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Univ.-Prof. Dr.rer.nat. Ludwig Huber ist our new Department Speaker

The Department for Interdisciplinary Life Sicences has a new Department Speaker: Univ.-Prof. Dr.rer.nat. Ludwig Huber takes over this function from Univ.-Prof. Leonida Fusani, PhD, who held it for three years. Ludwig Huber was suggested by the Department's professors and has now been appointed by the Rector. The term of office is 3 years: March 1, 2023 to February 28, 2026. As his deputies we now have KLIVV head  Leonida Fusani (1st) and FIWI head  Claudia Bieber (2nd). With a planned restructuring of the Vetmeduni, we are facing challenging times. Important groundwork will be laid as early as during the preparation of the development plan (in the summer) and the research priorities and fields defined therein as well as the profile lines. Ludwig Huber plans not only to hold the quarterly department conferences of the professors at the Department, but also to organize an annual Department meeting to which all members of the Department will be invited. These meetings will aim to make structural decisions for the Department and to coordinate between Departments, as well as to inform Department members and decide general matters affecting the Department.

We warmly welcome our new Department Speaker Ludwig Huber and at the same time thank Leonida Fusani for his wonderful services in this function.

Über Ludwig Huber


More than 500 animal species epigenetically mapped for the first time

An international research team led by Christoph Bock from the CeMM, an interdisciplinary research institute for molecular medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, with the collaboration of researchers at the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology at the Vetmeduni, has created a catalogue of the DNA methylation of 580 animal species for the first time. The first authors of the study, Johanna Klughammer and Daria Romanovskaia, together with Amelie Nemc, processed and analyzed a total of 2,443 animal tissue samples. Many of these samples came from the wildlife pathology unit of the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology in Vienna and the Ocean Genome Legacy Center in Boston, but marine animals purchased at Vienna's Naschmarkt were also analyzed.

These data allowed a detailed analysis of the evolution of epigenetic regulation and the epigenome. DNA methylation is the best known and probably the most important epigenetic mechanism. The study shows that the characteristic DNA methylation signatures of animal genomes are evolutionarily very old and arose long before the first mammals. This epigenetic code could even help protect against cancer - as shown by DNA methylation patterns in birds, which rarely develop cancer. Complex animals, including humans, appear to be particularly dependent on the epigenetic protection of the genome through DNA methylation.

DNA methylation is well studied only in mammals, particularly mice and humans. In a decade-long effort to fill critical gaps in our understanding of epigenetics, scientists from Bock's research group at CeMM have now mapped and analyzed DNA methylation profiles from 580 different animal species.

Overall, this study provides the most comprehensive analysis of epigenetics in its evolutionary context to date. It also establishes new methods to study DNA methylation in different animal species. High-quality genomes are not yet available for many species, which is why the team developed and optimized a method to analyze DNA methylation independently of reference genomes.

The study "Comparative analysis of genome-scale, base-resolution DNA methylation profiles across 580 animal species" by Johanna Klughammer*, Daria Romanovskaia*, Amelie Nemc, Annika Posautz, Charlotte Seid, Linda C. Schuster, Melissa C. Keinath, Juan Sebastian Lugo Ramos, Lindsay Kasack, Annie Evankow, Dieter Prinz, Stefanie Kirchberger, Bekir Ergüner, Paul Datlinger, Nikolaus Fortelny, Christian Schmidl, Matthias Farlik, Kaja Skjærven, Andreas Bergthaler, Miriam Liedvogel, Denise Thaller, Pamela A. Burger, Marcela Hermann , Martin Distel, Daniel L. Distel, Anna Kübber-Heiss, and Christoph Bock was published in the journal Nature Communications on January 16, 2023.

*shared first authorship

Scientific article

Overvoiew article on the CEMM Website



Claudia Bieber confirmed as new Head of FIWI

It's finally official: As of January 15, 2023, Univ. Prof. Dr. Claudia Bieber is the new head of the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology (FIWI) at the Vetmeduni. Claudia Bieber is a biologist with many years of experience in the field of ecophysiology and population ecology. Examples come from the field of hibernation research, for example in small mammals such as the dormouse, but also from thermoregulation in large mammals such as the wild boar. Reproductive strategies and mechanisms of aging are also the subject of her studies. The results of her research find practical application in wildlife management, among other things.

In 2015 Claudia Bieber obtained her habilitation in animal ecology at the Vetmeduni.

Until 2021 she was also Associate Editor at the scientific journal Journal of Applied Ecology, in addition to being a peer reviewer for many scientific journals.

We are very happy about our new leadership and congratulate her on this success.



Handbook on Wildlife Forensics

We now have a German version of the Handbook on Wildlife Forensics.

Contrary to prevailing assumptions, the illegal killing of endangered wild animals is not only a problem in developing countries, but also occurs in Europe and the Alpine region. Located in the heart of Europe, the Alpine region represents a retreat for many animal species. However, it is also a partially densely populated area and is heavily used for recreational purposes and as a main artery in continental traffic, often limiting exchanges between animal populations in the absence of suitable corridors. At the same time, the diverse use of the landscape creates conflicts of interest between the various actors such as landowners and users, so that some highly endangered animal species are repeatedly illegally killed. Large predators such as bears, wolves and lynxes, as well as birds of prey are particularly at risk. These occurrences contrast with the numerous conservation efforts and programs by regional authorities and organizations to create viable populations of these species.

The handbook was originally produced in 2019 within the framework of the EU financed Alpine Space programme "ALPBIONET2030" only in English.The German translation was made by Theresa Walter within the framework of the EU project LIFE18 NAT/IT/000972 LIFE WolfAlps EU.

The handbook aims to compile harmonized standard operating procedures for forensic methods in (suspected) cases of wildlife crime. It is aimed at any authority, person, organization etc. dealing with wildlife crime cases and covers the entire process from finding a dead animal to prosecuting it in court. We hope that our guide "Fundamentals, Techniques, Methods and Practical Recommendations for Combating Illegal Killing of Wildlife" will assist in combating illegal killing of wildlife by providing the basic facts and information as well as practical recommendations for the entire forensic process and the research presented.

Handbook Download (German version)

Handbook Download (English version)


Male lynx Norik moved to Kalkalpen National Park with the help of our wildlife veterinarian

Unfortunately, the five lynxes living in the Kalkalpen National Park have had no success in breeding in recent years. With only five individuals, the small population is also endangered due to a lack of genetic diversity. A blood test last year showed that the dominant male Lakota has a low testosterone level, which could possibly be responsible for his infertility. On 10 December the 1.5-year-old male lynx Norik was released into the wild, just in time for the mating season in February and March. It is hoped that as a Carpathian lynx, it will bring fresh blood into the population and thus contribute to the long-term conservation of the species.

Norik was born in May 2021 in a near-natural enclosure in the "wildcat village" of Hütscheroda in Germany. From there he came to a reintroduction enclosure near Maßweiler, Rhineland-Palatinate, which is managed by Florian Eiserlo's team from the wildlife station TIERART (of the animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS). There are three lynx enclosures for injured wild lynxes or lynxes like Norik that are passing through. The animals can prepare for a life in the wild without human contact. Through our cooperation with the Kalkalpen National Park, we were able to find a place for the lynx there -- wildlife management expert Felix Knauer from the Conservation Medicine unit of the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology at the Vetmeduni negotiated this with Christian Fuxjäger, the lynx expert at the Kalkalpen National Park.

Our wildlife doctor Johanna Painer-Gigler from the wildlife medicine working group accompanied him on his move to the Kalkalpen National Park. She gave Norik a veterinary check on site; for this she took blood samples to determine diseases and genetics, and did an X-ray and ultrasound examination. After the lynx was found healthy, she put a transmitter collar on him. On 10 December, just past midnight, the young lynx was released into the forest wilderness of the national park by national park director Volkhard Maier and ranger Hermann Jansesberger, where he disappeared into the dark snowy night.

In the meantime he has already been spotted on a camera trap and Christian Fuxjäger was also able to locate his collar transmitter. Now all parties involved hope that there will be good news about offspring in the spring.

About the lynxes in the Kalkalpen region