Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW)

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About the employer

Mission: Evolutionary wildlife research for conservation

We study the diversity of life histories and evolutionary adaptations and their limits (including diseases) of free-ranging and captive wildlife species, and their interactions with people and their environment in Germany, Europe and worldwide. Our work incorporates expertise and results from different scientific disciplines and integrates theoretical and applied as well as mechanism- and function-oriented research to develop the scientific basis for novel approaches to conservation of wildlife.  

Vision: Understanding and improving adaptability of wildlife

In the current era of the Anthropocene, virtually all ecosystems in the world are subject to some form of anthropogenic impact. As yet, it is usually not possible to reliably predict the response of wildlife in a specific context to the rapid global change. However, such predictions are urgently needed in order to design appropriate concepts and methods for conservation intervention and prioritise the use of the limited resources available for conservation. To achieve this, insights into the mechanisms and consequences of the likely responses of wildlife species to anthropogenic pressures are required – we need to know whether individuals (and in their sum populations, species and species communities) have sufficient adaptability to cope with environmental change.

We use adaptability as a term to describe the evolutionary (genetic and phenotypic) potential to respond to natural or anthropogenic environmental change. This response includes both the resistance, the extent to which wildlife is affected in the short term by some environmental change, and the resilience, the speed at which a population recovers after a challenge.

Our vision is to achieve two goals:

(1) Understanding adaptability: We want to contribute to the development of a comprehensive predictive framework that explains why some wildlife species are threatened by anthropogenic change while others persist or even thrive in degenerated or novel habitats (“understanding adaptability”).

(2) Improving adaptability: Based on this knowledge, we aim to design appropriate concepts and methods for conservation intervention when natural mechanisms of adaptability are likely to fail.

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