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Doctoral Researcher

Martin Denter

A1: Remote sensing-based methods for the assessment of forest structures

Martin studied at Freiburg University where he received his B.Sc. in Environmental Natural Sciences and Environmental Hydrology. After graduation, he stayed at the University of Freiburg and completed his M.Sc. in Environmental Sciences focusing on environmental modelling and geographic information systems. At the Forest Research Institute Baden-Württemberg, his work focused on the analysis of aerial images. Consequently, he wrote his master’s thesis on the classification of deciduous tree species. Building on the work of his predecessor Julian, he is going to develop methods for the investigation of microhabitats.

Xiang Liu

A1: Synergistic use of single-class and multiclass classification approaches to map tree species and deadwood at the landscape scale based on multi-source remote sensing data

Xiang obtained his MSc with a major in physical geography science from Nanjing Normal University. During his master’s studies, he focused on the detection of invasive species via remote sensing methods, especially the usefulness of different single-class classification algorithms. He is excited to join the ConFoBi project as an associated PhD student because ConFoBi provides the opportunity to conduct research within a group of related researchers and transdisciplinary researchers. Xiang’s Ph.D. research focuses on tree species classification and deadwood detection with different machine learning algorithms based on multi-source remote sensing data. His first aim is to examine the potential of multi-source remote sensing data for tree species and deadwood mapping at regional and local scales. The second aim is to map the occurrence of deadwood and relate those occurrences with select environmental variables. He believes the research will help to gather more detailed information on tree species and a better understanding of the distribution of deadwood in the Black Forest region. Xiang is funded by a CSC scholarhip.

Andreea Petronela Spinu

A2: Retention of structural elements in selectively used forests

Andreea studied forestry and forest engineering (BSc) at the Transilvania University of Brasov in Romania and received the Euroforester MSc degree from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden. She felt confronted with the controversial question of how forestry should (and would) find the perfect balance between societal and environmental demands to achieve sustainability. She decided to approach this question by looking into the dynamics of forests which are close to natural states. As many agree, these are important sources of ecological information. Disturbance regimes (wind, fire), which have long been considered negative agents outside the management system and neglected in forest management decisions, were of particular interest. Her BSc and MSc theses were thus focused on the dynamics of the primary forests in the Fagaras Mountains in Romania and Bialowieza National Park in Poland. For her PhD, she is keen to use the ecological background from such ecosystems and shift her focus to improving biodiversity in managed forests. Here, the survival of many forest specialist species is threatened by the scarcity and poor quality of tree microhabitats. During her research at ConFoBi, she will focus on the longevity of habitat trees and tree-related microhabitats. This information is valuable since such trees are meant to provide habitat structures for biodiversity conservation for a sufficiently long period. The ConFoBi project is an excellent match for her interests and academic background and she is keen to work in such a dynamic and transdisciplinary environment (hopefully, also to bring smiles on a daily basis with her positive attitude).


Josef Großmann

A2: Formation and development duration of microhabitats at single-tree and forest-stand levels

Josef completed his B.Sc. with a major in forestry and environment and a minor in nature conservation and landscape management at the University of Freiburg between 2010 and 2014. As a participant in the BachelorPLUS program, he completed one year abroad at the University of New Brunswick in Canada. With a thesis about tree microhabitats and selection criteria for habitat trees he finished his M.Sc. in forest sciences at the University of Freiburg in 2017. Afterwards he helped to establish the ConFoBi-Plots in the field and supported the tree microhabitat and deadwood inventory. Since 2018 he works on his PhD about the “formation and development duration of microhabitats at single-tree and forest-stand levels”. One focus of his work are habitat tree groups and small forest reserves from the Veteran-Tree and Deadwood-Concept (AuT-Konzept) which is applied in the state forest of Baden-Württemberg. Another part of his project deals with structural diversity of urban trees. During a case study in Montréal, Canada he quantified tree microhabitats on urban trees affected by different management approaches. Josef is funded by the Forest Research Institute Baden-Württemberg (FVA) and the Cusanuswerk.

Dina Emrich

B1: Epiphyte and microhabitat diversity and function on habitat trees

Dina studied biology (BSc) at the University of Gießen with a focus on ecology and microbiology. In her bachelor’s thesis, she investigated the effect of forest structure on bat activity and diversity. She holds an MSc in ecology and microbial biodiversity from the Technical University of Kaiserslautern.  In her master’s studies, she focused on cryptogamic organisms like cyanobacteria, green algae, and lichens. Thereby, her interest in lichens from biological soil crusts was awakened. She wrote her master’s thesis on lichens from the Atacama Desert within the framework of the DFG priority program, EarthShape. The thesis investigated the lichen species composition in a fog oasis along a moisture gradient from coast to inland, applying molecular techniques. Furthermore, she examined the role of these lichens in bio-weathering processes. Based on these interdisciplinary experiences, Dina is happy to further advance her skills in the ConFoBi project. During her PhD, she is going to investigate the epiphytic lichen and bryophyte diversity on selected trees to evaluate the effect of forest connectivity and forest structure on the cryptogamic diversity in the southern Black Forest as well as the influence on cryptogamic species cover. ConFoBi is ideal for her because it combines her main interests: forest ecology and cryptogamic biodiversity and conservation.

Diane Stevenson

B1: Epiphyte and microhabitat diversity and function on habitat trees

Diane studied at Reading University where she received her M.Sc. in Plant Diversity, Taxonomy, and Systematics. Her thesis was titled “Molecular Systematics of Aspalathus L. (Fabaceae)”. Currently, her Ph.D. thesis focuses on epiphyte and micro-habitat diversity and function on habitat trees. She decided to participate in the ConFoBi project because of her interest in epiphytes and forestry, officially bringing her back into academia. Diane’s goals after the project are to continue in her academic research or to work in forest conservation.

Sara Klingenfuß

B2: Underlying mechanisms of vegetation change and diversity in retention forestry

Always a nature enthusiast, Sara started her scientific career with an internship at the Fraunhofer Institute for Sustainability and Innovation Research, where she became interested in the interplay between humans and nature as well as the processes that govern global change. Afterward, she pursued her studies in geoecology, evolution, and ecology at the University of Tübingen. Her interests there ranged from patterns that create and maintain biodiversity, e.g. disturbance and heterogeneity, to threats of a changing world and the early recognition of critical transitions in ecosystems that are susceptible to global change. As she moved from smaller to larger scales, she discovered the great necessity to include several disciplines in scientific approaches to investigate the laws of nature. ConFoBi provides her with the perfect opportunity to combine all her studies and experiences. The interdisciplinary approach to explore modern world influences on a forest ecosystem was so appealing to her that she is now committed to three years of intensive research. During her PhD, she is concentrating on how understorey functional biodiversity is influenced by natural and human-made heterogeneity, such as soil properties or forest structures. The field of functional diversity has been emerging for some time now and observing processes related to functional traits of plants might reveal how different communities are formed under their respective environmental conditions. Her work is within the field of community ecology and connects small scale processes with factors that influence plant diversity on larger scales in addition to examining the connectivity of forest patches.

Nolan Rappa

B3: Diversity and functions of plant-insect interactions along a forest retention gradient

Nolan became interested in nature conservation while studying biology in Buffalo, New York. During an exchange at the University of Alaska, he became interested in the ecology and conservation of terrestrial forest insects through researching insect defoliators. After receiving a B.A. in biology, he went on to study an M.Sc. in ecology at the University of Bremen, Germany. His work there focused on parasitoid Hymenoptera, insect biocontrol, and safe alternatives for mitigating insect damage as well as potential non-target effects on other insects. As a ConFoBi Ph.D. candidate, Nolan is researching the effect of forest retention gradients and other forest structural elements on insect diversity, insect community interactions, and food web interactions. His main interests are the effects of landscape-scale conservation efforts on insect communities and the management of forest ecosystems to promote biodiversity. His focus is on the preservation of natural heritage through interdisciplinary research.

Laura-Sophia Ruppert

B4: Functional connectivity among saprophytic beetles in dead wood patches

Laura discovered her interest in molecular ecology during her B.Sc. in Bioscience at the University of Heidelberg, where she took several courses that combined fieldwork and molecular processing. She deepened her focus with her M.Sc. in Molecular Bioscience, specialising on Evolution and Ecology, which allowed her to gain experience in working with genetical data to explain present-day intraspecific distribution patterns as a result of climate and landscape changes over time and to utilize genes for characterization of populations. In ConFoBi Laura wants to look at the diversity of ground dwelling insects on the plots by metabarcoding of leaf-litter bulk samples and the connectivity of insect populations between the plots by choosing species representing high or low dispersal capability and checking for genetic differentiation in regard to natural and anthropogenic landscape barriers.

Nathalie Winiger

B4: Functional connectivity among saprophytic beetles in dead wood patches

Nathalie graduated from the University of Bern with a B.Sc. in biology with a special focus in ecology and evolution. She went on to complete her M.Sc. in animal ecology and conservation, graduating in 2014.
She has a strong interest in applied ecology. The possibility of “real world” implementation was a priority when developing her master’s thesis. The thesis investigates the lack of recolonization in restored habitats for the endangered European nightjar in Switzerland. Habitat characteristics and moth abundance, as their primary prey, were explored to provide habitat management recommendations. During a research project in the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Florida Museum of Natural History Museum in Gainesville, Nathalie studied the evolution of hind-wing tails in the Arsenurinae subfamily of Lepidoptera. She found the molecular methods used to resolve the phylogeny to be extremely interesting, ultimately leading her to a Ph.D. thesis combining conservation biology with molecular tools. This combination of conservation, ecology, entomology, and molecular tools are the main focus of her Ph.D. thesis. She is investigating the influence of retention forestry, forest structure, and the amount of dead wood on saproxylic beetle assemblages and genetic diversity. Furthermore, she will analyze the functional connectivity of a saproxylic beetle species and the importance of landscape composition.

Anna-Lena Hendel

B5: Landscape-moderated use of forest structures by bats

Anna-Lena studied biology in Berlin and Trondheim and continued her studies in “Global Change Ecology” during a master’s degree at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. Through her studies in Bayreuth, she began to integrate remote sensing techniques into her ecological research. Her master’s thesis thus addressed the effects of extreme weather events on the primary productivity and the course of the phenology in the High Arctic by combining field observations and satellite images. During her studies in Bayreuth, Anna-Lena worked for an environmental consultancy where she came in contact with bats for the first time. Due to the secret but fascinating life of bats and the fact that they are extremely bound to landscape structures that are currently under threat, she looked out for the possibility to combine her interests in remote sensing and bats and thus applied to ConFoBi. In her PhD project on the landscape-moderated use of forest structures by bats, she now expands the research topic, concentrating on landscape effects and investigating how bats respond to the landscape in terms of connectivity. She also wants to find out how different forest structures affect prey availability for bats, and uses black light traps to determine the nocturnal occurrence of moths in the field. In this way, she hopes to understand better the habitat requirements of bats and gain new insights for forestry and nature conservation. She is pleased that the project is methodologically demanding and that her fieldwork can be used to validate the new methods. Additionally, she wants to learn as much as possible from the other ConFoBi projects, which provide a unique opportunity for joint research ideas, knowledge transfer, and shared field experiences.

Marlotte Jonker

B5: Landscape-moderated use of forest structures by bats

Marlotte studied forest and nature conservation at Wageningen University in the Netherlands where she specialized in ecology. Her focus in ConFoBi is the landscape-moderated use of forest structures by bats. She was thrilled and surprised to be accepted to the project because she had been out of academic research for five years. During this time, she gained a lot of experience in ecological consulting which continued to fuel her interest in ecology and helped her become part of the ConFoBi project. Her opinion of ConFoBi is that it is a great project: complex, international, multilevel, and, of course, the topic of forests and bats is fantastic. ConFoBi is everything she had been looking for! Marlotte records the ultrasonic sounds of bats at each research plot. After she analyzes the data, she hopes to have a deeper understanding of bat species richness and diversity. Ultimately, she would like to relate her findings to habitat structures in the forest and to the landscape context. The big picture question she has set out to solve is if retention forest measures such as leaving dead wood and habitat trees within the forest will effectively contribute to the conservation of bat biodiversity. Marlotte sees a future for herself in science. She would like to contribute to our understanding of nature: to discover things we don’t yet know and provide us with tools that could help us to conserve nature. Next to that, she wants to bring a smile to the world, continue creating, and she hopes to “stay hungry, stay foolish”.

João Manuel Cordeiro Vale Pereira

B6: Multi-scale assessment of bird-forest relationships

João has been fascinated with nature and birds since a young age, having completed a bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Lisbon. Willing to expand his horizons, he moved to Germany to complete an MSc in ecology at the University of Bremen under a DAAD scholarship. There, João developed an interest in the topic of spatial ecology and the effects of habitat fragmentation on sensitive bird species as well as how this knowledge can be applied both in protected areas and in sustainable agriculture and forestry systems. His master’s thesis took him to the distant landscapes of the Peruvian Andes to study how forest fragmentation and human-induced changes in forest structure affect threatened bird communities in high-altitude Polylepis forests. Switching continents, altitudes, and bird species, and from protected to managed forests, ConFoBi brought him back to Germany and represented a natural continuation to his master’s research. In the Black Forest, João is going to investigate the ecological mechanisms that drive changes in bird communities along forest structure and fragmentation gradients. Building on the work of his predecessor, Marco, he is going to investigate how retention forestry might induce changes in trophic relations of birds – both insect prey and mammalian predators – which in turn might drive observed patterns in bird abundance and activity. João is looking forward to the broad opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration that ConFoBi provides and hopes that these three years of PhD research will build a solid foundation for a career either in academia or in the nature conservation sector.

Taylor Shaw

B7: Ecoacoustic analysis of vocalizing organisms along forest structural gradients

Taylor received her MSc in Applied Ecology and Conservation in 2017 from the University of East Anglia, completing her dissertation on species diversity in restoration plantings in the highly threatened sub-tropical Araucaria forest in Brazil. For her PhD, she is now focused on soundscape ecology, a relatively new field combining disciplines of landscape ecology, bioacoustics, and computer science. She is examining the extent to which forest structural diversity drives acoustic diversity—an intrinsic aspect of biodiversity—and by what mechanisms. Specifically she is focused on how acoustic diversity (1) can be quantified to reflect avian diversity; (2) can track phenological changes within avian communities, and (3) relates to management-driven forest structural elements. She is excited to contribute to our understanding of how ecoacoustics can be effectively used as a monitoring tool, and to communicate that to forest managers tasked with promoting biodiversity within forests managed for timber production.

Sebastian Schwegmann

B8: The effect of large herbivores on forest biodiversity

Sebastian studied his Bachelor in landscape ecology in Münster and investigated the successes of renaturation of heathland and species-rich grassland. For his master’s degree (environmental science, wildlife and biodiversity) Sebastian moved to Freiburg and focused on camera trapping and red foxes in his thesis. In November 2018, he started organizing the practical hunting education with the Chair of Wildlife Ecology and Management and began viewing roe deer in the Black Forest from a scientific point of view. His project investigates the effect of roe deer and other large herbivores on different elements of forest biodiversity in managed forests while also considering landscape and forest structure variables.

Max Wieners

B9: Effects of forest structures on fungi

Max completed both his bachelor's and master's degree in biology in Freiburg. He chose to focus on ecology and evolutionary biology in order to deepen his knowledge in the areas of functional biodiversity research, regional landscape ecology and applied nature conservation issues. In his master thesis he studied the interaction of the Red-belted Polypore (Fomitopsis pinicola) and the Lemon-colored Antrodiella (Antrodiella citrinella), two wood-dwelling fungal species. He already discovered his fascination for the kingdom of fungi during his bachelor's studies, when he did an internship at the State Museum of Natural History in Karlsruhe and thus became acquainted with working with scientific collections and with fungal ecology. Since then he has been working intensively with this group of organisms, most recently in a cooperative project of the Karlsruhe Regional Council, the Natural History Museum in Karlsruhe and the Black Forest National Park, which focused on fungal diversity in the core zone of the National Park. In his doctoral thesis, funded by the Deutsche Bundesstifung Umwelt (DBU), he is investigating the impact of forest structure and fragmentation on the diversity of fungi on multiple scales. He is particularly interested in the taxonomical, functional and genetic diversity of wood-dwelling fungi and combines classical mycological methods with modern molecular approaches. He is looking forward to contribute to the interdisciplinary research in ConFoBi and would like to use the training in the structured doctoral programme to establish a career at the interface between research and conservation.

Nicole Still

C1: Economic valuation of biodiversity-oriented forest management strategies

Nicole holds a B.Sc. summa cum laude in biological anthropology from the George Washington University and an M.Sc. with distinction in environmental protection and management from the University of Edinburgh, where she studied the impacts of forest and wildlife management strategies on biodiversity and strategies for maximizing stakeholder engagement. Prior to joining ConFoBi, Nicole worked with NGOs in the UK and North America on landscape-level forest planning efforts and initiatives to engage landowners and practitioners for improved forest management and conservation. Nicole's Ph.D. focuses on the valuation of biodiversity-oriented management strategies using a multidisciplinary approach that considers the social and ecological benefits of retention forestry practices at different spatial scales under environmental risk and uncertainty. She is keenly interested in mixed-methodology approaches to issues of biodiversity conservation and is particularly excited about the translational applications of this ConFoBi project for forestry practitioners and land managers.

Philipp Mack

C2: Local biodiversity knowledge and forest conservation practices

Philipp completed both his bachelor's and master's degrees in geography at the University of Innsbruck with a specialisation in development and natural hazard research. After a semester abroad at the Universidade de São Paulo, his work focussed on the causes and impacts of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. After working and researching in Brazil, he completed his master thesis on the social implications of environmental and post-frontier governance measures in the southwestern Pará region from a perspective of Political Ecology. Due to the focus on integrative geography, Philipp is especially interested in the transdisciplinary character of ConFoBi and hopes to be able to contribute to it. In his doctoral thesis, he investigates the influence of current climate change-related challenges such as drought and bark beetle outbreaks on the implementation of biodiversity conservation measures in managed forests. Based on a media analysis, the public discourse will be analysed and supplemented by a perspective on implementation practices its related actor networks. For this purpose, interviews with forestry practitioners will be conducted. In order to facilitate an interdisciplinary exchange, the focus will be on the district manager of the ConFoBi plots.

Manuel John

D1: Professional epistemologies and integration of biodiversity-related knowledge into socio-political decision-making

Manuel graduated from the University of Düsseldorf with a B.A. in social sciences, which combines political sciences, communication and media studies, and sociology. Already leaning towards the latter, he continued his studies with an M.A. in sociology at the University of Jena. His focus on empirical social research in general and qualitative interview research in particular led him to work for the Black Forest National Park as a researcher. There, he collaborated in a project exploring the relationship of the local population (particularly the elderly) to the forest and the role it played in everyday life in the first half of the 20th century. Following his predecessor in subproject D1, Ronja Mikoleit, Manuel's research with ConFoBi also relies on using the concept of "professional epistemologies" to analyze how knowledge is established, legitimized and used for making decisions in different contexts. For his PhD project, he specifically focuses on the production of scientific biodiversity knowledge in the context of Retention Forestry, using a Science and Technology Studies (STS) approach. Besides studying how forest scientists, ecologists or geneticists go about their work, Manuel aims to also engage in interdisciplinary research that crosses boundaries between the natural and social sciences. He thinks of ConFoBi as a great opportunity in this regard and values his colleagues for their dedication to their own fields as well as their open-mindedness and eagerness for collaboration. He is looking forward to add new and original perspectives on pressing questions in the field of biodiversity conservation.

Ronja Mikoleit

D1: Professional epistemologies and integration of biodiversity-related knowledge into socio-political decision-making

Ronja holds a B.A. from Freiburg University in sociology and anthropology and an M.A. from Potsdam University in sociology. During her master's studies, she also attended interdisciplinary courses focusing on gender and the environment as well as qualitative research methods. In her more theoretically-oriented master's thesis, she focused on the role of the body and materiality in sociological theory and relations to new phenomenology and new materialism. This led her to explore the theory of nature/culture dualism. Ronja's Ph.D. topic addresses the question of how biodiversity-related knowledge is generated and how it is used in various decision-making contexts. It proceeds from the assumption that biodiversity research, policy, and management are marked by distinct 'professional epistemologies' or cultures of knowledge production. Her Ph.D. research strives to analyze the various institutionalized practices by which members of different professional communities test and deploy knowledge claims used as a basis for decision-making. In methodological terms, she uses a qualitative-interpretative approach to reconstruct specific 'knowledge orders' in the broader ConFoBi research area. Ronja appreciates ConFoBi for the interdisciplinary exchange with various perspectives, enriching each other's individual research perspectives and working together in an international team. For her subproject, she has utilized a broad range of qualitative research methods such as expert interviews, document analysis, and the participatory observation of actors in the field of forest management. As a sociologist, she believes that environmental topics such as biodiversity are as much about society as they are about nature or the environment. In her opinion, "there needs to be a lot more social science research on this topic!"

Carlos Miguel Landivar Albis

D2: Evidence-based biodiversity management of forests

Carlos Miguel did his bachelor studies in biology at Universidad Mayor de San Andres (Bolivia). Later, he received his master degree in Tropical forestry from TU Dresden (Germany). During his professional experience, Carlos had developed a deep interest in ecosystems dynamics, species diversity and distribution patterns. He has done research on the composition of birds meta-communities in high Andean wetlands, bees community assemblages in agricultural landscapes in Northern Germany, climate change adaptation strategies for indigenous people in Bolivian Amazon and most recently, ecosystem services evaluation in bird-friendly coffee plantations in tropical Andes. During his doctoral research in ConFoBi, his goal is to analyse the effects of retention forestry practices on: 1) Forest structures, 2) Forest associated biodiversity and 3) Practitioner's perception and actions towards it. His research integrates the observations, analyses and results of several other projects within ConFoBi. One of the major challenge in his research is the short time since retention forestry has been implemented in Baden-Württemberg. In order to compensate that, Carlos is looking for complementary databases of temperate forest management and associated biodiversity around the world. The creation of a large database of temperate forest management strategies and associated biodiversity, will help to describe and compare different patterns between biodiversity and retention forestry related forest features. He is focused to describe the effects of retention forestry on different variables of forest structure such as light, tree related microhabitats, keystone species, understory vegetation and deadwood. Using the understanding of how these variables are affected by forest management, he will evaluate the effects of forest structures over the species richness, abundance and composition of different taxa studied by the rest of ConFoBi projects. Finally, He will describe the perception and potential use of the most important variables among practitioners in selected forest departments in Baden-Württemberg.