Research Project Course or Bachelor thesis on effects of fungicides on leaf-litter microbes

In this post, we offer a Research Project Course (RPC)/Bachelor thesis on analyzing samples from a joint project with the German Environmental Protection Agency (Umweltbundesamt; UBA).

Exposure of leaf discs in the "Artificial stream and pond system" (photo by S. Mohr)

Exposure of leaf discs in the “Artificial stream and pond system” (photo by S. Mohr)

Fungicides are known to have the potential to affect a wide range of non-target organisms, including leaf-associated microorganisms. These microbes mediate two fundamental functions in stream ecosystems: first, they directly decompose leaf litter and thus incorporate its energy and nutrients into the food web. Second, they alter leaf material due to their activity, making it a more palatable and nutritious food source for leaf-shredding invertebrates (=conditioning).

In this context, within a larger project running in the UBA’s “Artificial stream and pond system“, the effects of a realistic spraying sequence with three fungicides is assessed and previously exposed and preserved leaf samples will be analyzed at the University Koblenz-Landau for their fungal biomass and community composition as well as their bacterial densities during an RPC/thesis.

The student carrying out this project will learn and apply the associated methods, i.e. quantifying ergosterol content of leaves as a proxy for fungal biomass via HPLC analyses, the determination of aquatic fungal species via their spore morphology as well as assessing bacterial abundances via epifluorescence microscopy. Moreover, the gained data will be assessed using appropriate statistical methods.

Exposed leaf discs (photo by S. Mohr)

Exposed leaf discs (photo by S. Mohr)

No preliminary knowledge regarding the methodology to assess leaf-associated microbes is necessary. However, some basic knowledge about working in the lab and how to analyze data is expected.

The student will be supervised by Jochen Zubrod (University Koblenz-Landau), Dr. Silvia Mohr, and Dr. René Gergs (both UBA).

Interested? Just drop me an email via

Some further reading can be found here.