Graduation Hannah Weigand

On January 12th 2018 Hannah Weigand defended successfully her PhD thesis “Improving, applying and evaluating ddRAD sequencing for the detection of local adaptation to anthropogenic stressors in stream macroinvertebrates”. The thesis was part of the Junior Research Group project “GeneStream” funded by the Kurt Eberhard Bode-Foundation

Members of the examination committee were Prof. Dr. Daniel Hoffmann, Dr. Joe Hoffman (University of Bielefeld) and Prof. Dr. Florian Leese. Chair of the Committee was Prof. Dr. Angela Sandmann.

Photo: Florian Leese, Hannah Weigand, Joe Hoffman

Graduation Martina Weiss

Congrats to Martina Weiss for the successful defence of her PhD thesis entitled “Investigating patterns and processes underlying cryptic diversity and small-scale population structure in hololimnic freshwater species”. The project was part of the “GeneStream” project funded by the Kurt Eberhard Bode Foundation.

Examiners were PD Dr. Steffen Pauls (Senckenberg, Frankfurt) and Florian Leese. Chair of the committe was Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schreiber.

Foto: Florian Leese, Martina Weiss und Steffen Pauls.


Successful graduation Jan Macher

Congrats to  Jan Macher for successfully defending his PhD thesis on the “Development, testing and application of DNA-based methods to study freshwater invertebrate biodiversity under stress”.

Examiner were Prof. Dr. Ralph Tollrian (Ruhr University of Bochum, Prof. Dr. Jens Boenigk and Prof. Dr. Florian Leese. Chair of the committee was Prof. Dr. Daniel Hering.Photo: PhD committee and candidate. F.r.t.l.: Daniel Hering, Jens Boenigk, Florian Leese, Jan Macher, Ralph Tollrian


Early Career Award to Vasco Elbrecht

Vasco Elbrecht has successfully been awarded with the 1st place of the Early Career Researcher Prize (Schoerbel-Benndorf Prize) of the German Limnological Society (DGL). The price was awarded for his research on strengths and weaknesses of DNA-based bioassessment of stream biodiversity. A Video of his talk can be found here. The paper that he submitted as the candidate paper for the price can be found here. CONGRATULATIONS!
Photo above: Vasco Elbrecht giving his plenary talk during the conference in Cottbus.
Photo left: Florian Leese taking the price certificate and the ‘trophy’ named ‘Clara’ (a Daphnia made of metal) on Vasco’s behalf. By that time, Vasco has already moved to his new position as a PostDoc in Canada (University of Ontario, Guelph, Barcode of Life Project).

Graduation Vasco Elbrecht

Congrats to Vasco for his highly successful defense of his PhD thesis entitled “Development of DNA metabarcoding methods for stream ecosystem assessment”.

The PhD committee consisted of the following examiners: Prof. Dr. Jens Boenigk, Prof. Dr. Simon Creer (University of Bangor, UK) and Florian Leese. Chair of the committe was Prof. Dr. Peter Haase.

Photo: PhD thesis committee of Vasco Elbrecht. F.r.t.l.: Peter Haase, Florian Leese, Vasco Elbrecht, Simon Creer, Jens Boenigk

New publication: Using DNA metabarcoding for water quality assessment

In a just-released article in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution, we investigate the potential of DNA metabarcoding of freshwater macroinvertebrates for the assessment of stream health. With the “DNA metabarcoding” method hundreds of specimen in a sample can be identified, often up to species level. The assessment results of the morphology and DNA based methods were very similar with both methods, while DNA metabarcoding  detected more taxa on species level. However, metabarcoding has also shortcomings, for example, the method  failed to detect ~ 30% of the taxa identified by morphology. This work is an important step into validation and improvement of the metabarcoding method, and it highlights it’s potential for more rapid and accurate routine monitoring of freshwater streams.

Picture 1: Vasco Elbrecht, Edith Vamos and Florian Leese (from left to right),  in cooperation with Kristian Meissner and Jukka Aroviita from the Finnish Environment institute, analysed 18 monitoring samples from Finnish streams.

Additionally, our R package PrimerMiner was featured on the cover page of the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

Picture 2: The cover picture in Methods in Ecology and Evolution shows a macroinverterte sample which is homogenised using liquid nitrogen and a mortar, in order to extract the DNA from the sample.

Science meets Education

… during the international conference of “Polar Educators International” in Italy, or actually they met. For the scientific input Jana Dömel was invited to lead a workshop on genetic analyses.

During the scientific year 2016*17 Seas and Oceans the aim of the project “MEERwert. Polare Biodiversität.” (The value of the sea. Polar biodiversity.; is to introduce schools and anyone else who is interested to genetic methods that help us to discover the biological variety of the polar regions. In addition to the already freely available “Extraction box”, that includes all material needed for a DNA extraction of e.g. fish fingers, we designed further worksheets to present at the workshop. (The Extraction box will be send to you on request. Contact:

Foto: Jana supports the workshop’s participants with the genetic working sheets, that involve a lot of hands on (the computer) work.

During the conference teachers, but also scientists worked on two working sheet that introduce the basics for DNA analyses and were asked to improve the exercises from a didactical perspective. To start, fish sequences are compared to a database to find out species names. Subsequently, phylogenetic trees are reconstructed to solve the origin and relationships between fish of the so called „cod“ fishes.

We got very positive feedback, which confirmed that our project is of great educational interest.