The interconnection of ecology and evolution is obvious on long timescales: populations/species/communities adapt to their local environment and they also shape their local environment. Think of plants that perform especially well in the tropics building up great forests which open up new habitat for different other species which in turn adapt to special conditions such as the shape of flowers to collect nectar from or nocturnality to escape predation. Such systems have formed and evolved over long periods of time in a way that everyone can agree that there has been long enough time for evolution to take place and react to ecological conditions.
What about evolutionary responses to short-term environmental changes? How flexible are eco-evolutionary processes on shorter timescales such as years or decades spanning only few generations? Which environmental factors have major effects on evolutionary processes and how is the feedback on the ecosystem?
With our research we seek to investigate the dynamic of evolutionary responses to short-term environmental change (think of climate change scenarios), as well as the opposite direction when ecological changes are triggered by evolutionary processes (think of the effect of mutation on population densities). We therefore analyse mechanisms of genome evolution (population genomics approaches) and test its flexibility towards ecological changes in different animal species, from zooplankton to aquatic insects and turtles.