Dr. Gisela Kopp

Affiliated Scientist
Department of Migration
University of Konstanz

Main Focus

Tremendous efforts have been made to describe the Earth’s biodiversity and identify the processes that shape it. Evolutionary biology, and in particular speciation research, is at the very centre of this endeavour as it disentangles why and how taxa diversify. Over the last years, this field has been fuelled by the enormous advances in genomic technologies and computational power, which allow to address questions that were impossible to answer just two decades ago. We have gained a thorough understanding of the role of ecology in speciation and also begin to elucidate the underlying genomic processes, at least in some model-organisms. In addition, increasing interest has been paid to the role of culture in modifying selection pressures and shaping the genome of us humans.
Despite this growing body of evidence on the interplay between behaviour, genomes, and genetic diversity in humans, this topic has received less attention in other species. We are lacking an overarching framework that explicitly integrates behavioural ecology with macroevolution to identify the factors and processes that link behavioural traits with genomic evolution and diversification processes. In the Sociality & Evolution Group we aim to fill this gap by building the links in the explanatory chain that connect behavioural traits to diversification.

Key questions

I. Which data and analyses are needed to efficiently describe diverse social systems across taxa in a quantitative way?
II. Do these descriptors consistently correlate with measures of genetic structure and diversity across taxa?
III. Is genetic structure and diversity a predictor of diversification and species richness?
IV. Do certain behavioural traits, through their effects on diversity and differentiation, impact diversification patterns on a macroevolutionary scale?

By formulating an explicit framework and addressing all the links within, we will reach a better understanding of the role of interspecific behavioural differences in population dynamics and speciation processes. The force of behavioural variation in macroevolution has been largely ignored and its appreciation will serve as a substantial complement to classical views on the causes of speciation. This will constitute an essential step towards understanding the complex interplay between ecology, social behaviour, and adaptive evolution and the underlying genomic processes.

Grants & awards

  • 2018-2023 Hector Pioneer Fellowship, Hector Foundation II & University of Konstanz
  • 2018, 2019 Flexible Working Conditions Grant for Researchers with Family Duties, University of Konstanz
  • 2017, 2018 Research Grant, Young Scholar Fund, University of Konstanz
  • 2017 Mentorship Grant, Zukunftskolleg/University of Konstanz
  • 2017 Interdisciplinary Collaboration Grant, Zukunftskolleg/University of Konstanz
  • 2017-2019 Postdoctoral fellowship of the Brigitte-Schlieben-Lange-Programme/Ministry of Science, Baden-Württemberg
  • 2016 Research grant, German Society for Mammalian Biology (PI Dr. R. Kraus)
  • 2016 DPZ Sponsorship Award for distinguished doctoral thesis, German Primate Center
  • 2014-2015 Stipend of the Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard-Foundation
  • 2012-2015 Research grant, The Leakey Foundation (PI Dr. D. Zinner)
  • 2010 Distinguished diploma thesis award, Gesellschaft für Primatologie
  • 2009 Field research grant, Christian-Vogel-Fonds
  • 2009 & 2012 DAAD field travel grant

Curriculum Vitae

  • Since 2018        Research Fellow, Zukunftskolleg & Dept. of Biology/University of Konstanz, and Max Planck Institute of Animal Behaviour
  • 2016-2018       Postdoc, University of Konstanz and Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Radolfzell
  • 2010-2015        PhD in Biodiversity and Ecology, German Primate Center and University of Göttingen
  • 2004-2010        Diploma in Biology, University of Göttingen
  • 2004-2010        Research assistant, Cognitive Ethology Laboratory, German Primate Center, Göttingen
  • 2003/2004        Research assistant, Department of Primatology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
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