May 2020
Martin Kaltenpoth appointed new director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
The Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology is happy to welcome a new director: Martin Kaltenpoth was appointed Scientific Member by the Max Planck Society in March. The Chair of Evolutionary Ecology at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz is currently performing his new duties as a secondary appointee and plans to establish his new Department of Insect Ecology and Evolution from February 2021.
An evolutionary biologist who already headed a Max Planck Research Group at the Jena MPI, Kaltenpoth is investigating insect symbioses. Symbioses between insects and microorganisms are ubiquitous in nature and play an extremely important role in the ecology and evolution of their hosts. For example, bacteria are important for opening up new habitats, digesting food and providing defenses against enemies. Martin Kaltenpoth wants to understand symbiotic partnerships from single molecules to the fitness consequences of the interacting partners under laboratory and field conditions. The goal of his research is to characterize the diversity of bacterial symbionts in insects and their importance for the ecology of the hosts, and to understand their evolutionary origin. In addition, he is interested in the physiological and genomic consequences of symbiotic lifestyles and wants to find out which molecular mechanisms determine the specificity of symbioses. For his studies, he uses a combination of ecological experiments, phylogenetic analyses and molecular biological, chemical-analytical and microbiological methods on a number of different model organisms, such as solitary digger wasps, fire bugs, vinegar flies and various beetle species.
Martin Kaltenpoth was a fellow of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation; his research was funded by the European Union, the German Research Foundation and the Volkswagen Foundation, among others. He was awarded the Thuringian Research Prize in 2015 for his groundbreaking work on the protective symbiosis between the European beewolf and bacteria which produce antibiotically active substances on the cocoons of these insects, thereby protecting the offspring from mold fungi. In 2019, he received an ERC Consolidator Grant for his project on the symbiont-assisted biosynthesis of the beetles’ cuticles, which could contribute to their evolutionary success as a key innovation.

April 8, 2020
Franziska Eberl receives the Beutenberg Campus Science Prize for the best junior scientist
Beutenberg Campus e.V.  will award Franziska Eberl from the Department of Biochemistry (project group “Chemical Ecology of Anti-Herbivore Defenses in Poplar” led by Sybille Unsicker) the Science Prize “Life Sciences and Physics” for the best doctoral thesis in the field. The junior scientist, who finished her PhD thesis with a “summa cum laude”, studies the chemical ecology in a tripartite relationship between trees, insect herbivores and fungal pathogens. She investigates, for example, how the emission of volatile organic compounds changes when a poplar tree is simultaneously attacked by insects and pathogenic fungi. The sophisticated application of different physical methods makes this research possible and reflects the campus motto ‘Life Science meets Physics’ in the best possible manner. The prize in endowed with 1000 euros.