What is the impact of invasive species on the original biodiversity of the habitats they invade? Why do invasions increase biodiversity in some cases and reduce it in others? Invasion processes, as they are known, are one of the core research interests of the world-renowned ecologist Tiffany Knight. The American environmental researcher focusses in particular on the interaction between plants, microorganisms, pollinators and herbivores. She uses a variety of methodological and theoretical approaches deriving from population biology and evolutionary research. A special feature of her research is that she studies these interactions across different ecosystems as well. Her work on the connections between fish populations in ponds and the stocks of plant-pollinating insects on land are seen as a breakthrough in biodiversity research. She discovered, for example, that plant pollinators tend to avoid ponds where there are no fish; instead, these ponds attract a larger number of dragonflies, which feed on insects. Knight’s task at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig will be to create a focus for content generated by the various areas of ecological research, from molecular research to green corridors. In her role as an Alexander von Humboldt Professor, she will also address general issues in her field such as plant rarity or plant invasiveness.
Nominating University: Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in combination with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ Leipzig
Prof. Dr. Tiffany Knight
born in the USA in 1975, is currently an Associate Professor and Director of the Environmental Studies Program at Washington University in St Louis, USA. She read biology at Florida State University, Tallahassee, and holds a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh. Having worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California in Santa Barbara, Knight moved to Washington University in 2005, initially as an Assistant Professor. In 2012, she was a visiting researcher at the University of Hawai‘i, Honolulu, and in 2014/2015 she conducted research at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig. She is a member of the Botanical Society of America and the Ecological Society of America. In February 2016 she took up her position as a Humboldt Professor in Halle/Wittenberg and Leipzig.