Theses‘ topics, internships and further opportunities for students

The lists mainly comprise topics for MSc theses with a typical duration of 6 months, and also suggestions for internships and smaller practical work of a few weeks or months.

Vascular Plants – Systematics and Evolution

Theses Master level:

  • Reticulate evolution in strawberry – unravelling the hybridogenic origin of the hexaploid Fragaria moschata with nuclear low copy gene (supervisors Herklotz, Ritz)
    The polyploid F. moschata presumably originated by hybridisation from diploid progenitor species. By using already available high throughput sequencing (HTS) the genomic composition of F. moschata will be bioinformatically investigated with phylogenies and networks.

  • Cytogenetics of Campanula trachelium and C. rapunculuoides with Fluorescent in situ Hybridisation using ribosomal DNA (supervisors Herklotz, Ritz)
    Both species co-occur at synanthropic sites in Upper Lusatia and are differentiated by ploidy level. The hexaploid C. rapunculoides is characterized by single chromosome losses (dysploidy). In mitotic and meiotic cells of both species chromosomal evolution is investigated by localizing 5S and 18S ribosomal DNA.

  • Population genetics of Bupleurum rotundifolium L. (supervisors Herklotz, Ritz)
    Genetic structure and diversity of this rare species will be analysed to detect pattern of presumed fragmentation of remaining populations. This thesis combines molecular lab work and bioinformatics including DNA purification and analyses of Genotyping-by-Sequencing (GBS) data.
  • Synanthropic vegetation in the Nature reserve “Königsbrücker Heide”. MoSaiKTeiL (supervisors Ahlborn, Ritz)
    The old military training area harbours several old village sites which have been abandoned during different periods within the last 120 years. By vegetation analyses the potential establishment of synanthropic plant species (e.g. ornamental shrubs, fruit trees, and geophytes) is studied in comparison with historical data from these sites.

Internship level:

  • Analysis of Genotyping-by-Sequencing (GBS) data from wild dogrose species (Rosa sect. Caninae L.) (supervisors Herklotz, Ritz)
    The most common wild roses, the dogroses, are allopolyploids with an ancient hybridogenic origin but exrtant species hybridise frequently. The aim is to analyse genetic diversity patterns on a spatial level with the focus on detection of independent hybridisation events. This thesis focusses on bioinformatic work, because raw sequencing data has already been produced.

Vascular Plants – Ecology and Conservation

Theses Master level:

  • Traditional knowledge of plants from herders in eastern Mongolian steppes (supervisors Jäschke / Wesche)
    The work will be based on a BMBF project, Morestep: Mobility at risk: Sustaining the Mongolian Steppe Ecosystem (, a collaborative and interdisciplinary research project of Mongolian and German partners. We aim to identify societal changes and ecological processes, as well as the interaction and feedbacks between vegetation, wildlife, livestock, and herder livelihoods, under the challenges of urbanization and climate change. We seek to contribute to the sustainable development of the Mongolian steppe ecosystem. Herders play essential roles in sustaining Mongolia’s economy and rangeland conditions. We believe a high level of ecological knowledge among herders is beneficial for pasture management. But basically, we would need to know the level of their knowledge. You need to a) do a small literature review on herder knowledge of plants, forage, and grassland degradation in Mongolian steppes; b) summarize and analyze questionnaire results, which are already digitized, to assess different levels of traditional knowledge based on specific questions related to plants, and c) investigate the connections between climate, vegetation, and traditional plant knowledge.

  • Changes in functional traits of arable weeds through time based on herbarium material (Wesche, Herklotz)
    This work is a follow-up of a thesis where we studied morphological changes through time based on digitally available data from three main herbaria in Europe. In spite of dramatic declines of populations in situ and high threat of arable weeds, did size of individuals not show any negative trends, and if any slight increases in size. We want to validate this surprising result by broadening the database, including more species but also more herbaria. To that end, physical visits to some of the larger herbaria in Germany (Frankfurt, Jena) will be needed. The thesis complements our studies on genetic structures in arable weed species.
  • Seed banks of ponds of the “Oberlausitzer Heide- und Teichlandschaft”. MoSaiKTeiL (Wesche, Ahlborn)
    Ponds are excellent custodians for the seeds of many types of plants. The frequent dry out offer species to germinate from time to time, and differing water levels offer aquatic and terrestrial habitats. This study aims at a better understanding of the composition of ponds in eastern Saxony. The work requires field work in the study region and the motivation to determine seeds from soil samples.

  • Evaluation of the vegetation of ponds of the “Oberlausitzer Heide- und Teichlandschaft” using drones and satellite data. MoSaiKTeiL (Wesche, Ahlborn)
    Ponds can provide habitats for a large variety of organisms. Quality and quantity are often determined by the surrounding vegetation structure. This work focuses on the quantification of the vegetation within and around ponds and its links to other organisms using drone data. The work requires basic knowledge of the software QGIS, field work is optional.

  • Transfer of mosses and lichens in Pine forests and sand dunes. MoSaiKTeiL (Wesche, Ahlborn)
    Natural succession and nutrient enrichment are threatening the biodiversity of open habitats. Frequent disturbance is a necessary measure for nature conservation, but the re-colonization of several species is dependent on the availability of propagules from the surrounding environment. This work focuses on the question whether the transfer of mosses and lichens is a cost-effective tool for the restauration of open habitats. Available from 2025 and onwards.

Internship level:

Lichens & Mosses

Theses Master level:

  • Long-term biodiversity dynamics in Görlitzer Heide forest
    Görlitzer Heide forest is part of one of the largest coherent woodland areas in Central Europe. Its historical lichen (and bryophyte) flora is well documented in our herbarium by 120 years old collections with precise locality indications. This master project is to explore the contemporary lichen (and/or bryophyte) flora at the historical sites and to analyse the changes. Relevant factors that may have affected biodiversity dynamics include forestry methods, environmental pollution and climate change. Methods will include field work (best option: bicycle) and laboratory studies (microscopy, chromatography, comparison of herbarium specimens).

  • Potential of dead wood from 20th century forest dieback for biodiversity of lichens in mountains of the German-Polish-Czech border triangle
    Large-scale forest dieback due to “acid rain” caused by industrial air pollution was the most recognized environmental catastrophe of the 20th century in Central Europe and gave a mighty impetus to the emergence of the “Green” movement. The German-Polish-Czech border triangle was the region that suffered most of all. Forty years later, due to severe environmental regulations, this is history already and the forests have recovered. However, timber from those dieback events has partly remained in the forests. Given the importance of deadwood for several organisms including lichens, and the removal of most of the timber by forestry far before the natural death of trees in most forests, that timber left over from the forest dieback appears now valuable for otherwise rare lichens. This master project is to explore the potential of that timber for preservation of rare lichens. A focus will be in the Karkonosze National Park where no removal of timber has taken place. Methods will include field work and laboratory studies  (microscopy, chromatography, comparison of herbarium specimens).
  • Ecology of epiphytic Orthotrichaceae (Bryophyta: Musci)
    Orthotrichaceae, in particular the genera Orthotrichum and Ulota, are rich in species, a part of which has been described only recently. It is our most important family of bryophytes growing on trees. In the past, species had suffered from air pollution in many parts of Europe, but are now recovering. This master thesis is to find out how the species differ in their ecology (preferred habitat, tree species and so on). Besides your own fieldwork, the study would include analysis of our rich, but so far undetermined collections from the Caucasus Mts, the Carpathians and other regions of Europe. Methods: microscopy, comparison of herbarium specimens, some field work.

  • Caucasian-East Asian taxonomic interrelations in lichens
    The Caucasus is known as a “hotspot” of biodiversity. Most European lichen species occur here, but, in addition, also species not known from Europe. This master project is to find out whether these latter species are still unknown ones to be described as new to science, or whether they can be affiliated to taxa that are already known, in particular from East Asia. The work will mostly be based on material from our collections, applying standard taxonomic methods, including microscopic studies, identification of lichen compounds by chromatography, and, where appropriate, genetic barcoding, and also comparison of herbarium specimens.

  • Lichen diversity of arid regions of Asia
    Diversity of lichens of considerable parts of Asia is still poorly explored. Several of our expeditions to countries as Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan and also Iran have revealed much material that remained unidentified so far. This master project is to taxonomically revise selected groups of lichens, to try to affiliate the material to known species or to detect and describe unknown ones, and to fix their distribution and ecology. Methods will include standard taxonomic methods (microscopy, thin layer chromatography, herbarium comparisons).

  • More topics
    If interested in doing something related to biodiversity of your country, or something particular else, feel free to contact me in order to find out options.

Internship level:

  • Selected aspects of cryptogamic diversity
    The topics “Ecology of epiphytic Orthotrichaceae (Bryophyta: Musci)”, “Caucasian-East Asian taxonomic interrelations in lichens” and “Lichen diversity of arid regions of Asia” described above for master thesis projects, are also available for internships, in a reduced version.

  • Potential of Görlitz’ cemeteries for bryophyte diversity
    In an urban environment, cemeteries are “green islands”, supporting a variety of habitats with e.g. different tree species and several types of stone substrate. This is particularly true for the cemeteries of Görlitz, where the administration is willing to support biodiversity. The internship is to study the diversity of bryophytes on the cemeteries of Görlitz in relation to relevant ecological factors.

  • Overlooked diversity – the lichenicolous fungi
    A widely neglected part of biological diversity is the fungi inhabiting lichens, with many species still undescribed. The internship is to study our lichen collection in terms of presence of fungi on the lichen specimens and either affiliation to known species or detection of potentially unknown ones.


For mycological topics please contact Dr. Ulrike Damm directly.