Prof. Marcus KochBiodiversität und Pflanzen­systematik

Evolutionary and biodiversity research in our department is focusing on levels of biological variation varying from molecules to landscapes with a focus on organismal biology.

In particular we focus on:

  • Plant systematics and phylogenetic relationships
  • Phylobiogeography - the distribution of genetic variation in space and time
  • Comparative analyses of plant genomes
  • The role of parallel evolution in plant diversification
  • Speciation processes and the dynamics of polyploidization
  • Conservation biology and landscape protection
  • Collection-based research and collection management


Research Highlights

Cruciferous plants mosaic

The advent of omic technologies opened new and multiple avenues to access higher levels of complexity. Taxonomy – discovering and naming biodiversity – has also entered a taxonomics epoch and serves as a tool not only to name biological diversity, but also to fully explore biological knowledge and to build bridges between disciplines.

Koch et al. 2018, Trends in Plant Sciences

In many projects we focus on cruciferous plants (mustard family, Brassicaceae). Our aim is to develop this group of more than 4000 species into one of the most important model systems of dicot plants - on the family level down to species level. This plant family provides some tremendous advantages and opportunities because of a broad spectrum of methods and techniques available, well-established theoretical concepts and explored model species, but also because of the many resources available ranging from databases to germplasm collections. Our group has built up major resources and launched a knowledge-databases called BrassiBase. Our collections are focusing on information being used to elaborate the significance of genetic variation and diversity for evolutionary processes on various spatio-temporal scales.

Our laboratory is the wilderness … evolutionary past is setting the scheme and the wild provides the experimental framing and the biological material.

Our projects most often requires substantial field work and subsequent experimental work, in-situ in the field on different continents and different habitats ranging from the Atacama Desert to the High European Alps and ex-situ at Heidelberg in the labs, the greenhouses and the Botanical Garden.

Therefore, our team is multidisciplinary and is networking towards various disciplines outside core biology (Heidelberg Center for the Environment, HCE). This in particular true for those projects focusing on various biodiversity aspects, especially CONSERVATION GENETICS of endangered plant species and KNOWLEDGE DATABASES of biological resources and biodiversity (e.g., WRHP project).

The Biodiversity Research Center has been awarded as “Innovation Star“ by Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region in 2010/2011 and since then the Biodiversity Research Center has been an institutional member of the Heidelberg Centre for the Environment until it has been restructured in 2021. Some of our broader aspects of biodiversity research questions are elaborated within the interdisciplinary research framework of the HCE, founded in 2011.

The Biodiversity and Plant Systematics department is also closely associated with the Heidelberg Botanic Garden and Herbarium (HEID) with its director Prof. Dr. Marcus Koch. Numerous research projects are largely dependent on the greenhouse facilities, gardeners expertise and the herbarium (HEID) with its more than 350.000 collection objects and which is continuously growing thanks to the ongoing biodiversity research at COS.

A first overview on our various actual activities might be obtained by screening publications of our group or detailed descriptions of some selected projects. And we regularly offer positions for the opportunity to obtain a Bachelor, Master or PhD degree.