MScherz_ZSMprofil2I am a PhD student at the Zoologische Staatssammlung München (ZSM), Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, and Technische Universität Braunschweig. I am conducting research on the reptiles and especially amphibians of Madagascar, under the supervision of Dr. Frank Glaw and Professor Miguel Vences.

Research Interests

My primary research interests lie in the evolutionary history and biogeography of the herpetofauna of Madagascar, where I have been performing research of increasing sincerity since 2005. My work centres around evolution, systematics, taxonomy, and osteology of the reptiles and amphibians of Madagascar.

Schwerpunkt MicrohylidaeHerpetologica_small

One of my recent research foci has been the evolutionary systematics and taxonomy of microhylid frogs of the subfamily Cophylinae. These diverse and cryptic frogs present problems of identification which drive the search for new methodologies in taxonomy. I make use of micro-Computed Tomography (micro-CT) to examine osteology, which I integrate into taxonomic treatments, and also use to understand evolution and function of morphology in these highly diverse frogs.

This work began with a step-wise integrative review of the taxonomy of the diamond frogs, genus Rhombophryne, from which my colleagues and I have described six new species since 2014, with several more species on their way. For recent progress on this group, see my publications page.

Recurrent ecological speciation on the isolated Amber Mountain

My PhD project focuses on one of the central questions in evolutionary biology: the origins of species. Specifically, my project looks at the often claimed but rarely proven process of ecological speciation—that is, divergence of two lineages as a result of differences in ecology. The concept of ecological speciation turns traditional views of speciation on their heads, because it can be the driver of divergence in any geographical context, be it allopatric, sympatric, or parapatric. The central tenet of my research is that properties of the environment drive ecological divergence, and therefore should be traceable in multiple different lineages diverging in parallel in the same environmental context.

To test this hypothesis, and others associated with it, I am looking at three chameleons and one frog on Montagne d’Ambre. This isolated mountain in Madagascar’s extreme north forms an almost ideal gradient from dry deciduous forest to montane rainforest over its altitudinal cline, and reptile and amphibian species are known to have recently diverged or be in the process of divergence on it. My project will be the most intense survey to date on this mountain, which is Madagascar’s oldest national park, and will shed light on the distribution and composition of its communities, the origins of its native species, and the processes driving its high diversification rates.

Private life and hobbies

My partner Ella Z. Lattenkamp studies vocal learning in bats; together the two of us go on periodic adventures. Her website showcases these adventures, as well as her research. Have a look!

Photography has been a passion for me since my first visit to Madagascar in 2005. I use my research together with my photography to achieve better outcomes, and increase publicity for the species and areas I study. You can see a showcase of my photography here.

Roughly once every four years I go jogging. It is not fun.