Research Project at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Gamboa, Panama - 2019
"Comparative assessment of hearing thresholds in Neotropical bats"
In March/April 2019 I got to go as a co-principal investigator to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, where I measured hearing thresholds of Neo-tropical bat species. Using Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) measurements, we were able to estimate the hearing curves for several different bat species. Stay tuned for the results, which we hope to submit soon!
Research Project associated with my PhD at the LMU Munich - 2017-2020
"Impact of auditory feedback on the vocal development of pale spear-nosed bats"
Speech acquisition in humans is based on the perception and memorisation of auditory input and the gradual modification of self-emitted vocalisations to match this acoustic target. Humans and other vocal learning species have in common that if auditory feedback is lacking during vocal development, normal adult vocalisations cannot be acquired. In order to show the effect of auditory feedback on a promising vocal learning species, the pale spear-nosed bat, we compared vocalisations of hearing-impaired and normally hearing individuals. We hope to submit this study by the end of 2020, but if you want to have a first impression, read our proceedings paper.
January 2016 - April 2020
“Vocal Learning in the Pale Spear-Nosed Bat, Phyllostomus discolor”
I started my PhD in January 2016 at the Max Planck Institute of Psycholinguistics (The Netherlands), but conducted the practical work of my PhD project at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich (Germany). My work arose from a close collaboration between the Neurogenetics of Vocal Communication research group of Dr. Sonja Vernes, and the Wiegrebe Working Group of the Division of Neurobiology at the LMU and was at the interface of functional genetics, animal behaviour, and psycholinguistics. The focus of my PhD project was the investigation of vocal production learning, i.e. the ability to learn new vocalisations or modify known vocalisations through auditory experience, in the pale spear-nosed bat (Phyllostomus discolor). In my thesis, I highlighted the value of bats as a mammalian model system for the study of vocal learning and provided experimental evidence for the vocal learning capacity of the pale spear-nosed bat.
My thesis is currently still under embargo, but will be freely accessible end of October 2020.
The first paper resulting from my PhD project was published in 2018 in the journal Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences (Lattenkamp & Vernes, 2018). Together with my supervisor Dr. Sonja C. Vernes, I summarised problems faced by researchers studying vocal learning in different animal species and provided suggestions for a comparative approach for the cross-species investigation of this complex behavioural trait.
In order to show vocal learning in a species, it is important to investigate the baseline vocal repertoire of this species as well. To be able to show the acquisition of new vocalisations, I first needed to assess the pre-existing vocal repertoire of P. discolor. Thus, my colleagues and I described the vocalisations emitted by this species in a social roosting context (Lattenkamp, Shields et al., 2019).
The first behavioural study of my PhD was also published in 2018 in the Journal of Experimental Biology (Lattenkamp et al., 2018). Using a novel ultrasound setup, I was able to reliably elicit vocal emissions from isolated pale spear-nosed bats and demonstrated vocal usage learning in four pale spear-nosed bats.
With the help of the same setup, I was able to subsequently also show the directed change of the fundamental frequency of the calls of these bats according to acoustic playbacks, and was thus able to show the capacity for vocal production learning in this species (Lattenkamp et al., 2020).
Previous research projects
Independent side project - 2016
"Advertisement call of Stumpffia be"
In 2016 I got the chance to apply my knowledge in the fields of bioacoustics and programming in Matlab to my first small independent project. I contributed the bioacoustic analyses to a call description of a microhylid frog (Stumpffia be), which was published in Zootaxa (Lattenkamp et al., 2016).
Second Master's project - 2015
"Passive listening in Rhinolophus ferrumequinum"
Acoustics and Functional Ecology Group, Max-Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen, Germany
I conducted my second Master's thesis at the Max-Planck Institute for Ornithology (in Seewiesen, Germany) under the supervision of Dr. Goerlitz and Dr. Klemen Koselj. With the helpful assistance of Rožle Kaučič (a student intern), we built a spatial microphone-speaker-array and trained three greater horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) to perch opposite it. It was my first animal training experience and it was an exhausting, tedious, but likewise a rewarding and great experience. The setup enabled us to investigate how environmental acoustic cues guide the biosonar attention of this highly specialised echolocator. The project allowed me to gain my first insights into the field of bioacoustics and functional ecology. Experiences in bat handling and training were followed by echolocation call recording and analyses in Matlab and thus laid the foundations for my bioacoustic training. After a second round of recordings was conducted by Samuel Kaiser and Martina Großmann (Master student interns), our work on passive listening in R. ferrumequinum has been published in the Journal for Experimental Biology (Lattenkamp et al., 2018).
First Master's project - 2014/15
"Genetic diversity in Rana arvalis along a latitudinal eco-cline"
Department of Ecology and Genetics, Institute for Biology, Uppsala University, Sweden
For my first Master's project I worked under the supervision of Prof. Jacob Höglund and Prof. Anssi Laurila. As part of Maria Cortazar's PhD project I analysed variation at an major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II locus of moor frogs (Rana arvalis). Since the MHC is linked to the immunological fitness of a species, I investigated 180 samples from 9 populations to gain insides about the resistance capacity of these animals. My tasks included the usual preparatory work, such as DNA extraction and marker development, as well as detection of allelic polymorphism by use of MiSeq pyrosequencing and detection of allelic length polymorphism using microsatellites. During the project I got the chance to learn methods and tools for genetic analyses, and used software such as Mega6.0, FLASH, jMHC, and GENEPOP to analyse my data. The resulting paper was published in BMC Evolutionary Biology (Cortázar-Chinarro et al., 2017).
Research project - 2014
“Impact of PIT tagging and DNA sampling on survival and resighting probability of field crickets (Gryllus campestris) under natural conditions”
Behavioural Ecology Group, Institute for Biology II, Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich, Germany
My first project in the field of behavioural ecology included the marking and monitoring of field crickets (Gryllus campestris) with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags. Furthermore, I analysed survival and resighting probability by using the software MARK. This side project during my second Master’s semester was conducted under the supervision of Prof. Niels J. Dingemanse and Dr. Petri T. Niemela. The results of this field study on personality-related survival in field crickets were subsequently published (Niemela et al., 2015) and contribute to the rapidly growing body of evidence for animal personality across a variety of taxa.
Bachelor's project - 2012/13
“Analysis of T-DNA transfer into the chloroplast genome and expression of chloroplast ribonucleoproteins in Escherichia coli”
Molecular Genetics Group, Institute for Biology, Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany
In the course of my Bachelor’s project at the Humboldt-University of Berlin, I deepened my knowledge in the field of molecular genetics. Under the supervision of Prof. Schmitz-Linneweber and (now Dr.) Hannes Ruwe I conducted a study about T-DNA transfer into the chloroplast genome. In addition to sequencing ten self-grown Arabidopsis thaliana lines and, using PCR analyses for confirmation of T-DNA transfer into their chloroplast genome, I gained my first experience in recombinant protein expression.
Voluntary ecological year - 2008/09
"Origin and patterns of genetic diversity of German fallow deer as inferred from mitochondrial DNA"
Evolutionary Genetics, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany
Already before I started studying Biology, I had begun collecting experiences in the field of genomics. During my voluntary ecological year in 2008/09, I conducted a study of the origins and patterns of genetic diversity of German fallow deer (Dama dama) at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin (Germany). Under the supervision of Dr. Arne Ludwig and Dr. Dietmar Lieckfeldt I gained first insights in the field of genetics by using basic methods, such as DNA isolation, PCR, gel-electrophoresis, and DNA-sequencing in order to ultimately succeed in genotyping more than 360 individuals by the use of microsatellites. The results of my very first project were published in the European Journal for Wildlife Research (Ludwig et al., 2012).