By Jan Hanspach
My name is Jan and for a few months, I have now been working in Joern’s Sustainable Land Use group. During my university studies at the Martin-Luther-University in Halle I focused on plant ecology and vegetation science. My diploma thesis was about vegetation on rock fall sites in central Bolivia. I loved Bolivia and hope to get there again sometime. By the way, seeing the Andes was one of my childhood dreams and I was pretty happy when my feet touched that ground. Another dream came true when we roamed the Gobi desert during a university excursion to Mongolia, which is also where my interest for dryland ecology started.
Following my university studies, I moved to a research institute called the ‘Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research’ which is also in Halle. In my time there I learnt a lot about databases, statistics and GIS. Being in charge of various projects I got glimpses of many different fields of ecology. First, I analyzed which traits were related with introduced species becoming established and spreading in Germany. Invasion ecology is a fascinating topic though one must say that it feels much more relevant when you are outside of Europe. Later, I did a lot of species distribution modeling and predicted species distributions under climate and land use change scenarios. I got especially hooked on the prediction errors that are inherent to those models. I also did an analysis on the host plant limitation of butterfly distribution in Switzerland (still got to write the paper). In between, I did some vegetation surveys in Tibet (not among the childhood dreams but no less impressive), which further cemented my interest in central Asia.
It was last year that due to some coincidences and my extraordinary 😉 stat skills I was lucky to be contracted by Joern to jointly analyse some data and thereby visit Australia (another childhood dream: seeing all these weird marsupial creatures I knew only from my books). The analyses were about birds and bats in the grazing landscapes of southeastern Australia. Since then I have been on the course of getting into landscape ecology, sustainability science and our new study area in Transylvania. I am rather excited about my new tasks and hope to make some contribution not only in terms of scientific findings, but also in terms of the sustainability of land use in that unique region.