„Species extinction must be at least as high on the agenda as climate change“
Prof. Dr Christoph Scherber is head of the Centre for Biodiversity Monitoring and Conservation Science at LIB. © Scherber
When Christoph Scherber explains his work, he sometimes reaches into the chocolate bag. The quality of the dark delicacy depends to a large extent on the diversity of pollinating insects. For the scientist, ecology and agriculture belong directly together. The head of the Centre for Biodiversity Monitoring and Conservation Science at the LIB develops strategies for a biodiverse future.
What drives you as a researcher?
I grew up in the foothills of the Alps and as a child I was already out and about in lonely moors and colourful mountain meadows. My parents rented a weekend cottage in a large garden. There were orchids, old fruit trees, a large pond and lots of rain barrels for catching and breeding mosquito larvae, tadpoles and dragonfly larvae. I also had all kinds of experimental kits and at home I gave guided tours of my nature collection for 20 pennies. The enthusiasm for nature has always been there, as long as I can remember.
What led you to biology?
Things got really serious when I took part in a drawing course at the Munich Botanical Garden – by chance I ended up in front of the outdoor showcases of carnivorous plants. Studying these “masterpieces of evolution” then led me first to moorland science and botany, and later to ecology and biodiversity research.
What are the highlights of your everyday work?
I am always happy to be able to realise new ideas and research approaches and to work with exciting people – from gardeners to farmers to professors.
What does nature mean to you personally? Is there a favourite place in nature?
I can’t reveal my favourite place – just this much, it’s a beautiful deep black moorland lake, a haven of peace in time.
Crayfish, fish, butterflies: Who has their own personal affection and why?
I would say: the tropical rainforest. Once you’ve entered it, you can’t let it go. You feel completely surrounded and “entertained” by nature and realise how small we are as humans on this planet.
How do you explain the term biodiversity to children?
The diversity in all corners. I always like to use a coffee or cocoa cup as a model and then show that you can harvest better cocoa or coffee if many pollinator species have been there. Strawberries also taste better and last longer if they have been pollinated by many bee species.
What do you want people to associate with the LIB in ten years’ time?
People should know it as well as some Max Planck Institutes – and they should associate it with the fact that not only biodiversity is researched there, but also strategies for a bio-diverse future are developed.
What do you see as the greatest challenge in the field of environmental protection?
Species extinction must be at least as high on the agenda as climate change. This awareness is still only rudimentary among the public.
What would you have become if biology had not worked out?
Then I would either have become an author of fantasy stories and children’s books – or a rock musician.
What advice do you have for young biologists at the beginning of their careers?
Let your heart be your guide – and learn from the best researchers in the world. Dare to go abroad to see the world through different eyes.
Which sub-area at the LIB is particularly close to your heart personally?
I would like all the areas to build on their strengths together and work well together to make the world a little bit better.
Prof. Dr. Christoph Scherber studied in Regensburg and Rostock and wrote his diploma thesis at Imperial College London in England on the ecology of an introduced plant species. He completed his doctorate at the University of Jena in ecology on the relationship between herbivory and biodiversity and habilitated at the University of Göttingen in ecology at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences. From 2015 to 2020, he was Professor of Animal Ecology at the Department of Geosciences at the University of Münster. In autumn 2020, he was appointed to the professorship of Biodiversity Monitoring at the University of Bonn and heads the Centre for Biodiversity Monitoring and Conservation Science at the LIB.