- Professor, University of Oldenburg, Germany
- Director, University of Guam Marine Laboratory, 2008-2010
- Associate Professor, University of Guam Marine Laboratory, 2007-2010
- Assistant Professor, University of Guam Marine Laboratory, 2003-2007
2000 PhD in Pharmaceutical Biology, University of Würzburg, Germany
1993 Masters of Science in Biology (Diplom), Major in Limnology (Freshwater Biology), University of Konstanz, Germany
1992 Master of Science in Biology, Major in Marine Biology, University of Guam, USA;
1987 Bachelor in Biology, University of Mainz, Germany
- 2010; “Rückkehr deutscher Wissenschaftler aus dem Ausland" Award of the Alfred-Krupp-von-Bohlen und Halbach-Stiftung, Germany (€ 100,000)
- 2007; Associate Member, Cancer Research Center Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.
- 2003; Denise Terrill Classic Award from the Texas Neurofibromatosis Foundation ($20,000).
Three-year fellowship from the Alexander-von-Humboldt-Foundation, May 2000 until 2003
- Research interests include chemical and microbial ecology and biodiversity of marine invertebrates, as well as ecotoxicology. The core research program investigates secondary metabolites from marine invertebrates and associated bacteria for their ecological function as well as potential pharmaceutical properties.
- Chemical Ecology: Research investigating marine biodiversity aims to understand the ecological function of secondary metabolites from marine invertebrates. To gain a better understanding of the ecological roles of secondary metabolites we are assessing their possible allelopathic, signaling and defense functions in selected marine invertebrates. One goal is to combine the chemical ecology research with management-oriented studies to develop new management techniques and strategies to help preserve or improve Guam's and the region’s coral reefs. One focus is the identification of settlings cues for corals and other important reef-building organisms. Another project investigates the role of chemical signaling in the Crown of Thorn Starfish (COTS) Acanthaster planci. In particular we are interested in the role of possible feeding cues and if these could be exploited for Acanthaster management (attractants in traps).
- Marine Natural Products Research and Biodiversity: Besides our investigations on the ecological role of marine secondary metabolites we are looking at their pharmacological potential as new drug candidates. Target organisms include sponges and ascidians from deep water environments ranging from 100 to 400 feet. We extract the organisms and screen the extracts in collaboration with groups in Hawaii, the mainland US, Germany and partners in the pharmaceutical industry for possible anticancer and antiinfectant properties. Active extracts are followed up with state of the art isolation techniques to identify the active compounds. Structure elucidation is again done in collaboration with groups in Hawaii, Japan, and Germany. In addition to the screening of marine invertebrates we also catalog the biodiversity of the collected specimens. We employ traditional taxonomic techniques and take small DNA samples for “bar coding” of the collected specimens. We have identified several leads from our extract collection (currently we have an extract library of 400 extracts) and these are being followed up with structure elucidation and more detailed screens.
- Ecotoxicology: Projects investigate the effect of pesticides, herbicides, antifouling paints and other anthropogenic chemicals (e.g. PCBs) on fitness and survival of coral larvae. We are also assessing the potential of different marine invertebrates (soft corals) as biomonitoring organisms for tropical regions.
- Microbial Ecology: The main focus of my overall research is on associations between microorganisms and invertebrates and how these associations are regulated and maintained (we use sponges as model organisms). Molecular techniques such as Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (DGGE) are used to characterize the bacterial communities involved in the complex interactions between the invertebrates and microorganisms and to monitor how stable these associations are.
- Another important aspect of my microbial work is the search for novel bacteria as producers of pharmacologically interesting leads. In order to cultivate so far “unculturable” bacteria from marine invertebrates we use innovative culturing techniques to explore the associated microbial diversity. Isolates are subsequently analyzed for their secondary metabolite profile to see what they contribute to the invertebrate chemistry. In addition all crude extracts and isolated compounds are screened for potential interesting pharmaceutical properties (this involves collaborations with researchers in Germany and the USA). Again we identified several producers of pharmacologically active extracts from our microbial culture collection (currently we have 300 pure strains in cryo-culture) which are currently under investigation for the active compounds.