Altermatt lab – Group


Prof. Dr. Florian Altermatt (Group Leader, SNSF Professor of Community Ecology)

I’m interested in the linking of community ecology processes, such as species-interactions and dispersal, and how they influence metacommunity composition and diversity at regional scales. Currently, I focus on invasion and dispersal processes in river-like networks.

Besides my interest in conceptual community ecology, I’m also a keen naturalist. My pleasures are–as Vladimir Nabokov said once–the most intense known to man: writing and butterfly hunting (with the camera ;-) Read more about my passion for Lepidoptera.

Postdocs, Ph.D. and master students

Roman Alther (PhD student) private website

I have been fascinated by aquatic ecosystems for a long time. Whereas my Masters’ project focused on diversity of insects in high alpine glacial tributaries, the focus of my PhD project will be on understanding the importance of different ecological and evolutionary processes shaping diversity of amphipod communities.

My goal is to establish well-founded knowledge about the distribution and diversity of native and non-native amphipod species in Switzerland. I want to gain a deeper insight into processes forming biodiversity patterns over time and space. Dendritic aquatic systems represent a suitable study system wherein different ecological and evolutionary mechanics, such as dispersal, invasion and speciation, can be studied.

Dr. Emanuel Fronhofer (Postdoc) private website

The major focus of my work lies on the causes and consequences of movement and dispersal. I like to study the effects of these eco-evolutionary processes at multiple hierarchical levels, from shifts in allele frequencies to metapopulation and range dynamics.

As my interest is more conceptual and aims at understanding mechanisms, I use both a theoretical and an experimental approach. While I enjoy advancing theory through individual-based and mathematical models, I am especially interested in combining these findings with evidence from micro- and mesocosms as well as with experimental field work.

Dr. Isabelle Gounand (Postdoc) private website

I am a theoretical ecologist. My general research theme explores the functioning of complex ecosystems by linking community, ecosystem and spatial ecology. My main interest is to understand the feedbacks between biotic and abiotic environments and their interactions with diversity via modeling tools and microcosm experiments. In particular, I am using the metaecosystem framework to study spatial dynamics between communities and material flows. In my current project, I will apply the metaecosystem framework to rivers to better understand biodiversity dynamics in dendritic networks and the underlying role of aquatic-terrestrial coupling.

Dr. Eric Harvey (Postdoc) private website

My main research interest is to understand the mechanisms that structure communities of interacting species and how the emerging structure, in turn, influences ecosystem function. This involves to dive deeper into the intricate relationship between species interactions, spatial dynamics, and ecosystem processes. For this purpose, the meta-ecosystem concept imposes itself as a natural framework to bridge the important gap between the historically divided community and ecosystem focused ecology. For my post-doc research at Eawag, I will collaboratively work on the first set of comprehensive meta-ecosystem experimental tests, building up in spatial scale from protist microcosms, to mesocosms and river empirical tests, and in spatial structure complexity from cartesian to complex dendritic networks.

Kathrin Holenstein (MSc student)

I am a MSc student fascinated by nature and its diverse ecosystems. My work focuses on riverine ecosystems with spatial dendritic network structures. By experimentally manipulating the network structures and environmental conditions (e.g. habitat loss and food availability as well as abiotic factors) I investigate effects on community distribution and composition. In my microcosm experiments I use protist species. The findings will contribute to the understanding of natural and human made changes in riverine ecosystems.

Samuel Hürlemann (Lab technician)

I am a biology lab technician with a broad experience in molecular biology and cell culturing techniques. I am interested in environmental sciences and lab methods used therein. My main responsibilities are running the microbiology and protist lab, support molecular and field work and being involved in planning and running experiments.

Silvana Kaeser (Lab technician)

I am a research technician at the department of Aquatic Ecology (Eco) at Eawag, where I work for different research groups. I have a strong interest in the taxonomy of aquatic invertebrates as well as algae and in their use as biological indicators in aquatic ecosystems. My other focus lies on understanding the impacts of invasive species on local ecosystems. In the Altermatt lab, I am in charge of the amphipod collection, the protist collection and the flow through systems (e.g. used for keeping amphipods). Furthermore, I am involved in experimental studies (amphipods, protists), field work and other projects with aquatic invertebrates.

Chelsea J. Little (PhD student) private website

My research revolves around what drives biodiversity and species distributions at local and regional scales. I’m also particularly interested in the impacts of global change and other anthropogenic factors and how we can best predict future changes in species occurrences. In my PhD I plan to examine aquatic-terrestrial linkages using a meta-ecosystems framework, working primarily with amphipods. Dendritic network provide an excellent opportunity to study these issues due to their spatial organization and the delineation between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, which allow us to easily identify the origin and movement of materials and organisms between the two settings.

Elvira Mächler (PhD student)

I am a PhD student working on environmental DNA (eDNA). Environmental DNA is a molecular, non-invasive method to detect species due the DNA that individuals shed into the environment. Detection of species through eDNA has a high potential to be used in applied fields. I am interested to develop tools and protocols on how to use eDNA in the context of biodiversity monitoring in riverine ecosystems. During my PhD I aim to study transport and fate of eDNA and its possible use for understanding community composition and dispersal of organisms within riverine networks.

Felix Moerman (PhD student, co-supervised by Prof. F. Altermatt, Prof. A. Wagner & Dr. E.A. Fronhofer)

My main area of interest is the study of eco-evolutionary dynamics of species during range expansion and invasions. I’ve been strongly interested in the way ecological changes can quickly feedback in evolutionary responses and during my master thesis I studied phenotypic changes in spider mites during experimental range expansion. Over the course of my PhD, I will further investigate evolutionary responses during range expansions and invasions using the protist Tetrahymena thermophila as a model species. By combining microcosm experiments, extensive genomic analyses and numerical analyses, I aim to gain further understanding of both the genomic basis of evolutionary adaptations in moving populations, as well as how these changes feed back in population dynamics and performance.

Remo Wüthrich (MSc student)

As diving professional I became fascinated by aquatic ecosystems and the species communities living therein. My current work focuses on freshwater ecosystems. Placing emphasis on aquatic insects (mainly Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera), I’m interested in studying natural and manmade processes that form diversity patterns and shape species’ distribution and dispersal. My MSc project aims to enhance the spatial understanding of diversity and ecosystem processes in dendritic riverine networks. With my work I’d like to contribute to the protection of water bodies both as a resource and as a natural habitat.

Lab Alumni already dispersed (in order of leaving the group)

  1. Lynn Govaert (visting PhD student – May 2017 to July 2017 – University of Leuven

  2. Martina Ramel (MSc student) – November 2015 to December 2016

  3. Dr. Cene Fišer (visting scientist) – September to December 2016 – University of Ljubljana

  4. Dr. Andrea Giometto (PhD student, Postdoc) – October 2011 to September 2016 – now Postdoc at Harvard

  5. Sereina Gut (Technician) – October 2015 to August 2016 – now student at UZH

  6. Dr. Maslin Osathanunkul (visiting scientist) – May to June 2016 – lecturer at Chiangmai University

  7. Fabienne Santschi (MSc student) – September 2015 to May 2016

  8. Simon Flückiger (Zivi) – September 2015 to May 2016 – now student at ZHAW

  9. Vid Svara (visiting scientist) – October 2015 to January 2016 – now PhD student at Helmholtz Leipzig

  10. Katharina Kaelin (MSc student) – September 2014 to December 2015 – now working at WSL (website)

  11. Pravin Ganesanandamoorthy (lab technician) – September 2013 to July 2015 – now student at ZHAW

  12. Dr. Kristy Deiner (Postdoc) – October 2012 to June 2015 – now postdoc at Cornell University (website)

  13. Nicolai Nitsche (MSc Student) – May 2014 to October 2014 – now in pharmaceutical research (Abbvie)

  14. Dr. Mathew Seymour (PhD student) – May 2011 to October 2014 – now postdoc at Bangor University, Bangore.

  15. Dr. Jan Klecka (SCIEX Postdoc) – August 2013 to August 2014 – now junior group leader at Biology Centre of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic

  16. Dr. Francesco Carrara (PhD student) – January 2011 to December 2013 – now postdoc at ETH with Roman Stocker

  17. Lea Caduff (biology apprentice) – March 2013 to August 2013 – now a technician at Eawag, Switzerland

  18. Roman Alther (M.Sc. project student) – March 2012 to May 2012 – back again in the Altermatt lab for a PhD

  19. Marta Reyes (research technician) – January 2012 to May 2012 – now a technician at Eawag, Switzerland