Research interests

  • Behavioural Ecology
  • Chemical Ecology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Chemical communication
  • Sexual selection
  • Evolution of parental and biparental care
  • Life-history theory
  • Social insects

Publications

Scientific projects

I am a behavioral ecologist with a particular interest in mate choice, chemical communication, recognition processes and the evolution of family life. I use a combination of manipulative experiments in both the lab and field and chemical and physiological analyses. My main study organisms are burying beetles and crickets.

1. Ecology and evolution of chemical communication in the biparental burying beetle (funded by DFG; STE 1874/3-1)

Chemical communication is the most ancient and widespread form of communication in the animal kingdom. Drawing on the perspectives of three different disciplines - behavioural ecology, chemical ecology and animal physiology - I hope to provide a synthesis of the ultimate and proximate mechanisms underlying chemical communication. Using the biparental burying beetle as model organisms, chemical signaling and recognition mechanisms is examined in three different signaler-receiver relationships: (1) Interactions between the sexes, (2) Interactions between breeding partners during the period of parental care, (3) Interactions between parents and offspring.

Gender recognition:

How do burying beetles recognize a potential mating partner and which factors determine whether they engage in homosexual behavior or not?

Current/former people working on this project: PhD student: Katharina C. Engel; Bachelor students: Eva Keppner, Lisa Männer, Madlen Prang

Long range sex pheromones and mate choice:

Male burying beetles release a sex pheromone to attract females from a distance. Is the sex pheromone a condition-dependent signal and reflects the quality of a male?

Current/former people working on this project: PhD student: Johanna Chemnitz; Master students: Johanna Chemnitz, Petra Jentschke

Chemical communication and family life:

Burying beetles perform biparental care. Do the parents communicate with each other during the period they raise their offspring?

Current/former people working on this project: PhD student: Katharina C. Engel; Master student: Rebecca Schweizer

In collaboration with Prof. Joachim Ruther (Universität Regensburg) and Dr. Johannes Stökl (Universität Regensburg)

 

2. Mate choice in crickets

Recent studies revealed that crickets do not only rely on acoustic, but also on chemical cues and signals. The aim of our current studies is to understand how chemical traits affect the choice of a mating partner.

Current/former people working on this project: Master student: Alexandra Capodeanu-Nägler

In collaboration with Prof. Scott Sakaluk (Illinois State University, USA) and Dr. John Hunt (University of Exeter, UK)

 

3. Evolution of family life in insects

Some insects do not just lay eggs and leave, but stay with their young and raise them. We are interested in the causes and consequences of the evolution of family life.

Current/former people working on this project: PhD student: Alexandra Capodeanu-Nägler

In collaboration with Dr. Heiko Vogel (MPI Chemical Ecology, Jena)

 

4. Influence of land use intensity on the decomposition rate of dead mammals in conjunction with the biodiversity of the carcass associated insect fauna (funded by DFG; STE 1874/4-1 and AY 12/9-1)

In terrestrial ecosystems, decomposition rate of animal biomass is heavily dependent on the availability of decomposers and detritivores and on abiotic factors of a certain habitat. The goal of this project is to understand how habitat structure and land use intensity influences the decomposition rate of dead mammals in conjunction with the biodiversity of the associated arthropod fauna at spatial scales.

Current/former people working on this project: Postdoc: Dr. Christian von Hoermann; Master students: Dennis Jauch, Sandra Weithmann, Carolin Kubotsch

In collaboration with Prof. Manfred Ayasse (University of Ulm)

 

Contact

  • PD Dr. Sandra Steiger
  • Institute of Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation Genomics
  • University of Ulm
  • D-89081 Ulm, Germany
  • Tel. +49 (0)731 50 22665
  • Fax +49 (0)731 50 22683

 

 

Curriculum Vitae

Short CV

Since 2012University of Ulm, Workgroup of Prof. Ayasse
2011-2012Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Regensburg, Workgroup of Prof. Ruther
2009-2011Feodor Lynen Fellow, Illinois State University, USA,
Workgroup of Prof. Sakaluk
2008PhD, University of Freiburg, Workgroup of Prof. Müller
2003Diplom, University of Freiburg
2003Bachelor of Science in Ecology, University of Leeds, GB

 

Grants and Awards

2014DFG grant STE 1874/4-1 Influence of land use intensity on the decomposition rate of dead mammals in conjunction with the biodiversity of the carcass associated insect fauna
2012DFG grant STE 1874/3-1 Ecology and evolution of chemical communication in the biparental burying beetle
2012Travel grant from the DAAD
2011-2013“Fast Track”, Excellence and Leadership Skills for Outstanding Women in Science,
Robert Bosch Foundation
2011-2012Feodor-Lynen Return Fellowship, Humboldt Foundation
2010Travel grant from the International Society of Behavioral Ecology
2009Horst-Wiehe award of the Deutsche Zoologische Gesellschaft (DZG) for an excellent dissertation
2009-2011Feodor-Lynen Research Fellowship, Humboldt Foundation
2008Travel grant from the DFG
2008Travel grant from the International Society of Behavioral Ecology
2007Award for the best oral presentation from the International Society of Chemical Ecology
2007Travel grant from the International Society of Chemical Ecology
2005Award for poster, annual meeting of the DZG, Bayreuth
2005-2008PhD grant from the German National Academic Foundation
(Sutdienstiftung des deutschen Volkes)