Humboldt Award winner Brendan Bohannan embarks on research visit to Kiel

Renowned microbial ecologist from the University of Oregon will spend six months as a guest researcher together with colleagues from Kiel in the Collaborative Research Center 1182.

On 15 March, Professor Brendan Bohannan from the University of Oregon in Eugene began his research stay at Kiel University. The Humboldt Research Award Winner is using the award of 60,000 euros from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to deepen his research on microbial ecology and evolution in close cooperation with colleagues at Kiel University. Bohannan is considered a world-renowned expert in the field of microbial ecology and pioneered an improved understanding of general biology by looking at organisms and ecosystems from a microbial perspective. The Oregon scientist and university lecturer investigates ecological and evolutionary principles that govern microbial communities in various animal and plant hosts. His field of work strongly overlaps with various research consortia at Kiel University, especially the Collaborative Research Center (CRC) 1182 “Origin and Function of Metaorganisms” and the various evolutionary initiatives affiliated to the Kiel Evolution Center (KEC). In addition to a productive exchange, the life scientists in Kiel hope that the cooperation will enrich their future research orientation with valuable new perspectives.

“On behalf of the entire university board, I would like to extend a warm welcome to the highly esteemed colleague Professor Brendan Bohannan in Kiel. For us as the Schleswig-Holstein State University, it is a special honour to be able to welcome internationally renowned scientists as our guests,” emphasises Kiel University’s President Professor Simone Fulda. The US scientist’s research stay in Kiel is visible proof of the increasingly important role of Kiel’s life sciences, especially in the field of host-microbe research, she continues. Humboldt host at Kiel University is Professor Thomas Bosch, Director at the Institute of Zoology and spokesperson for CRC 1182. Bohannan will also work closely with Professor Hinrich Schulenburg and the Kiel Evolution Center (KEC).

About the award winner

Brendan Bohannan is a Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology in the Department of Ecology at his home university. His research focuses on understanding the causes and consequences of microbial biodiversity. With his research group, he seeks to determine the fundamental drivers of biodiversity, the effects of environmental change on microbial diversity, and how this diversity changes in human-dominated environments – including environments in the human body and other host organisms. Bohannan received his PhD in microbiology from Michigan State University and completed post-doctoral research in ecology at the University of Chicago before moving to Stanford University in 1999. He has been a professor at the University of Oregon since 2006.

Bohannan’s special research achievements include the discovery and description of the concept of the so-called biogeography of microorganisms: His research group was one of the first to demonstrate that bacteria differ significantly in the composition and diversity of their ecological communities over space and time. Moreover, these biogeographical patterns can be reflected in a similar form in the microbial colonisation of plants and animals, as Bohannan observed. “In doing so, he pioneered the use of biogeographical analyses as powerful tools for studying the response of microbial communities to environmental change and the resulting consequences of these responses for ecosystem functions. Bohannan’s work thus yielded a completely new perspective on global change, which can only be understood in full depth by taking account of the processes acting in microbial communities,” emphasises his host Bosch.

Cooperation with Kiel symbiosis researchers

The respected scientist’s research stay in Kiel opens up promising opportunities for cooperation, especially in researching the ecology of relationships between microorganisms and host organisms. To this end, Bohannan will primarily cooperate with Schulenburg’s working group Evolutionary Ecology and Genetics at Kiel University. “We are very much looking forward to the exchange with Brendan Bohannan. Together we want to investigate, for example, the question of why communities of microorganisms vary their composition due to external influences and thus also influence functions for the host organism,” says KEC spokesperson Schulenburg.

“I’m very honoured and humbled to receive this award. Many of the scientists who I most admire have been past recipients of the Humboldt prize. This award will allow me to expand our research program by collaborating with scientists at two especially innovative German scientific institutions,” says Bohannan at the start of his stay at Kiel University.

Scientific contact:

Prof. Thomas Bosch,
Spokesperson CRC 1182 “Origin and Function of Metaorganisms“,
Kiel University
+49 (0) 431-880-4170

Prof. Hinrich Schulenburg
Spokesperson Kiel Evolution Center (KEC),
Kiel University
+49 (0) 431-880-4141

More information:

About the Humboldt Research Award:
Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awards up to 100 Humboldt Research Awards to internationally recognized scientists and scholars from abroad, thereby honouring the overall work of these leading research personalities to date. Researchers from all disciplines and all countries whose fundamental discoveries, new theories or insights have had a lasting impact both on their own discipline and beyond their own field of work and who are expected to continue their top scientific achievements in the future may be nominated for the award. The award winners are also invited to carry out research projects of their own choice in Germany in cooperation with specialist colleagues. The period of approximately six months to a whole year can be divided up. The prize money amounts to 60,000 Euros.

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