Theoretical Evolutionary Ecology Group



Our group has a focus on theoretical and conceptual work and this is also reflected in our contribution to the Department‘s teaching: We inform and train our students so that they learn and understand important (theoretical) concepts in ecology and evolution and are able to develop models on their own. Feel free to contact us whenever you want to know more about our activities.


Beginning 2018, we offer - jointly with Peter Biedermann, Thomas Schmitt and Alexander Keller - a new course in Evolutionary Ecology for 4th term Bachelor students (SS, Vorl.Vz 06100134     5 ECTS). In this course we will, on the one hand, introduce the basic questions and principle theoretical concepts addressed by the field and, on the other hand, emprically investigate various attributes of the ecology and life-history of the fascinating bark and Ambrosia beetles.

We participate with a section teaching basic statistics in the department’s “Tierökologie 2” course in the 5th term. We introduce students to the basic concepts of statistics in ecology and introduce R as a very useful tool to carry out statistical tests. The class includes lectures, exercises, and homework. Course participation is typically expected by students that aim for a bachelor-degree in the department.


We contribute to the department’s “Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology F1” (0610011: SS 2016 sb@home) with a unit teaching “Modelling in Ecology” (can also be taken by bachelors in the 6th term). We focus on topics in spatial ecology, on how to ‘translate’ a verbal story into a formal model, and teach scientific programming.

We also offer – after individual arrangement – courses at the F2 level (0610012: WS 2016/17 sb@home).

Our group further contributes to the department’s lecture series Tierökologie and Tropenbiologie (0611001: WS 2016/17 sb@home) and the lecture series on timing and organismic biology (SFB Insect Timing) jointly held by the three zoology departments.

We will also participate in the upcoming summer school on ecological modeling offered by the new Center of Computational and Theoretical Biology (link coming soon).


We provide opportunities for preparing bachelor as well as master theses in our group – typically with a focus on development of theoretical models or computer simulations. For those interested in a bachelor-thesis we would typically expect participation in some of our courses and of enrolling in the “Tierökologie 3” or “Tierökologie 4” class in the 6th term. Feel free to contact us if you are interested and have any questions.

Possible topics for future theses:

  • Divergent courtship behavior as explanation for coexistence of Drosophila ‘time-mutants’.
  • Area-restricted search and emergent metapopulation dynamics.
  • Storage-investment as a further life-history strategy in perennial social insects like honey bees.
  • Useful proximate triggers for the timing of activity onset in temperate social insects.
  • The influence of informed emigration on the speed of range expansions.
  • Move, tolerate or adapt: optimal strategies in changing environments.
  • Age-dependent survival and population demography of butterflies
  • Causes and consequences of individual variation in morphology, foraging behavior and survival of butterflies in natural populations

International summer schools

We have contributed to the International Summer School Spatially Explicit Modeling of Ecological Systems hosted by CCTB and sponsored by DAAD in May 2017

Contributors: Thomas Hovestadt, Alexander Kubisch, Marleen Cobben

Ecological systems are inherently complex, as they comprise a large number of species with different interaction patterns. In addition, species and relationships are subject to evolutionary adaptation, and thus interaction networks represent dynamic structures. Spatial aspects, including foraging behaviour, dispersal, or geographical constraints, further increase the complexity of these systems, influence the dynamics, or contribute to the development of spatio-temporal patterns.

The aim of this spring school is to introduce basic and advanced computational modelling techniques to describe spatially explicit and adaptive ecological systems. The school will hereby focus on process-based models, which explicitly represent causal relationships and thus provide deeper understanding in contrast to purely statistical models, which are often applied in ecological studies.

The basic steps of ecological modelling are explained. This includes formulating a well-defined study question, identifying and hierarchically structuring causal relationships, setting up a process scheduling, and model implementation (e.g., in R or in Netlogo). The relevant ecological processes, drivers, model agents, model properties, ecological levels of interests, and relevant spatio-temporal scales will be introduced.

Invited speakers will give insights into their current research and provide details on the models they use. In practical tutorials, the introduced models will be applied and extended by the participants depending on their interests.