21 January 2013

Big grant for young researcher to uncover the history of species communities


Life on Earth is organized into different animal and plant communities, but how this organization takes place is one of ecology’s great unanswered questions. With a grant of DKK 3.900.000, postdoc Katharine Ann Marske from the University of Copenhagen aims to get one step closer to the answer. Together with five other UCPH researchers she receives a research grant from the VILLUM FONDATION’s Young Investigator Programme.

Katharine Ann Marske.

Katharine Ann Marske. Download picture in high resolution.

Postdoc Katharine Ann Marske plans to combine observations of where species are currently found with genetic information on where they occurred in the past:

“I want to develop an integrative framework that can be used for any species from any region of the world in determining what factors have shaped their communities through time”, says Katharine Ann Marske from Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate.

Her field of research is phylogeography, which is the study of how genetic diversity within species is related to historical processes.

Katharine Ann Marske will use DNA to detect how species have responded to past environmental change, together with cutting-edge methods that examines both evolutionary and contemporary influences on the composition of communities.

How communities of species are formed is not only a question for ecologists. With numerous species facing climate change and increased habitat pressure, such information is essential to understand how species will react in the future.

Frogs, salamanders and beetles

Focusing on amphibians and beetles in particular, she will investigate the influence of large-scale historical processes such as the last ice age together with more local environmental factors and natural dispersal limitations.

“Amphibians make an interesting model group because they are significantly exposed to environmental threats such as climate change, disease and land use change and are expected to be poor dispersers. Beetles, on the other hand, can be found in nearly every land ecosystem and represent the largest known component of biodiversity,” says Katharine Ann Marske on her choice of study species.

About the award

This is the second year that the VILLUM FONDATION is granting post docs and young associate professors with the Young Investigator Programme.

In total 19 researchers, six from the University of Copenhagen, receive DKK 93.000.000 for their research and employment of new PhDs and post docs.

The grants are awarded at the ceremony for the Villum Kann Rasmussen's Annual Award for Technical and Scientific Research which goes to Professor Carsten Rahbek from Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate.

Presentation of the awards takes place at 3 pm on January 23rd 2013. The press is welcome to attend.

The following UCPH researchers will also receive grants from the Young Investigator Programme

Associate Professor Jacco van de Streek
Department of Pharmacy
DKK 7.000.000
Changing Scales in Computational Materials Science.

Associate Professor Tom Vosch
Department of Chemistry
DKK 5.900.000
Development of new silver nanocluster fluorophores for fluorescence nanoscopy.

Postdoc Tais Wittchen Dahl
Natural History Museum of Denmark

DKK 3.100.000
Oxygen Regulation on Earth - Testing Hypotheses for Early Animal Evolution.

Postdoc David García
Niels Bohr Institute

DKK 3.500.000
Controlling the conductor-insulator phase transition for light.

Postdoc Raquel Sanchez Perez
Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences

DKK 3.900.000
The molecular mechanisms to break flower bud dormancy in fruit trees.


Postdoc Katherine Ann Marske
Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate
Mobile: +45 31 40 64 74

Lars Arnskov Olsen
Mobile: +45 21 16 49 61 

Eva Beckmann
Mobile: 20 84 20 85