Schuler Lab

Free University of Bozen-Bolzano


We are broadly interested in various aspects regarding the evolutionary ecology of insect pest species. One of our primary research questions addresses the association of microbes with insects and their impact on the ecology and evolution of their hosts. Microbes have crucial impacts on the ecology and evolution of their host and are therefore important factors in their biology. We unravel factors influencing the diversity and distribution of symbionts in various insect systems and study their potetential as an alternative approach for sustainable pest control.

One of our primary study systems has been two Tephritid fruit flies in the genus Rhagoletis that have recently invaded Europe. We characterize the endosymbionts of these two Rhagoletis species that attack cherries and walnuts and compare them with populations in their native ranges in the USA. This allows us to study the influence of the invasion process on the microbiome community of these flies and allows to study the influence of symbionts in the invasion success of their hosts. 

Moreover, we study insect vectors of phytoplasma diseases. In particulate we study the tripartite interaction between the phytoplasma, the vector and its microbiome using a population genomic approach to address the question what causes different phytoplasma transmission efficiencies in insect vectors on two different pathosystems.

We are also performing phylogeographic and population genomic studies of spruce bark beetle species in Europe. Especially we investigate the associations of bark beetle populations with symbiontic bacteria and fungi to understand their role in the population dynamics of this important pest species.


Finally we study the invasion dynamics of invasive insect species. We are applying population genomic approaches to study the invasion with a particular focus on the role of bacterial symbionts in the invasion process as well as the response of native parasitoid species. 

These research projects are addressed by a combination of genomic and population genomic approaches as well as in vivo experiments in laboratory and semi-field experiments. Our research combines fundamental and applied aspects of the biology of insect pest species with the orientation towards a more sustainable pest management.

Our lab is located at the Faculty of Science and Technology of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano. We are also part of the Competence Centre for Plant Health of UniBZ.


Looking for a postdoc

We are looking for a postdoc to study the European spruce bark beetle and its association with bacteria and fungi as well as nematodes and mites. 

All information can be found at 

For further informations, just contact me.

Cover story

Liliya's paper about the microbiome in pear psyllids is on the cover of the latest issue of Environmental microbiology!

Conference season is upcoming soon, finally in presence again

We are attending several conferences this year: Maja and Moussa are presenting at the AISSA under 40 in Bolzano, Liliya and Moussa at the International Congress of Entomology in Helsinki, Jessica and Hannes at the Holobiont conference in Lyon, Erika, Thomas and James at the Congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology in Prague and Juan at the Applied Hologenomics Conference in Bilbao. We are all looking forward to finally meet in presence!

Good bye Jessica, welcome Maja and Juan

With mixed feelings we have to announce that Jessica is leaving the lab. Jessica, congratulations on your new job at INRAE in Angers (France), but we will miss you here in Bolzano!

We are happy to announce that Maja and Juan join our group as PhD student. Maja is going to study the Marmorated stink bug Halyomorpha halys and it's friends and foes in the invasive range in South Tyrol, Juan will investigate vectors of Flavescence dorèe and their symbionts. Welcome Maja and Juan!

New postdoc position available

For our FIGHToplasma project we are looking for an enthusiastic postdoc (or about to be) to study the genomics of psyllids and their symbionts. The project is in collaboration with Christian Stauffer (Boku Vienna), Katrin Janik (Research Centre Laimburg) Rosemarie Tedeschi (Uni Torino) and Omar Rota-Stabelli (Fondazione Edmund Mach) and aims to study the phytoplasma transmission pathway using a population genetic sequencing approach.

All information can be found at 

For further informations, please let me know.

PhD position available

We have a funded PhD position available! The project is in collaboration with Katrin Janik (Research Centre Laimburg) and Mirko Moser and Alessandro Cestaro (Fondazione Edmund Mach) and aims to study the interaction of ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma vitis’ and its main insect vector Scaphoideus titanus through whole-genome sequencing.

All information can be found at

For further informations, please let me know.


I am very excited to announce that I'm officially tenured at the Free University of Bolzano. Big thank you to my mentors and fantastic colleagues, team members and collaboration partners and to my family for your constant support during the last years! 

Master's thesis defended

Maja Fluch successfully defended her Master thesis on Molecular genetic survey of parasitoids of the Brown marmorated stink bug Halyomorpha halys in South Tyrol co-supervized by Erika and Martina. Happy to announce that Maja will join us as a PhD student soon. Congratulations dottoressa Fluch!

Welcome to the new members of the group

Abd El-Hameed Moussa just joined our group as a new Postdoctoral Fellow. Moussa will be part of the Competence Centre for Plant Health and will study bacterial symbionts of bark beetles and leafhoppers. 

Gul-I-Rayna-Shahzad joins our lab as Postdoc and will investigate the association of bark beetles and fungi in the Dolomites. This position is funded by Interreg V-A Italy-Austria 2014-2020 CLLD Dolomiti Live. 

New Postdoc position

For our new DolomIps project we are looking for an enthusiastic candidate with a strong background in molecular biology and experience in bioinformatic analyses of bacterial and/or fungal communities associated with insects. 

All documents for the application procedure can be found at:

Paper accepted

Thomas' and Dan's paper on comparative genome sequencing of Wolbachia in cherry fruit flies was accepted for publication in Molecular Ecology in the special issue The use of whole-genome sequences in Molecular Ecology!

Welcome to the new members of the group

Liliya Serbina just joined our group as a new Postdoctoral Fellow. The next two years Liliya will study the microbiome of pear psyllids and its role in the transmission of phytoplasmas. This position is funded with the mobility grant by the Province of Bolzano. Welcome Liliya!

Maja Fluch joins the lab as Masterstudent to investigate the prasitoid community of the Brown marmorated stink bug Halyomorpha halys in South Tyrol. Maja's tesis will be co-advised with Martina Falagiarda from Research Centre Laimburg.


Thomas presented our work Revisiting Wolbachia diversity between invasive and native Rhagoletis cherry fruit flies in the light of comparative genomics at the 54th Population Genetics Group Meeting hosted by the University of Liverpool.

Special Issue of Insects

Michael Gerth and I are editing a special issue of the open access journal Insects (ISSN 2075-4450, IF 2.139) entitled "Insect Symbionts: Evolution and Application".  We welcome submissions covering the whole spectrum of insect–symbiont interaction, such as occurrence and diversity of insect symbionts, symbiont-induced host evolution, symbiont evolution within insects, and the usage of symbionts to combat insect pests. 

For more information on the issue, please visit the Special Issue website.

If you are interested to contribute please send us a short abstract or tentative title.

Dr. Hannes Schuler, Faculty of Science and Technology, Free University of Bozen-BolzanoUniversitätsplatz 5, I-39100 BozenTel: +39 0471 017648, e-mail: