Laboratory Scientist

Current Research Projects

The Frontiers in Evolutionary Zoology members work with a variety of projects on animal systematics, biodiversity, genomics, and evolution.

 

Some of our projects are highlighted below. Apart from them we also conduct several other projects related with our research interests. Do not hesitate to contact us in case you want to know more!


Phylogeny and Evolution of Lophotrochozoan Invertebrates based on Genomic Data

The RCN-funded FriPro project “InvertOmics – Phylogeny and evolution of lophotrochozoan invertebrates based on genomic data” addresses how the different lophotrochozoan (also called spiralian) phyla are related to each other. To this end, we will generate high-quality genomes for 50 species covering all lophotrochozoan phyla using modern sequencing technology under the umbrella of The European Reference Genome Atlas (ERGA) (https://www.erga-biodiversity.eu/) and The Earth Biogenome Project (EBP)  (https://www.earthbiogenome.org/). Additionally, we will also develop new bioinformatic tools to mitigate the intrinsic problems in reconstructing the phylogeny of Lophotrochozoa. If you are interested in working in this line of research or in collaboration please contact Torsten H. Struck.

InvertOmics

Team: Alberto Valero-Gracia, James Fleming, Stian Aleksander Helsem, Lee Hsiang Liow, Lutz Bachmann and Torsten Struck at the NHM (Norway); Alexander Suh at the University of East Anglia (UK); Kenneth M. Halanych at Auburn University (USA); and Nickellaus Roberts and Kevin Kocot at the University of Alabama (USA).

Funding body: The Research Council of Norway



This is project funded by ArtsDatabanken, where we assess the biodiversity of marine invertebrates. This time we are concentrating on the annelid family Cirratulidae with over 300 known species occurring a variety of habitats. The family is poorly known from Norway with 24 species being recorded, but there are many more undescribed and possibly cryptic species, especially in the deep sea. On the other hand, extensive collections of specimens, registered and unregistered, are present in the Norwegian natural history museums. Herein we aim to assess the diversity of the group in Norwegian waters and map them at a fine scale over a very large geographic area using this material instead of collecting new ones. We will apply museomic approaches to obtain barcoding genes from this material. If you are interested in working in this line of research or in collaboration, please contact Torsten H. Struck.

Cirratulid polychaetes in Norwegian waters: A museum based approach to species diversity and distribution

Team: Rita Mavis Austin and Torsten H. Struck; Arne Nygren  (University of Gothenborg, Sweden); María Capa (University of the Balearic Islands, Spain).

Funding body: artsdatabanken.no

Biodiversity Genomics Norway

“EBP-Nor – A Norwegian BioGenome initiative: the initial Launch phase”

 

We are also involved in the Norwegian EBP (https://www.earthbiogenome.org/) project lead by Kjetill S. Jacobsen of the University of Oslo. This project is a huge consortium comprising, at present, besides UiO 10 other Norwegian institutions. The Research Council of Norway funded it as a Collaborative and Knowledge-building project. The final goal is to sequence the genomes of all eukaryotic species occurring in Norway, estimated to 45,000 species, to chromosome level, if possible. In the initial phase, we will establish the infrastructure and protocols to go to large scale in the next phases. Moreover, our group is responsible to coordinate the sample prioritization in invertebrates together with Andreas Hejnol from UiB. We also contribute with our expertise about challenging samples, especially those of small size. If you are interested in working in this line of research or in collaboration, please contact Torsten H. Struck.

Team: Torsten Struck and Arild Johnsen (SERG); Kjetill S. Jacobsen, Carl Henrik Gørbitz, Ole Kristian Tørresen and Thomas Marcussen (UiO, NMBU, UiB, NTNU, Uni Nord and UiT), the research institute SINTEF, and the non-academic institutions REVOcean, the Life Science Cluster, the Norwegian Environment Agency, and ArcticZymes Technologies.

Funding body: The Research Council of Norway

Biodiversity Assessment
"Assessing Biodiversity in the Marine Algae Belt"

In the RCN-funded ArtsDatabanken project "Assessing biodiversity in the marine algae belt", we will investigate the distribution of species occurring in different marine habitats such as kelp forests, seagrass meadows and red algae patches in the intertidal and shallow subtidal zone along the entire Norwegian coast line. The project concentrates on species from sea squirts, ribbon worms, nick worms, serpulid worms, spionid worms and skeleton shrimps. In the project, we will combine all aspects of modern taxonomic research including field work, species identification & delineation, DNA barcoding and distribution mapping. If you are interested in working in this line of research or in collaboration please contact Torsten H. Struck.

 

Team: Ana Teresa Capucho, Alberto Valero-Gracia, Marianne Nielsen Haugen, and Torsten Struck at the NHM (Norway); Sonja Leidenberger at the University of Skøvde (Sweden); Matz Berggren at the University of Uppsala (Sweden); Joern von Doehren at the University of Bonn (Germany); and Tomas Stach at the Humboldt University (Germany).

Funding body: artsdatabanken.no

MuseOmics

MuseOmics, the application of molecular techniques on museum collections, has revealed otherwise invisible knowledge about the past and the natural world. Housing the largest natural history collections in Norway, the Natural History Museum Oslo collections are an invaluable resource for the application of museomics. Through strategic sampling, protocol optimization, and tracing the origin of specific samples, we are conducting collection-based museomics on various species and time periods. Several on-going projects include generating mitochondrial genome reference sequences from type (species defining) specimens, exploring the the potential of multiple genetic species of Australian greater gliders, and student training in specialized laboratory techniques and analyses. If you are interested in working in this line of research or in collaboration, please contact Lutz Bachmann or Rita Austin.

Team: Rita M. Austin, Torsten H. Struck,

and Lutz Bachmann .

Funding body: The Natural History Museum of Oslo

Cryptic Species

While some radiations have undergone extreme changes in the phenotype, others, namely cryptic species have barely changed for millions of years despite demonstrable speciation events. It is, therefore, intriguing to ask how this cryptic diversity and low level of disparity came into being and how it was maintained without any changes in the entire body for so long. Accordingly, we study cryptic species holistically ranging from integrative taxonomy to population genomics and ecology. We had and have projects in this direction on worms and beetles funded by internal positions from the 'Kulturdepartment'.
If you are interested in working in this line of research or in collaboration please contact Torsten Struck or Vladimir Gusarov.

Team: Marianne Nilsen Haugen, Torsten Struck,

and Vladimir Gusarov 

Funding body: The Natural History Museum of Oslo

Bioinformatics
A major problem in phylogenetic or phylogenomic studies is that they might be hampered by signal stemming from other process than the descent-with-modification process. Therefore, we are developing new methods to ameliorate the impact of such processes in phylogenetic reconstructions. Part of this research is integrated in the FRIPRO project “InvertOmics”, where  we will also develop novel and innovative bioinformatic methods and tools to ameliorate the effects of the misleading biases even better. Moreover, this will also include a new support measurement, which is entirely different from all recent measurements. If you are interested in working in this line of research or in collaboration please contact Torsten Struck.

Team: James Fleming, Alberto Valero-Gracia,

and Torsten Struck

Funding body: The Natural History Museum of Oslo

The East Greenland Svalbard Barents Sea Stock of Bowhead Whales

The East Greenland Svalbard Barents Sea stock (previously referred to as the Spitsbergen stock) of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) was hunted to near extinction, and the consequences of more than three centuries of extensive whaling for the East Greenland Svalbard Barents Sea bowhead whale stock have been intensively discussed both by researchers and conservation and management bodies such as e.g. the IWC and the IUCN. The lack of genomic baseline data renders it impossible to predict and/or to test the impacts of various stressors on the population. The project addresses the genetic diversity from of Spitzbergen stock bowhead whales by analyzing nuclear and mitochondrial high-throughput sequencing data.
Further reading

Team: Lutz Bachmann, Øystein Wiig and Jose Cerca (NHM, UiO Oslo), Kit Kovacs and Christian Lydersen (Polar Institute Tromsø), Michael Westbury, Eline Lorenzen (GLOBE Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark), Olga Shpak (independent scientist, Charkiv, Ukraine and Severtsov Institute, Moscow, Russia), Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen (Greenland Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark)

Lifting the Beach Towels - the subsurface invertebrate biodiversity of natural and artificial urban environments 
(application to the Research Council of Norway, February 2022)

The proposed LIFT project targets the biodiversity at natural and artificial sandy beaches in the city centre of Oslo, Norway, and the island of Sylt, Germany. Extensive fieldwork over a period of two years will provide the samples for comprehensive downstream analysis of selected invertebrate taxa using a combination of scientific approaches. Classical morphological species identification will be complemented by cutting-edge DNA barcoding and innovative DNA metabarcoding methodology in order to obtain most comprehensive datasets on the occurrence and abundance of the focal taxa, namely flatworms (Platyhelminthes), ringed worms (Annelida) and roundworms (Nematoda). These taxa contribute significantly to the biodiversity marine beaches, and will serve as proxies for invertebrate biodiversity. The obtained biodiversity information will be analysed for changes over time and the impact of human usage. The project will address the processes and dynamics of how newly built, artificial beaches recruit biodiversity. LIFT will also comprehensively assess the representation of meiofauna biodiversity on beaches in the scientific collections of natural history collections. Such collections are despite their potential underused information sources for societal challenges and projects. Doing so will contribute to putting scientific collections into an applied research and societal context as national heritage. Using beaches as example, LIFT will not only look at the size of collections and the numbers of samples therein but also assess the overall information content of scientific collections. This includes a review of extent specimen and metadata sampling strategies for natural history collections. Public outreach activities will promote the public’s scientific literacy and understanding of biodiversity and provide new ways for public outreach by means of a 'mobile laboratory' and a 'mobile exhibition'.
 

Team: Lutz Bachmann, Torsten Struck, Micah Dunthorn (EDGE)