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Research

Our research has mainly focused on the social, mating, and reproductive behavior of animals. Current our research questions are related to the role of maternal investment and maternal effects on offspring phenotype and development and whether males are able to manipulate female investment via acoustic or visual ornaments. To explore animal behavior we use multidisciplinary approaches, by integrating genetics, immune system functioning and physiology.

The model species for our research are mainly bird species including house sparrows (Passer domesticus), bearded reedlings (Panurus biarmicus), European hoopoes (Upupa epops), reed warblers (Acrocephalus scirpaceus), black-headed buntings (Emberiza melanocephala), Fairy wrens (Malurus cyaneus), blue tits (Caeruleus cyaneus) and others. For specific questions we also use other taxa, including amphipians, reptiles and insects. Our studies usually combine experimental designs under semi-natural conditions with observational and experimental field research.

Research Topics

Sexual Selection and Reproductive strategies: One of our main interests is to determine the different aspects involved in mate choice. For that reason our research takes the genetic as well as the physiological background into account (Project on “Physiological basis for ornamental development in bearded tits” funded by OEAD and the Hungarian OTKA)

Maternal investment: Beside the importance of sexual selection on individual fitness (offspring development) we also investigate early maternal effects, which means the importance of maternal resources provided by the mother to their offspring during embryo development.

Sexual selection, maternal effects and conservation:  As an applied approach we try to incorprorate the role of our scientific findings in relation to mate choice and maternal investment into conservation projects. To understand mating behaviour can provide important information for conservation matters. On the other hand, maternal investment can be a very sensitive determinant to predict health, condition or stress and hence is important to evaluate the future performance of an individual, population, species or community. Using maternal investment the effect of different environmental factors like light pollution or environmental noise can be investigated in more detail than by simply measuring individual density or behavioural performance.

Team

Senior scientist

Herbert Hoi, Group leader

Technical and Animal Care Assistants

Sabrinna Mali
Roland Sasse

International cooperation partners

Dr. Alzbeta Darolova, Slovakia
Dr. Attila Hettyey, Hungary
Dr. Sonia Kleindorfer, Australia
Dr. Anton Kristin, Slovakia
Dr. Adam Lendvai, Hungary
Dr. Francisco Valera, Spain
Prof. Wolfgang Wink, Germany
Prof. Zeman, Slovakia

Diploma and MSc Students

Julius Barner

Currently:

We are often looking for motivated students for a Master's Project - please contact Herbert Hoi if you are interested.