Microbial Interaction Ecology


Research Interests

Ecosystems are composed of several trophic levels which interact with each other. In order to understand the link between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in the context of global change we need to take into account these multiple trophic levels. 

Our aim is to gain a better understanding of the ecology of multi-trophic microbial systems and the importance of microbial biodiversity and interactions for ecosystem functioning. We use theory, lab experiments and field surveys to study the major microbial players (bacteria, viruses (phage) and protists) and their interactions within and across trophic levels. The application of molecular biological and omics-tools allows us to analyse their dynamics in different habitats and across different temporal and spatial scales. In addition, we assemble laboratory microbial systems to understand the ecological and evolutionary consequences of microbial interactions under controlled experimental conditions. These lab systems range from miniaturized static systems to spatially structured setups (i.e. experimental metacommunities).

Current Projects and Cooperations

  • Virus diversity / viromes in soils along land-use gradients (with Michael Schloter, TU Munich, Helmholtz Zentrum Munich; Biodiversity Exploratories SPP 1374)
  • Viromes and virus-host / virus-fungi interactions in subsurface systems/groundwater (with DFG-CRC AquaDiva partners, AquaDiva, UFZ group Bioavailability, Lukas Wick, and UFZ group Flow Cytometry, Susann Müller)
  • Virus-host interactions: Evolutionary rescue in the context of community complexity, stressors and metacommunities (with iDiv)
  • Microbiomes and Viromes in rivers (with UFZ Department River Ecology, Markus Weitere)
  • Lake and amphibian microbiomes (with Vance Vredenburg , San Francisco State University; ENSAT, Toulouse France; P3)
  • Computational approaches in studying microbiomes and recovery of metagenome assembled genomes (with UFZ group Microbial Data Science Ulisses Nunes da Rocha, João Pedro Saraiva)
  • Functional traits of phytoplankton along environmental gradients (with iDiv: Susanne Dunker, Stan Harpole, Adam Clark (now University Graz)
  • Micropredators controlling bacterial pathogens in aquatic systems: (with Edouard Jurkevitch, Yossi Cohen, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; with UFZ group Flow Cytometry, Susann Müller)
  • Microscopic imaging of Bdellovibrio and Bdellovibrio-Host interactions (with Nedal Said, Matthias Schmidt, ProVIS)
  • Identification of key players and microbial interactions during pesticide degradation; impact of pesticides (with Dimitris Karpouzas, University of Thessaly, Greece, EU-ITN ARISTO)
  • The effects of future climatic conditions on protists, predatory microbes and viruses under different land use scenarios (GCEF (with Anna Heintz-Buschart UFZ Department Soil Ecology, iDiv)
  • SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater (with TU Dresden, UFZ Groups Attinger, Müller)
  • Exploring the potential of phage and microbiomes to control pathogens in aquaculture (with Ines Sviličić Petrić, Damir Kapetanović , Ruđer Bošković Institute, Zagreb, Croatia


Dr. René Kallies: Virus diversity, viromics

Dr. Anke Kuppardt-Kirmse (Wackwitz): Protist diversity, predator-prey interactions

Dr. Canan Karakoç: Experimental ecology and evolution

PhD Students

Peter Hofmann: Variability of phytoplankton traits along environmental gradients, microcosm experiments

Judit Laufer: Microbial communities and their interactions across trophic levels in mountain lakes (P3-project)

Adriana Paula Bernardo Cravo: Microbial communities of amphibian skin microbiomes, spread of pathogenic chytrid fungus (P3-project)

Krupa Parmar: Impact of viruses on subsurface microbial communities (CRC AquaDiva)


Anett Heidtmann

Nicole Steinbach

Josephine Arnold (apprentice)

Bachelor and Master students

Alla Kavtea (Leipzig University)

Guest Scientists


Please visit the webpages of the group leader Antonis Chatzinotas or the group members for information on research projects and cooperations.


To see our publications, please visit our personal web pages.

Open PhD, Master-/Bachelorpositions and Internships of our group you can find at
Jobs and Education