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 potential 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 at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano. We are also part of the Competence Centre for Plant Health at the UniBZ.


June 2024: Looking for a PhD student

We are looking for a PhD student to joint our lab in fall 2024. The project is funded by the European social fund (ESF) and will focus on the endosymbiont Wolbachia in fruit flys and psyllids. We will perform comparative genome sequencing of Wolbachia as well as ecological experiments to investigate the effect of this symbiont on the host.

All informations can be found here and here.

For further information, just contact me.

May 2024: New members of the group

We are said to announce that Liliya left the group and joint the Naturmuseum Berlin where she will work as a curator on her beloved psyllids. Liliya, we will miss you but are happy to continue our fruitful collaboration.

We are happy to announce that Veronika Rau, Yuanjie Li and Luciano Palmieri joint the group as postdocs. They will work on various projects on our bark beetle and fruit fly projects.

November 2023: New members of the group

Marta Chignola and Filippo Rey are joining the group as PhD students. Marta will study the invasive apricot aphid Myzus mumecola, Filippo will investigate the microbial composition of the sooty blotch of apples. Both positions are in collaborations with colleagues at the Research Centre Laimburg.

We just got selected by the Reference genome atlas to sequence the genome of one of our study systems. Yeah! Lapo Ragionieri joined to group as new postdoc. He will lead the whole genome sequencing project of Scaphoideus titanus

We welcomed our new members with a typical South Tyrolean Törgellen.

October 2023: ECE2023 in Crete

Our lab attended the European Conference of Entomology ECE2023 in Crete. Maja presented a talk about the feeding behaviour of her bugs, Juan presented his data on the haplotype diversity of Scaphoideus titanus, Erika presented her outcome on the dual symbionts in Cacopsylla spp. and Hannes had a keynote talk about the infection dynamics of Wolbachia in cherry fruit flies. We had a great time in Crete. Lots of great discussions, good food and several Ouzos. 

October 2023: Three in a row

What a week! Last week we published three papers: Jessica's metagenomic study about the dual symbiosis of psyllids was published in mSystems, Liliya's story about the seasonal wild dance of these two symbionts in Scientific Reports and Erika's work on the factors driving the phytoplasma aquisition efficiency of Cacopsylla melanoneura was published in the Journal of Pest Science. Big effort, great team, happy to celebrate it!

October 2023: Master thesis defended

Marta Chignola just defended her master thesis on the feeding behaviour of the Brown marmorated stink bug Halyomorpha halys. She did an excellent job applying a molecular gut analysis to assess the feeding behaviour of this polyhagous pest. I'm happy to announce that Marta will soon start as a PhD student in my lab.

May 2023: Looking for a postdoc and two PhD students

A new postdoc position is available in our Competence Centre for Plant Health. In this project we are looking for a postdoc with a specific focus on the invasion dynamics of invasive species. Information regarding the application can be found here.

We are also looking for two PhD students. One project aims to characterize the composition of the microbial community of the apple sooty blotch complex, whereas the other project aims to investigate the biology of the invasive apricot aphid Myzus mumecola. Both positions are in collaboration with the Research Centre Laimburg. All information on the application process can be found here.

For further information, just contact me.

February 2023: 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 information, just contact me.

January 2023: 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!

December 2022: Cover story

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

December 2022: 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!

March 2022: 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.

November 2021: 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 here 

For further information, please let me know.

October 2021: Tenured!

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! 

October 2021: 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!

June 2021: 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. 

May 2021: 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 here.

May 2021: 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.

April 2021: Paper published

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!

Jan 2021: POPgroup54

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: