Microbes are the hidden powers on planet earth. They are by far the most abundant life form, drive biogeochemical cycles and are essential partners in biological interactions with other organisms. Yet our knowledge of microbial diversity and function is only limited. The division’s research spans from ecophysiology, genomics, and evolution of key microorganisms in selected ecosystems to interactions of microbes among each other and with eukaryotes. This is achieved by cultivation-independent state-of-the-art molecular tools including for example single cell isotope probing and sorting as well meta-omics techniques.
We seek to analyze the biodiversity, to reveal the evolutionary history, and to understand the ecological function of microbes catalyzing the global carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen cycles. These organisms are not only indispensable in nature, they are also of great importance for biotechnological applications.
We study the evolution of intracellular symbiotic associations and their mechanisms of interaction by focussing on amoebae and their bacterial endosymbionts. As model system we investigate the chlamydiae, which are among the most successful bacterial pathogens of humans and thrive as symbionts in diverse hosts such as protozoa, insects, and crustaceans.
We additionally investigate the complex symbiotic microbiota of humans and animals. We want to understand how host diet shapes physiological interactions among the many intestinal microorganisms and how individual microorganisms impact health of their host.