Our group focuses on experimental studies, encompassing classical genetics as well as molecular population genetics and phylogenetics as broadly conceived. Genomics and transcriptomics are included here, and work involves genome sequencing and re-sequencing, as well as gene-expression analyses. In the taxonomic field, our studies encompass phylogenetic analyses and so called “genetic barcoding” (including metabarcoding), in which we identify species on the basis of tissue collected or environmental samples. This process serving the goal of species identification is often used in our conservation studiesthat employ genetic methods to protect endangered taxa.
In turn, our research on population genetics and phylogeographyentails the investigation of processes like inbreeding depression or loss of genetic diversity, which affect the probabilities of survival of threatened species; as well as the identification of the factors that determine genetic diversity in populations, and the patterns that characterisegenetic differences between populations. Our scientific interest furtherrelies on such methods frommolecular genetics asthe genetic profiling of individuals, gene-sequencing, andthe use of molecular markers – all with a view to better understanding the ecology of wild species in the Anthropocene, with its ubiquitous human-mediated transformation of the environment. Findings from such studies have important implications for the planning of conservation measures and management of natural populations.
Thus far,the groups of organisms we have studied most are invertebrates (notablyladybirds and butterflies), anadromous fish, snakes, gallinaceous birds, birds of prey, bats, felids, canids and cetaceans. Our population genetic research also extends to the ecology and behaviour of selected animal species, including their urban populations. The abovementioned research is based on the analysis of both modern and ancient DNA (aDNA). In the latter case, our team focuses on both animals and humans. These projects all aim to provide for a genetic characterisation of historic (in some cases extinct) populations, as well as – in the case of human material – theidentification ofindividuals or determination of their provenance.
A space in our laboratory has been set aside specifically for work with aDNA. It consists of an entryway with a cloakroom, as well as the main room in which the genetic analyses of ancient material are performed. An air lock, positive air pressure and HEPA filters are all employed to minimise the risk of contamination with modern DNA, which may remainsuspended in the air outside the clean room. The facility is regularly UV-irradiated, with working surfaces and equipment decontaminated using hypochlorite and DNA-removing agents after each procedure, to ensure the sterility of the aDNA work. In addition, the pipetting of samples and reagents is performed in a laminar flow cabinet. Staff enter the clean room wearing disposable overalls, a facemask, head cap and double layer of gloves. These measures are likewise taken to minimise the risk of contamination with modern DNA.