Functional morphology and evolution
I am interested in the relationship between form and function in organisms. My research combines the study of functional morphology with elements of biomechanics, ecology and evolutionary biology. I use carnivorous pitcher plants as a model system to investigate how trap morphology (form) influences prey capture (function), and how in return functional demands (effective prey attraction, slipperiness of trapping surfaces for prey animals, adaptations for capturing different prey) and constraints (developmental constraints, habitat factors, prey availability) have contributed to 'shape' the traps over evolutionary times. The availability of several unrelated genera of pitcher plants with published phylogenies based on molecular data and the large variation of trap designs and nutrient acquisition strategies in this group provide a unique opportunity to study the evolution of functional plant morphology.
Since early 2004, my research has focused on carnivorous pitcher plants, gradually 'evolving' from mechanistic to ecological and evolutionary questions. After completing an undergraduate degree in General Biology at the University of Würzburg, Germany, I came to Cambridge in October 2006 to start a Ph.D. in the Insect Biomechanics Group of Dr Walter Federle in the Department of Zoology. Since October 2010, I am a Henslow Research Fellow of the Cambridge Philosophical Society at Robinson College, Cambridge, and have joined the Department of Plant Sciences in February 2011.