My main research interest is to understand the influence of extrinsic - environment and (recent) anthropogenic history – and intrinsic factors – species traits – on species distributions and population persistence. To examine effects shaping distributions, I use species distribution models for extrinsic and population genetics – including landscape genetics – for intrinsic factors. To determine causes of distribution changes over time, I focus on past and future influences of mining related activities. I am interested in the influence of a species degree of specialisation, reproductive mode and (genetic and behavioural) mating system on its population structure. My study species are West African amphibians, with a geographic focus on Guinea and Liberia. Additionally, I participate in taxonomic studies and environmental impact assessments (EIA).
The Nimba Projects are annual projects conducted since 2007 in and around the World Heritage Site Nimba Mountains mainly in Guinea, West Africa. The goal of these projects is to understand the influence of environment and (anthropogenic) environmental change on the composition of amphibian assemblages and individual abundances in general; and riparian assemblages and the Nimba toad in particular. Two of the highlights of working in this biodiversity hotspot – with the highest known amphibian diversity for West Africa – are the existing data of the amphibian assemblages in the 1940s/1950s and the known recent anthropogenic history of the area. This allows us to examine current environment-amphibian relationships and assess past influences on this connection. Additionally, the scientific research is the basis for conservation recommendations.
The Nimba projects are financed by annual grant agreements with the Société des Mines de Fer Guinée (SMFG). Research questions are formulated in annual proposals and results described in annual reports. The data is the intellectual property of the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin.
As an ecologist I am convinced that knowing the species occurring within a study site is of utmost importance for sound scientific research. Hence, I am participating in taxonomic projects with the goal to revise existing or to describe new species, either recorded in the field by me and my team or by others. For example, I participated in the revisions of the taxonomic status of the Liberian Nimba toad, the description of Arthroleptis formosus, Odontobatrachus arndti and a few Phrynobatrachus and Arthrolrptis species; the resurrection of Phrynobatrachus maculiventris to species level and recorded range extensions of Arthroleptis krokosua, Arthroleptis aureoli and Phrynomantis microps.
Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA) are mandatory by international law for large scale economic projects. The goal of these assessments is to develop management plans which will result in no biodiversity net loss caused by the conducted economic projects. In West Africa and particularly in Guinea, small- and large-scale mining proejcts are already operational or will be operational in the future and likely their number - and the area impacted - will increase. These assessments need to be based on sound scientific biodiversity studies. Mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, I headed the amphibian team (field, laboratory and reporting), or as part of the team determined species by genetic and morphological methods for several ESIAs.