Department of Molecular Biodiversity

The Department of Molecular Biodiversity conducts research focusing on cytogenetics, phylogeography and phylogenetics, and the molecular ecology and conservation genetics of various groups of organisms, particularly protists (Paramecium), insects (Orthoptera, Hemiptera, Coleoptera), birds (Dendrocopos) and selected mammals (Bovidae). The aim of our studies is to establish the genetic diversity of organisms at different levels (from cellular, through population to taxonomic). Our results are used to test hypotheses concerning: i) the evolution of taxa and systematic revisions, ii) ecological relations of species, populations and environment, iii) origin and diversity of contemporary and subfossil animals, as well as for nature conservation and species protection.

The genetic diversity of the aforementioned groups is analyzed using molecular techniques like DNA sequencing (Sanger and next-generation methods), genotyping (with use of microsatellites and single nucleotide polymorphism), microbiome analyses, chromosome staining (C-banding, fluorochromes staining, nucleolus organizer regions location) and fluorescences in situ hybridization.

An important element of our research at the Department of Molecular Biodiversity involves the zoogeography, genetics, evolution, and cytophysiology of Paramecium (Ciliophora, Protozoa). Research on ciliates involves classical genetic and molecular techniques such as the microinjection of plasmid to the paramecia and gene silencing.The department’s collections include a unique assortment of live strains of the Paramecium aurelia species complex and other species from the Paramecium genus.

The second group of research topics conducted in the Department are projects involving the biodiversity, ecology (community, population, spatial) and conservation biology of birds. These studies are based on field research with the use of modern digital technics (photo traps, thermo-vision etc.). These projects concern both – whole communities of birds and selected rare and threatened species. Most of the topics are related to the use of birds as indicators of changes in the environment and their relations to other organisms.

The department also research on:

- Ecology and bioacoustics of threatened Orthopterans from xerothermic habitats.,

- Behavioural ecology of insects. Studies include those on the thermal and cognitive ecology of sedentary predators belonging to Myrmeleontidae and Vermileonidae as well as rescue behaviour of ants (Formicidae),

- Mechanisms at the molecular level in the honey bee colony (Apis mellifera). These works mainly concern changes in DNA methylation in the brains of young honeybee workers.

The department conducts training and teaching activities (training for students, internships for graduates, lectures in doctoral studies and doctoral school) and encourages the popularization of science. Members of the Department are also involved in nature protection (e.g. designation of protected areas and expertizes about planning the protection of endangered species).