Research Group

Molecular Evolutionary Biology

Our research aims at understanding organism-environment interactions using molecular tools. We address the following questions: Which genetic and genomic signatures (in populations, species and communities) are a result of environmental conditions? How do climatic factors influence the interaction of organisms, and what role do partners in a symbiosis and microbiomes play in this regard?

To study these questions we use comparative genomics, phylogenetics, population genetics and community ecology methods. We study lichens, i.e. a symbiosis of fungi, algae and bacteria, as well as plant- and soil-based fungal communities.


Prof. Dr. Imke Schmitt
Professor, Deputy Director 'Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre', Head of Research Group 'Molecular Evolutionary Biology'

Research interests

My primary research interest is the evolution of symbiotic organisms, in particular those that form partnerships with fungi. I have been using phylogenetics and comparative phylogenetics to analyze the evolutionary history of lichen-forming fungi and their characters. Since many fungal groups produce a wide variety of secondary metabolites, I am also interested in exploring the potential of phylogenetic methods in natural product chemistry to understand the evolution of chemical characters and biosynthetic genes. Currently my lab is studying the effects of climate change on the assembly of fungal communities associated with plant leaves and roots using next generation sequencing approaches. We want to find out, if the composition of symbiotic fungal communities affects local adaptation of the plants. My work integrates a variety of disciplines, such as molecular phylogenetics, systematics, natural product chemistry, and metagenomics.