Department Aquatic Ecology

Environmental Change and Adaptation

Adaptation of natural populations to environmental change: dynamics and interactions

We aim to understand responses of natural populations to natural and human induced environmental change at ecological time scales (i.e. within a few generations). We study ecological and evolutionary responses of natural populations to environmental stress (acidification, micropollutants), spatio-temporal dynamics of natural selection, and the molecular mechanisms of adaptation.

Our research is primarily empirical but with a strong conceptual basis. We are interested in both basic science and applied questions. An important core in our research are interactions between agents of selection (e.g. single vs. multiple stressors; selection vs. gene flow), the quantitative and molecular genetic basis of adaptation (maternal vs. direct genetic effects) and those between ecological and evolutionary processes.

Our current main lines of empirical research are:

  1. Molecular mechanisms of adaptive maternal effects (in amphibians in Sweden)
  2. Eco-evolutionary interactions in space and time (in stickleback and arctic charr in Iceland)
  3. Eco-evolutionary responses to climate change (in alpine stream invertebrates in Switzerland)
  4. Impacts of micropollutants on aquatic ecosystems (we participate in the interdisciplinary project EcoImpact)


Dr. Katja RäsänenTel. +41 58 765 5186Send Mail


Current Projects

Understanding how environmental stress drives shifts in species distribution and intra-specific phenotypic divergence with special emphasis on maternal effects that are key adaptations during early life-stages.
Our work investigates the evolution of natural populations in response to interacting forces of selection and gene flow, and the interactions between genetic variation, phenotypic plasticity and transgenerational effects in diversification.
Understanding the long-term responses of biological diversity to environmental change in an alpine cryptic species complex of Baetid mayflies.
EcoImpact is an Eawag-wide interdisciplinary research effort, strongly motivated by the planned modifications of the Swiss wastewater treatment plants.


Dr. Katja RäsänenTel. +41 58 765 5186Send Mail
Marco GiulioTel. +41 58 765 5796Send Mail
Dr. Elvira LafuenteTel. +41 58 765 5447Send Mail