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ERC Starting Grant awarded to Dr. Sebastian Höhn

Dr. Sebastian Höhna is one of four receipents at LMU of a prestigeous Starting Grant of the European Research Council (ERC).


The project funding of an ERC Starting Grant amounts to approximately 1.5 million euros. It is awarded on the basis of the scientific excellence of the applicant and the proposed project and is one of the most prestigious research grants in Europe. Dr. Sebastian Höhna leads an Emmy Noether research group at LMU's GeoBio Center. One focus of his work is the development of new statistical models and software to study the phylogeny of living organisms.

The new project

Biodiversity is modeled by the process of speciation and extinction.There is clear evidence from both living and extinct species that biodiversity is extremely variable through time and among species. However, we still do not know what factors drive speciation and extinction rates on a macroevolutionary level (that is, beyond species boundaries). In his MacDrive project, Sebastian Höhna proposes to combine statistical, computational, neontological – i.e. relating to species living today – and paleobiological approaches to study macroevolutionary dynamics. Höhna plans to develop new statistical models to estimate time varying and lineage-specific speciation and extinction rates. To test the new methods, he will analyze the evolution of four large systematic groups and investigate whether diversification and extinction rates are correlated with environmental factors or species-specific traits. Ultimately, Höhna will test if specific traits are correlated with mass extinction survival probabilities, as for example the Lilliput Effect predicts smaller species to have higher survival probabilities. With his project, Höhna wants to contribute to a better understanding of the effects of the current biodiversity crisis.