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“One Health is an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals and ecosystems.” (

One Health Genomics
By retrieving simultaneously the genomic information of environmental samples, plant and animal species, we can capture their immune response genes and microbiomes together with their antimicrobial resistances, as well as (zoonotic) pathogens that can influence animal and human health.
Retreiving genomic data from the three subsystems (environment, human, animal) 
and including biodiversity conservation, health management and other actions, can generate a sustainable change in One Health outcomes.

Strengthening Genetic Biocontrol Capacities under Climate Change in Armenia | ArmBioClimatee

Sponsored by the OEAD APPEAR Foundation

Project coordinator: Marine Arakelyan
Coordinating institution: Yerevan State University (YSU)
Partner institutions:  University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Pamela Burger), University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (Gábor Mészáros), Medical University of Vienna (Julia Walochnik), Scientific Center of Zoology and Hydroecology of National Academy of Science (Sargis Aghayan), Institute of Botany after A.L. Takhtajyan of National Academy of Science (Alla Aleksanyan)
Partner country: Armenia
Project duration: 1 April 2023 – 30 March 2027

The emergence of novel invasive species and the risk of zoonotic disease outbreaks, as a result of climate change are major challenges for biosecurity management worldwide. Therefore, the capacity to monitor and mitigate these challenges in Armenia needs to be strengthened, not only nationally but also regionally. This is particularly important as Armenia is located at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, in the corridor between the Caspian and Black Seas.

The ArmBioClimate project aims to establish an early warning system for monitoring the distribution of zoonotic parasites, the virulence of pathogens, and the spread of invasive species, by strengthening research and human capacity. Strengthening genetic biomonitoring tools will enable early risk assessment of disease outbreaks associated with alien invasive species and accelerate the implementation of appropriate management actions to reduce future pressures on the ecosystems and human health. The golden jackal in Armenia will be used as a model to study species dispersal and the associated spread of potentially zoonotic diseases. It fits into the broader themes of wildlife conservation, agriculture, animal welfare and public health in line with the One Health approach. It contributes to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3, 4, 5, 13 and 15.

The project will include a wide range of activities benefiting both researchers and students in Armenia and Austria, such as the modernisation of different master’s programmes at Yerevan State University (YSU), a PhD scholarship at MEDUNI, the establishment of fully equipped laboratories, annual summer schools at the YSU biological field station, and other workshops, trainings, student/staff mobilities.

Characterisation of selected innate immunity genes in domestic and wild felids

Sponsored by the Joint Austrian Science Fund (FWF) - Czech Science Foundation (GAČR)  FWF Project I5081-B

Wider research context
One of the strongest natural selection pressures on the genome are pathogens, which vehemently challenge the immune system. In response, usually highly-polymorphic multigene families encode key receptor molecules that recognize and present foreign peptides to phagocytic immune cells, as part of the adaptive immunity. If the variability in adaptive immune genes is reduced, like in some wild felid species, other components of the immune system should be selected to provide an adequate immune response. As part of the innate immunity, natural killer (NK) cells are a highly heterogeneous population due to differential expression of NK receptors (NKRs). These are functionally related to adaptive immune genes. Despite their functional importance, the capacities and genetic heterogeneity of NK cells in felids are largely unknown. There is experimental evidence that in felids, innate immunity has a special role in defence mechanisms and that NK cells in cats may differ from those studied in other mammalian species.
Research question
The feline innate immunity system has been challenged by rapid changes during the process of domestication and by adaptation to different environments, especially to new pathogens. In response, specific properties of feline innate immunity genes have evolved, which differ from other mammalian families and are expressed in particular in NK cells. This project aims to study the evolution of innate immunity genes in domestic and wild felid species with a special focus on NKRs.
We propose an ecological comparative approach to investigate the evolution of the innate immune response in felids by characterizing genes, which are part of the innate immunity but closely communicate with adaptive immunity genes. Using hybridisation-capture combined with next generation sequencing, the organization and expression status of Natural Killer Complex and Leukocyte Receptor Complex genomic regions, and other NKR genes will be studied in domestic and wild felids.
Level of originality
This project fills a knowledge gap on the existence, function and (co-)evolution of innate immunity genes in the family Felidae and beyond, in mammalian species. We will characterize and comparatively analyse innate and adaptive immunity genes in wild endangered and domestic felids, including a cat population with disease phenotypes (Feline CoV). Novel information on immunegenetic diversity and selected haplotypes will enable effective genetic monitoring in wild-ranging felids and facilitate selective breeding strategies in managed populations.


Advancing local capacities for livestock breeding practice and research in Burkina Faso | LoCaBreed2.0

Sponsored by the OEAD APPEAR Foundation

Project Coordinator: Johann Sölkner
Coordinating Institution: University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
Partner Institutions: University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Pamela Burger); Norbert Zongo University, Koudougou (Albert Soudré); Nazi Boni University, Bobo Dioulasso (Salifou Ouedraogo); Environmental Institute for Agricultural Research (Amadou Traoré); African Institute for Economics and Social Development - Inades-Formation Burkina (Isidore Della); National Center for Animal Genetics Improvement (Innocent Wenceslas Tapsoba)
Partner Countries:  Burkina Faso
Project Duration: 1 October 2022 – 30 September 2025 (36 months)

Healthy and well-managed livestock is essential for the economic and social development in Burkina Faso and has been identified as a strategic sub-sector in the fight against poverty allowing sustainable rural development. LoCaBreed, the Academic Partnership of five Burkinabe and Austrian institutions, has successfully worked in this sub-sector implementing community based breeding programs (CBBP) with farmers in the South-West of Burkina Faso, supporting their transition from cattle keepers to breeders, including formation of a Lobi cattle breeders association.

LoCaBreed2.0 builds on that foundation, by expanding gender, youth and ethnicity sensitive CBBP to additional communities to generate genetic progress, but more so by cooperating with governmental institutions in developing a national recording and breeding strategy for ruminant livestock populations and prompting support of non-governmental organizations for developing and implementing CBBP for cattle and small ruminants, particularly goats.

Genetic Analysis of Camelids

Sponsored by the Austrian Science Fund FWF Projects P21084-B17 & P247006-B25

LeaderPriv.-Doz.  Dr. Pamela Burger

Genetic origins of Old World camelids

Our group investigates the evolutionary history and domestication of the dromedary (Camelus dromedarius) and the Bactrian camel (C. bactrianus). We ask when and where modern camels evolved, and how genetically diverse Old World camels are.

With our research we want to contribute to:

  • in-situ conservation of the world’s last Wild Bactrian camels (C. ferus)
  • conservation of livestock biodiversity resources

Human and camel history are closely linked, especially in arid regions, where people could not have survived without these extraordinary animals. Frequent incidences of drought, one of the consequences of global climate change, are increasingly affecting  ever larger areas.  Thus camels are indispensable as sustainable livestock and are a focus of economic activities and for scientific research.The domestication of camels (Camelus bactrianus and Camelus dromedarius) took place later than that of most domesticated animal species, about 3,000 to 6,000 years ago (Uerpmann and Uerpmann 2002 and 2012, Peters et al. 1998).

The only surviving wild camel species, the two-humped wild Bactrian camel (Camelus ferus), only exists in small populations in the Great Gobi A nature reserve in Mongolia and in the deserts Lop Nuur and Taklamakan in China.Genetic analyses can help to determine the degree pf consanguinity of these wild animals with domesticated camels and the degree of hybridization of the wild populations. 

In contrast to previous assumptions that these wild animals are derived from reintroduced domestic camels we were able to prove that they actually form a separate species.  The species lineages split about 0.5 - 1.2 million years ago from a common ancestor with the Bactrian camels. Similar to the case of wild horses we now expect that today's wild camels, although closely related to the domesticated camels, are not their direct ancestors. The pool from which Bactrian camels were domesticated differs clearly from today´s wild camels. 

An explanation of dromedary domestication (Youtube)

The team

Sven Winter, PhD, Postdoc

René Meißner, PhD Student (FWF I 5081-B)
Zhipeng Jia (Chinese Research Council)

Scientific partners

Judit Vörös, Natural History Museum Budapest
Balint Halpern, MME Birdlife Hungary
Petr Horin, University of Veterinary Sciences Brno, Czech Republic
Faisal Almathen (King Faisal University, Aljouf, Saudi Arabia)
Marine Arakelyan (Yerevan State Univeristy, Armenia)
Elena Ciani (University of Bari, Italy)
Bernard Faye (Camel expert, Montpellier, France)
Tanveer Hussein (Virtual University of Pakistan, Isalambad, Pakistan)
Albert Soudré (University of Koudougou, Burkina Faso)
Bettina Wachter (Leibnitz Institute of Zoo- and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany)
Julia Walochnik (Medical University of Vienna, Austria)
Nakami Wilkister (University of Nairobi, Kenya)


Tamas Akos Brokes (Master Student)
Pauline Charruau (PhD Studentin)
Jean Elbers, PhD (Postdoc) 
Tom William Fulton, Bachelor Student/Praktikant
Sara Lado, PhD Student (FWF 29623-B)
Sarita Mahtani-Williams, BSc
Elmira Mohandesan (Postdoc)
Robert Fitak (Postdoc)
Lukas Lipp (Master Student)
Lisa Preier, MSc
Katja Silbermayr (PhD Studentin)

Phylogeography of African and Asiatic cheetahs

We also study the phylogeography and evolution of African and Asiatic cheetahs and investigate the distribution of the subspecies.  One research question concerns the genetic distinctiveness of subspecies.