Exploring the intertidal…

The marine intertidal zone belongs to the most demanding environments of our oceans. Indeed, only few species ventured into this life-hostile ambience, but their adaptions are marvellous examples of how the natural world persists and evolves under extreme environmental conditions. My PhD research focuses on the diversification, evolution and ecology of intertidal organisms. I use a variety of tools, from molecular (e.g. whole genomic) to morphological (e.g. micro-computed CT) and ecological applications to investigate my study systems.

PhD Project:
Speciation in pebble beaches
Exploring an interstitial fish radiation

Mostly invisible to the human eye, miniaturised and characterized by a hidden lifestyle, “cryptobenthic” fishes are among the scientifically most understudied groups of vertebrates on this planet. Denoted as the “hidden half”, cryptobenthic fish diversity is thought to be considerably underestimated, with many new species having been described in the recent past. However, the discovery of entire new groups of vertebrates that have been overlooked for more than two centuries are rare, and in an era dominated by species extinction even more interesting for biologists and the public alike. What astonishes me most, nonetheless, is the fact that I stumbled upon this peculiar system in one of the best studied marine basins in the world, the Mediterranean Sea and above all in a very unexpected scene: Right underneath the toes of thousands of clueless people who are about to take an invigorating bathe, I found a group of small fishes that defy successfully the extremely harsh conditions of the intertidal zone, since millions of years.

Preface of my PhD proposal for a DOC-Scholarship (Austrian Academy of Science)


Funding and period

For this project, I received a 3-year fully funded DOC-Scholarship from the Austrian Academy of Science:

2019/07/01 – 2022/07/01


The major goal of this PhD-project is to investigate the underlying taxonomic, evolutionary as well as bio- and ecological factors that help to explain the radiation of the Mediterranean intertidal cryptobenthic fish genus Gouania

Get regular updates about my project on: