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Ecological genetics

Our research program is mainly aimed at assessing molecular diversity in natural populations of mammals and birds, its causes and biological consequences.  For this we primarily use an experimental approach (i.e., molecular laboratory work) rather than a theoretical approach.  We undertake population genetic, phylogeographic, and molecular phylogenetic investigations, complemented by phenotyical analyses, particularly in ecological, physiological, and pathological contexts.

Like the other two research programs of the institute, our group predominantly focuses on wild living game species.  We also consider the genetic implications of the transition from wild to domestic animals under the influence of humans and during the domestication process (e.g., introgression of domestic gene pools into wild populations). One research focuses is on the one hand on individual selective importance of immunogenetically important genes in wild animals, such asgenes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), and, on the other hand, on genetic aspects of protected or endangered wild animals ("conservation genetics") and wild populations that are subject to wildlife management, for example in hunting practice.

In addition, our group develops and establishes specific molecular marker systems for other research programs at the institute, to enable or facilitate answers to questions in other fields of wildlife biology, such as in the area of conservation genetics, e.g. for the identification of relatives in natural populations or among free ranging animals.  We also use molecular markers to solve forensic investigations, such as suspected cases of wildlife poaching, and for identification purposes.  For example, antlers and lower jaws are used to estimate the ages of red deer (Cervus elaphus), chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), and diverse wild carnivores, including in situations where the violation of wildlife protection laws is suspected.