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Functional ecology

In the vast realm of nature, numerous intricate processes are at play, shaping the world as we know it. This exploration delves into the fascinating domains of aquatic ecology, microbial ecology, microbial biogeochemistry, and the study of evolutionary transitions and social evolution.

Two fish. Photo.
Photo: Jörgen Wiklund.

Aquatic Ecology: The Lifeblood of Our Planet

Aquatic ecology is a field that encompasses the study of the effects of climate change on aquatic systems, regime shifts in shallow lakes, the dispersal and migration of aquatic organisms, population genetics, predator-prey interactions, the effects of pesticides and endocrine disruptors, and sustainable fisheries. This domain spans multiple organisational levels, from molecules to organisms and from individual behaviours to ecosystem processes.

Microbial Ecology: The Invisible Architects

Microbial ecology is the science of the smallest life forms with the biggest impact. It involves studying terrestrial ecosystems to better understand how soil microorganisms regulate global biogeochemistry and predict responses to environmental changes. This field is particularly interested in the factors influencing the spatial and temporal variability in microbial community function and structure, and their responses to stress.

Microscope image of fungi hyphae. Photo.
Photo: Micaela Mafla Endara.

Microbial Biogeochemistry: The Cycle of Life

Microbial biogeochemistry focuses on studying soil carbon and nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems around the globe, from arctic tundra to tropical rainforests and semi-arid grasslands. It also includes the study of the biochemical and molecular mechanisms that fungi use to decompose organic matter. This research has implications for understanding the carbon cycle in terrestrial ecosystems, as fungal decomposition releases trapped carbon back into the atmosphere and contributes to soil formation.

Evolutionary Transitions: Tracing the Path of Life

Evolutionary transitions is a research area that investigates how life has evolved over time. It examines major transitions in evolution, such as the origin of life, the evolution of multicellularity, and the emergence of complex life forms. Current research topics in this field include the study of ancient DNA and fossils, the use of computational models to simulate evolutionary processes, and the exploration of extreme environments to understand the limits of life.

Two Ostriches in nature. Photo.
Photo: Charlie Cornwallis