountain range in Kyrgyzstan along an elevational gradient.

More information


Josef Kallmayer,
Johannes Kamp,

Bachelor or Master Thesis: Impacts of climate change and fire on annual ring growth of arctic shrubs

© Denis Bazyk
© Stefan Kruse

In arctic regions, climate change is more pronounced than in other regions of the world and has strong impacts on tundra vegetation. Warming leads to an increase of shrub growth and abundance. Additionally, fires are expected to increase in frequency and extent in arctic regions through climate change and to enforce shrub encroachment. Measures of ring growth of arctic shrubs can help to identify the long-term mechanisms underlying vegetation change in high latitudes.
We are looking for motivated Bachelor or Master students interested in dendrochronological methods and in mechanisms and processes of arctic vegetation.
The practical work includes cutting cross-sections of arctic shrubs and subshrubs sampled in different regions of northern Russia and will take place 2-4 weeks at the Alfred-Wegener-Institut in Potsdam and possibly as well at the University of Münster. Afterwards, the ring growth will be measured and statistically analysed.

We offer two different topics:

  1. Influence of temperature (climate change) on ring growth of arctic shrubs. Questions: How is annual ring growth of arctic shrub/subshrubs influenced by climate? Differ responses between species and regions?
  2. Impact of fire on establishment and growth of arctic shrubs. Questions: Have shrubs survived earlier fire events? If yes, how is the annual ring growth influenced by fire?


Ramona Heim ( oder Norbert Hölzel (
Institut für Landschaftsökologie, Universität Münster

Stefan Kruse (
Alfred Wegener Institut, Potsdam

Climate adaptation of Betula species in the Ural Mountains in Russia

© Larissa Ivanova

Climate change and its consequences are omnipresent. However, the warming of the atmosphere has the greatest impact in the pole-near ecosystems. For example, species with a warmer central niche become more abundant and the plant community on average gets higher. The forest is moving more and more to the north. While this information is known about the evolution of the species community, there is a strong lack of comparative studies of the differences within species, especially from the center of the Eurasian continent. One reason for this deficiency is the lack of large common garden experiments in which the different populations can be compared. One such experiment was realized for a different purpose in Soviet times in Yekaterinburg and is now a still hidden gem for evolutionary research. It includes trees of the silver birch (Betula pendula) and the downy birch (Betula pubescens), which come from different locations along a 2000 km long north-south transect along the Ural Mountains. Together with colleagues from the Russian Academy of Sciences we want to investigate special leaf traits of these trees. Initial results show that many features that have a physiological significance for climatic adaptation are closely related to the latitude of the original site. For the master/bachelor thesis, a stay with our colleagues in Yekaterinburg is planned for June. First leaf traits will be measured on the trees in trial cultivation. For further evaluation, leaves will be collected and preserved for later evaluation. The method of trait measuring (e.g., measurement of average cell size via computer image analysis and 3D modeling of cells and tissues) will be taught by our colleagues in Yekaterinburg. Because the leaves are conserved, the further course of the work can be made flexible in time and take place either in Yekaterinburg or Münster.

Contact: Christian Lampei (, Room 515, or Norbert Hölzel


How to predict local adaptation in plants

© Anna Lampei-Bucharova

Populations of most species are genetically differentiated. This differentiation frequently reflects plant adaptation to the environment. As a result, local plants perform on average better than foreign plants, a phenomenon called local adaptation. Although this phenomenon is common, it is difficult to predict the strength of local adaptation in particular populations and species. According to classical meta-analysis (a study that summarizes results of previous works; Leimu and Fischer 2008), the strength of local adaptation does not increase with geographical distance between the populations and only slightly with environmental distance. However, this study collected published data until 2006. Since then, there were many large-scale studies testing local adaptation, and there are many more data available in comparison with 12 years ago. It is time to summarize the studies again.

This thesis will focus on meta-analysis of drivers of local adaptation. The actual work will include literature searching, standardized data collection from the publications and data analysis.

Contact: Anna Lampei-Bucharova


Street margins as hotspots of biodiversity

© Anna Lampei-Bucharova

Current agricultural landscapes suffer from biodiversity loss (Münsterland is a great example).  They are dominated by fields that are divided by linear green structures (trees, shrubs) differing in quality. One of the few places where we can regularly find biodiverse communities are road margins. However, their positive effects were only rarely quantified. This thesis will focus on the biodiversity value of road margins in a landscape dominated by intensive agriculture (Münsterland).

The actual work will include determining the main habitat types in the area, assessing their biodiversity value (with a focus on plants) and analyzing data.

Contact: Anna Lampei-Bucharova


The effect of plant provenance on pollinator network

© Anna Lampei-Bucharova

One of the main questions in ecosystem restoration is where to obtain the seeds to re-establish plant communities. While the most commonly advocated approach is to use seeds from local sources, some experts argue against this because, with ongoing climate change, local populations may become suboptimal. However, plants are not alone in ecosystems and there are myriads of other organisms that depend on plants, and that differentiate between plant origins, for example, some origins are tastier than other origins. One important group that inherently depends on plants are pollinators. They also provide important ecosystem services to humans.  It is well possible that pollinators are adapted to communities of local plants, and using other than local origin may affect pollinators. However, this has nobody explored so far.

This thesis will focus on the effect of plant provenance on pollinator networks. The actual work will include growing plants in common garden, pollinator observations and analyzing data.

Contact: Anna Lampei-Bucharova, David Ott

Master thesis Geoinformatics & Landscape Ecology

Can land-use change in East Asia explain rapid declines in migratory birds?

Blue-and-white Flycatcher with geolocator
© Ilka Beermann

In this MSc thesis, we will harness the Landsat archive to quantify land- use change in the period ca. 1980–2017 in selected study areas in China and SE Asia that are important for migratory birds.

We are looking for a motivated candidate with experience in remote sensing for a Master thesis project.

Further information ...

Contact: Hanna Meyer, Johannes Kamp, Wieland Heim


Seed rain in grasslands

© AG Biodiversität und Ökosystemforschung

For a MSc theses or research projects in the Biodiversity Exploratories on seed rain in grasslands please contact  Martin Freitag or  Norbert Hölzel.