Barbara Kofler

Department of Behavioral and Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna

■  Nationality: Italy

■  Supervisor: Dr. Sabine Tebbich

■  Key topics: Coevolutionary dynamics of a newly evolving host-parasite system (behavioural ecology, conservation biology)


PhD project:

In the Galápagos archipelago, the recently established host-parasite system between the invasive parasitic fly Philornis downsi and its main hosts the Darwin's finches offers an extraordinary opportunity to study coevolutionary dynamics at early stages of interaction.

My work aims to shed more light into ecological and evolutionary processes that drive a forward shift in the parasites life cycle. I also want to find out if and how Darwin's finches are able to compensate for the damaging effect of parasitism and why our two model species, the Warbler finch (Certhidea olivacea) and the Small tree finch (Camarhynchus parvulus) are differently affected. Moreover, my project aims to provide important information for the development of effective conservation measures to protect the Galápagos avifauna.

Past experiences:

During my master study "Ecology and Ecosystems" at the University of Vienna, I developed a particular interest in ecosystem dynamics, behaviour and evolution, especially in avian communities. I gained experience in common field techniques for studying birds and started working as self-employed biologist for ecological consulting agencies and NGOs. At the same time I worked as nature tour guide and eco-educator at the Nationalpark Neusiedler See - Seewinkel. There I had the chance to improve my skills in field ornithology and to share my knowledge with the aim of raising people´s awareness for environmental and nature conservation issues.

In the framework of my master thesis and beyond, I was ambitious about studying avian movement patterns and bird migration phenology. I started a research project to study local population dynamics in the non-model species Emberiza schoeniclus at Lake Neusiedl by the use of stable isotope tracking and geometric morphometrics.

Outside the lab:

Beside my research, I enjoy spending time with friends and my family and from time to time I go dancing at a concert. I travel with pleasure. I like visiting quiet and pristine destinations and seeing different types of natural habitats and the wildlife that lives there. In the same way I enjoy to experience and get to know art and culture from all over the world. I am a lover of literature, various types of music and poetry, crafts and visual arts, especially painting and photography.