The group

Why do species and communities of coastal ecosystesm show specific patterns in their occurrence, what are the underlying processes and do overall principles for different ecosystems exist? These are the primary questions of my research. My particular interest focuses on species interactions in temperate and Arctic regions and on the effects alien marine organisms on native coastal ecosystems.

Mathias Wegner

Parasites are everywhere! That's why I spent my whole scientific carreer with research on "host-parasite coevolution". I started out with investigating the selective maintenance of genetic variability of immune genes (MHC) in three-spined sticklebacks in the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology. From there I went to the Institute of Integrative Biology (IBZ) at the ETH Zürich where I studied experimental coevolution of red flour beetles and their microsporidian parasites. Being a native islander, bringing my favorite research subject to the Waddensea station of the AWI was a logical consequence. Here, I make use the unique evolutionary histories of invasive species to understand host-parasite coevolution in the wild.

I am interested in the evolutionary potential of populations to respond to rapidly changing environments. During my PhD, I investigated the influence of gene flow and phenotypic plasticity in promoting and constraining adaptation in populations of an alpine caddisfly. As a PostDoc, I started dabbling in the realm of quantitative genetics, and assessed the relative contributions of selection and drift (Qst / Fst) to latitudinal variation of growth rate for populations of a damselfly. My current work with marine sticklebacks focuses mainly on transgenerational plasticity (parental environment effects on offspring traits) in response to ocean warming. So far, I can say that maternal effects play an important role in populations’ adaptive responses to climate change, but also carry-over effects from grandparent environments (particularly from grandmothers) shape offspring growth, physiology and gene expression.

Dago Lackschewitz (Post Doc)

studied biology at the universities of Bremen and Göttingen and did her PhD thesis at the Max-Planck-Institute f. exp. Medizin, Göttingen. She continued studying at Yale University, New Haven and University of South Florida, St. Petersburg. In 1992 she was employed at Wadden Sea Station Sylt focusing on coastal biota and Wadden Sea ecosystems. Since 2009 she is involved in a rapid assessment survey of introduced marine species (neobiota) in German coastal waters at Alfred-Wegener-Institute.

Tobias Dolch

Tobias studied Geography with the study focus ‘Ecology and Environmental Science’ at the University of Bonn and at Monash University, Melbourne. After his studies he had worked for the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde before he went to the Wadden Sea Station Sylt of the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in 2004. He did his PhD on the analysis of morphodynamics and habitat changes in the Wadden Sea and obtained his degree in Physical Geography in 2008. Tobias works in coastal ecology and focuses on the current status and long-term development of intertidal seagrass beds. Since 2011 he is also teaching at the Department of Geography of the University of Kiel.

Ana Lokmer (PhD student - IMPRS Evolutionary Biology)

Microbiota are indispensable for the survival of animals, but they can also act as source of opportunistic pathogens, depending on the environment and the condition of the host. Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) in the Wadden Sea represent a valuable model system for studying the interplay between the host, its microbiota and abiotic factors in the marine environment in general, but also because the findings are directly relevant to the local, climate-change affected coastal ecosystem. By means of experiments and field observations, and using immunological assays and modern sequencing methods, I am trying to understand how the abiotic environment, the site, as well as the population origin and condition of the animals, affect the composition and dynamics of oyster microbiota and the associated oyster response.

Marieke Feis (PhD Student - DFG SPP 1399 "Host-Parasite Coevolution)

Biological invasions of parasites and their hosts are ideal to study coevolution in nature. Taking hosts and parasites along the route of invasion – along a gradient from ancient to recent sympatry – and exposing the different combinations to each other will give insights in coevolutionary responses of hosts and parasites. The study system I use are the parasitic copepods Mytilicola intestinalis from the Mediterranean that parasitises mussels Mytilus galloprovincialis and M. edulis, and Mytilicola orientalis from Japan that parasitises oysters Crassostrea gigas and mussels. I want to look at phenotypic and molecular targets of selection in lab experiments and also look at the invasion genetics of both parasite species.

Felicitas Demann (PhD Student - DBU)

Direct and indirect effects of invasive parasites on native blue mussels. Mytilicola intestinalis is a parasitic copepod that lives in the intestine of blue mussels. It is native in the Mediterranean and invaded the North Sea during the 1930s. I examine the direct and indirect effects of M. intestinalis on native blue mussels by predation and infection experiments.

Jonas Geburzi (Phd Student - DBU)

A steadily increasing number of non-indigenous species (Neobiota), especially in coastal marine ecosystems, is one of the most significant biological effects of the “global change”. I am interested in factors and biological characteristics that allow marine Neobiota to establish successfully in a new environment and in their interactions with native species. In my PhD-project, I focus on two of the most recently introduced crab species to the Wadden Sea, the originally western pacific Hemigrapsus sanguineus and H. takanoi. Combining ecological, morphological and genetic methods, I investigate their reproduction biology, their genetic population structure and their interactions with the native European Shore Crab Carcinus maenas, as these are presumed “keys” to their invasion success.

Rebekka Wolfensberger

Over the last 40 years reports of numerous marine bivalve species exhibiting a fatal neoplastic disease have been published by scientists worldwide but many key questions remain unanswered. My take on this cancer-turned-parasitic disease starts with the identification of a possible thermal gradient across different latitudes from the Wadden Sea up to the North including 3 species: Mya arenaria, Macoma balthica and Mytilus edulis. Apart from mapping the distribution pattern I aim to find typical molecular and cellular markers to elucidate the underlying molecular processes and furthermore measure the change in resource allocation of fitness related traits in infected individuals. Generating this data should essentially help understand the severity of this disease on the population-level, so that we get an idea of the impact on the entire ecosystem in current and possible future climatic conditions.

Sylvia Wanzenböck (Masters student)

Sylvia´s Masters project is about assortative mating by lateral plate morph in three-spined stickleback, and implications for the maintenance of polymorphism at the Eda gene in a warming ocean.

Lukas Fuxjäger (Masters student)

Lukas´ Masters project is about the adaptive significance of transgenerational plasticity in the wild, using three-spined stickleback as a model system.

Kaibil Escobar Wolf

Master of the Beasts

Kaibil is a creative engineer of experimental setups and a dedicated fish keeper and his biggest pleasure is to set unused animals free.

Sonja Anslinger (BTA)

Sonja works a technical assistant. Her skills include molecualr biology, cell culture and systematics of marine animals. She is happy to help students with their research on the tidal flats.



Dr. Christian Buschbaum

Dr. Mathias Wegner


Dr. Lisa Shama

Dr. Dagmar Lackschewitz

Dr. Tobias Dolch


Ana Lokmer

Marieke Feis

Felicitas Demann

Rebekka Wolfensberger

Jonas Geburzi

Master Students:

Annika Cornelius

Sylvia Wanzenböck

Lukas Fuxjäger

Technical Assistance:

Kaibil Wolf

Sonja Anslinger