ERC Starting Grant

Toni Gossmannby Universität Bielefeld/Sarah Jonek

Congratulations to Toni Gossmann! He has won the European Research Council's prestigious Starting Grant. Toni will use this to continue unravelling the mysteries of DNA methylation, and how these can be inherited. We are thrilled and are looking forward to the next years working with Toni.
(Photo: Universität Bielefeld/Sarah Jonek.)


Paper on code availability draws wide attention

code sharing by Szymek Drobniak

75% of ecological journals require code-sharing, but only 27% of articles comply with this rule, as a recent paper by Alfredo Sánchez-Tójar and colleagues recently showed. This result is now being widely shared and discussed. Read about it here. (Original article here.)
Figure by Szymek Drobniak.


Collaborative TREE paper out!


The conceptual paper from the NC³ cloud on molecular and physiological mediators has been published. For everything you want to know on the importance on infochemicals for choosing, conforming to and constructing of individualised niches, and for highly useful definitions of terms all around NC³, download the article.


Odyssey home

Bielefelder Zeitung

Corona has shut many doors - especially those of airports. We are very glad to have Rebecca Nagel back from her field trip to the Antarctic. Her journey home took 75 days, as she recently told the Bielefelder Zeitung.


Researching to improve animal welfare

(c) Peter Grewer

Looking for an excellent in-depth science podcast (in German)? Hear Helene Richter explain recent developments on the 3 R (replace, reduce, refine) of animal use in research.

Helene covers a wide range of this fascinating topic in great detail, from the numbers of animals used in science and food production and the laws regulating this use, to the problem of reproducibility and current trends in animal welfare research. Head to WWUcast to listen.


Hormones may teach an old guinea pig new tricks

(c) A. Mutwill

Group-living requires different social skills than living in pairs. Advantageous behavioural types developed under such different social conditions are regulated by hormones. Alexandra Mutwill and colleagues have now been able to show that guinea pig males can readjust their hormonal setup according to a new social situation even in adulthood. (Paper and Press release)


Open synthesis attracts more attention

Sanchez Tojar

The open synthesis revolution continues! Alfredo Sánchez Tójar talked to Hertz 87,9 about the reproducibility crisis and the revolutionary solution he and others recently suggested. Listen on spotify


Norbert Sachser's book in award-winning project at WWU

book cover

Münster University will see an exciting series of public events in the next winter term. A lecture series, discussion forum and poetry, art and science slams will all focus on animal behaviour, based on Norbert Sachser's recent book "Der Mensch im Tier" (The human animal). This is part of the "Eine Uni - ein Buch" (One university - one book) initiative of the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft. Münster University was one of ten to win the competition this year. This will be a great opportunity to discuss all things animal behaviour and animal welfare with the public. We are very much looking forward to all the events! German article/video


Re-thinking the scientific environment for faster, safer results


Literature reviews and meta-analyses have long been plagued by publication bias and other problems. This week, Dr Alfredo Sánchez-Tójar and 21 co-authors published a far-reaching suggestion to revolutionise the way primary researchers and synthesists work. They suggest creating open synthesis communities where primary researchers and synthesists work hand in hand, and where synthesis is recognized as the end goal and updated continuously. "Bridging the divide between primary researchers and synthesists will lead to less research waste, more collaboration, faster research progress and better engagement." Free access article


Latest 'e-vite a Prof!'


Helene Richter recently met with local activists working on animal welfare to present her work on this topic. As 'Nestwerk' activists advise pet keepers on welfare, this was an important exchange, and we are looking forward to future events.


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year from Bird Island! Rebecca Nagel sends her best to everyone in the CRC from her research trip.


Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas


New Professorship


Congratulations to Barbara Caspers, or Professor Barbara Caspers, as we shall know her from now on. We are thrilled that she has become a full professor at Bielefeld University.


Evolution for Everyone

Dülmener Zeitung

This weekend, kids in Dülmen were treated to a fantastic hands-on lecture by Joachim Kurtz on evolution. The audience enganged with enthusiasm, as they could "evolve" a population nof red and green jelly babies by hunting and reproducing them on green and red backgrounds. The lecture was a great success and part of the Dülmener Kinder Uni.


Two NC³ members elected to DFG Review Boards

Group image

Congratulations to Caroline Müller and Klaus Reinhold for being elected to the German Research Foundation's new Review Boards! Caroline will sit on the Board for Plant Sciences, representing Inter-Organismic Interactions and Chemical Ecology of Plant Systems, while Klaus will return to his post on the Zoology board, representing Evolution and Anthropology.


Latest workshop

Group image

Improving resilience at work was at the focus of our latest workshop. Members were able to try different techniques to improve mindfulness and to manage crises.


NC³'s Marie Kaiser is new Vice-rector

Group image

Congratulations to Marie Kaiser! She has become the University's Vice-rector for Personnel Development and Equal Opportunities. We are looking forward to all the new impulses this will bring to NC³ and the University as a whole.


Workshop on Gendered Communication

Group image

Responding to gender biases in communication can be tricky. A diverse group of Pis, PhDs and postdocs came together to discuss this with specialist coach Sabine Blackmore. Participants got to share their preceptions and stories before practising responses to challenging situations.


Workshop in Jena

Group image

Thank you, Holger and Gabriele, for organising an important workshop in a fun and constructive atmosphere. For two days, we discussed reproducibility and transparency in science, taking home lots of tools and impulses for our own research and a new view on other's published data.


Interdisciplinary Models for a Complex World: Marie Kaiser to host Franjo Weissing at University's Anniversary Conference

Conference Poster

Professor Franjo Weissing, who will join us a Mercator Fellow in 2020, will speak at the University's celebratory Anniversary Conference this Friday, Nov. 8th. His talk will speak from the heart of the CRC's topic: "The Causes and Consequences of Individual Differences". It is part of a Panel on Interdisciplinary Models for a Complex World, organised by Marie Kaiser.


NC3 goes LWL

Individual variation in salamanders

NC3 will design an exhibition on individual variation and the niche concept at the LWL-Museum of Natural History in Münster! We are very much looking forward to excite museum visitors about natural variation in animals and to give them insights into cutting-edge research (i.e. ours) on why and how individual chose, conform to and construct their own niches. In order to do so, we were able to get Dr Ruth Jakobs on board, who will join us from November.


Philosophical Perspectives on Ecological Niches Workshop

Participants at the workshop Philosophical Perspectives on Ecological Niches

The philosophy workshop on niche concepts was a great success. Nearly thirty people came together for the two-day workshop in mid-July 2019. The programme included talks and discussions from international philosophers of ecology as well as an interactive knowledge café, where all participants helped to answer questions about ecological, social, and individualised niches.


Improving resilience at work was at the focus of our latest workshop. Members were able to try different techniques to improve mindfulness and to manage crises.

Poster presentation at Evolution Evolving: Process, Mechanism and Theory (Project C01)

Lai Ka Lo, PhD student from Joachim Kurtz group (University of Münster) presented a poster on the collaborative work with Coraline Müller and Lisa Johanna Tewes (Bielefeld University) at the Evolution Evolving: Process, Mechanism and Theory conference in Cambridge UK, 1-4 April 2019.


Research stay at Bielefeld

Reshma R and Lai Ka Lo, PhD students from the Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity, University of Münster had a lab rotation in the Bielefeld University from 05.02.19-15.02.19. During the research stay, they carried out some experiments involving GC-FID analysis for their project C01 in NC3 under the supervision of Dr. Lisa-Johanna Tewes and Prof. Caroline Müller (Department of Chemical Ecology).


Poster award for Pia Oswald (Project A04)

Pia Oswald, PhD student in Barbara Caspers' group (Bielefeld University) won the poster award at the 14th annual meeting of Ethologische Gesellschaft e. V., 6.-8. February 2019 in Hannover.


Paschas, Paare, Partnerschaften:Geschlechterkampf bei Mensch und Tier


New paper on niche conformance during adolescence!

NC³ members Norbert Sachser and Sylvia Kaiser, together with Michael B. Hennessy published a review on adaptive shaping of social behavioural phenotypes during adolescence. In this publication they review the 'shaping' process of mammalian social behaviur and its dependence on cues available during adolescence. They discuss underlying mechanisms of this process, and present evidence for for observed changes being adaptive. They also consider conditions favoring the occurrence of social behaviour plasticity during adolescence.

Link to publikation: Sachser, N., Hennessy, M.B. and Kaiser, S. (2018). The adaptive shaping of social behavioural phenotypes during adolescence. Biol. Lett. 14: 20180536.


New paper on niche conformance in hermaphroditic flatworms!

NC³ associate member Steve Ramm has published a study on sex allocation under selfing in a simultaneous hermaphrodite in the current issue of Biology Letters. In the study, Steven and his undergraduate student Lennart Winkler tested the hypothesis that reproduction via self-fertilization favours a reduced allocation into the male sex function in simultaneous hermaphrodites owing to the fact that male-male competition over fertilization found under outcrossing is absent and all competition occurs between sperm from the same individual. To test this, they used flatworms of the species Macrostomum hystrix and exposed them to three different social environments that differed in the opportunity for outcrossing and sperm competition level: flatworms were either held individually, in pairs or in groups of eight. Standardized measurements of the testes and ovaries showed that flatworms under enforced selfing conditions have a less-male biased sex allocation than conspecifics under outcrossing conditions. These results provide evidence that hermaphrodites conform to their social niche through plastic responses in sex allocation.

Link to publication: Winkler, L. and Ramm, S.A (2018). Experimental evidence for reduced male allocation in a simultaneously hermaphroditic animal. Biol. Lett. 14:20180570.


First NC³ Scientific Retreat

From 01-03 October 2018, NC³ members gathered in the Sauerland to discuss current and future avenues for research within NC³. The retreat was the first instance to bring all NC³ members together. To familiarize all members with the research going on within NC³, the PhD students and Postdocs presented the aims and current status of their projects. In addition we gathered in research cloud meetings to further foster collaboration and synergies between research areas. We also enjoyed some leisure time on a boat ride across the Sorpesee followed by a walk alongside the lake.


Workshop "Introduction to Statistics Using R" held

From 20-26 September 2018, Dr. Mareike Koppik from the Institute of Evolution and Biodiversity at the University of Münster held a workshop on statistical data analysis using R for interested NC³ PhD students and Postdocs in Münster. The first part of the workshop recaptured important aspects of experimental design and statistical principles. The second part introduced R as a statistical tool with a focus on how to plot data and implement linear and generalized linear models in R. The workshop comprised both lectures and hands-on exercises.

Workshop schedule

Morning session Experimental Design Introduction to R Introduction to Statistics II Generalized Linear Models and Gamma Distribution Poisson Distribution
Afternoon session Introduction to Statistics I Graphs in R Linear Models Binomial Distribution and quasi-GLM Quasi-GLM and Negative Binomial Distribution


New paper on Antarctic fur seal genomics!

NC³ members Emily Humble, Ann-Christin Polikeit and Joe Hoffman have published a study on Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella) genomics and populations genetics in G3. Their article was chosen as the featured article in the August issue and the cover story of the September issue. Together with researchers from the CeBiTec at Bielefeld University and the British Antarctic Survey as well as researchers from the UK, US, Sweden, Australia, and Germany they used PacBio sequencing to improve the genome assembly of an existing Antarctic fur seal genome and restriction site associated DNA (RAD) sequencing to generate a high-density set of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to provide a large dataset of genetic markers. A. gazella was severely hunted during the 18th and 19th century sealers and the researchers used the genomic data to investigate the recovery of the species by analysing linkage disequilibrium decay, population structure and inbreeding. Their results suggest that the historical bottleneck may not have been as severe as assumed and that contrary to general belief, relict populations probably survived at several sites across the sub-Antarctic. Additionally, they found evidence for high variance in inbreeding in a large, free-ranging population of A. gazella, supporting the notion that inbreeding may be more common in wild populations than previously thought.

Link to publication: Humble, E., Dasmahapatra, K.K., Martinez-Barrio, A., Gregório, I., Forcada, J., Polikeit, A., Goldsworthy, S.D., Goebel, M.E., Kalinowksi, J., Wolf, J.B.W, and Hoffman, J.I. (2018). RAD Sequencing and a Hybrid Antarctic Fur Seal Genome Assembly Reveal Rapidly Decaying Linkage Disequilibrium, Global Population Structure and Evidence for Inbreeding. G3 8:2709-2722.


New paper on niche conformance and construction in aphids!

Different aphid species conform to different niches by feeding on distinct plant parts. At the same time, infestation by aphids can change the chemical composition and nutritional value of phloem sap affecting aphid performance. But how does infestation by different aphid species affect the phloem sap composition of different plant individuals and distinct plant parts and how does this affect aphid performance? NC³ PI Caroline Müller and colleagues studied these interactions using the common tansy Tanacetum vulgare and its specialized aphid species Macrosiphoniella tanacetaria and Uroleucon tanaceti as a study system. They found that the different aphid species perform differently well on distinct plant parts (differences in niche conformance) and that aphid infestation leads to distinct changes in metabolite classes within the phloem sap in different plant parts. These results show that plant responses are highly specific for plant part, metabolite classes in the phloem sap, and aphid species. Therefore, these results may provide an indication of niche construction by aphids through optimizing the food quality of the plant parts they preferentially feed on.

Caroline and her team published their study in New Phytologist: Jakobs, R., Schweiger, R. and Müller C. (2018), Aphid infestation leads to plant-specific changes in phloem sap chemistry, which may indicate niche construction. New Phytol. doi:10.1111/nph.15335.

Press relase of Bielefeld University in English and German


New book out!

Norbert Sachser has published his popular science book, Der Mensch im Tier (The Human Animal). It paints a vivid picture of our current understanding of animal personality and emotions, combining insights from physiology, neurobiology and behavior. Importantly, the book also offers a window into the hypothesis-driven, model-based approach of modern science.

Looking beyond well beyond the ivory tower of research, Norbert Sachser also discusses how recent developments will shape our relationship with and treatment of animals.

English book summary

Interview at University of Münster (German)

Interview at the Publisher (German)


Kick-Off Meeting

Welcome to NC³! We are delighted to have met so many of our new members on Wednesday. We trust you all enjoyed the lively chats over tea and dinner and are looking forward to four years of shared curiosity, inspiring discussions and exciting insights. Thank all of you for your contributions so far to get NC³ going!

Special thanks go to our colleagues Fritz Trillmich, Franjo Weissing and Julia Fischer who started off our meeting with their entertaining insights into closely related fields of research. We hope they continue to accompany us on this journey.