30.03.2023 | TOP NEWS, iDiv, Media Release, Biodiversity Synthesis

New ideas for biodiversity research: ecologist Jonathan Chase receives ERC Advanced Grant

Ecologist Jonathan Chase receives the prestigious ERC Advanced Grant (Picture: Volker Hahn / iDiv)

Ecologist Jonathan Chase receives the prestigious ERC Advanced Grant (Picture: Volker Hahn / iDiv)

Note for the media: Use of the pictures provided by iDiv is permitted for reports related to this media release only, and under the condition that credit is given to the picture originator.

Research project "MetaChange" will be funded with almost 2.5 million euros over the next five years

Joint media release of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

The European Research Council (ERC) announced that Prof. Dr. Jonathan Chase will be awarded one of the prestigious ERC Advanced Grants. The scientist will receive almost 2.5 million euros over the next five years to fund his research project "MetaChange". With this project, he plans to develop new concepts, tools and analyses for a better understanding of biodiversity and its change. Chase has been conducting research and teaching at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) since 2014. 

"Jonathan Chase is one of the most distinguished researchers at the University of Halle. He is the author of acclaimed studies and his work makes a significant contribution to making biodiversity research from central Germany known worldwide. We are proud that his scientific work has now been awarded an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council. This is a great signal for MLU and iDiv," says MLU Rector Prof. Dr. Claudia Becker.

Prof. Dr. Henrique Pereira, iDiv speaker and professor at MLU, adds: “Jon Chase’s work at iDiv has had a far-ranging impact on biodiversity research. He has led several global synthesis analysis and has shown how the scale of analysis affects different metrics of biodiversity change. The ERC Advanced Grant recognises his extraordinary achievements and provides support for the continuation of his work."

"I thank the ERC for the great trust placed in me with the Advanced Grant. I will use the funding to close important knowledge gaps in how biodiversity is changing through time," says Prof. Dr. Jonathan Chase. His new research project will use a common problem of biodiversity research as a starting point: even though extensive data on local and global biodiversity exists, these are often not comparable with each other. "Studies often disagree on the question of what is actually meant by biodiversity and what it means that it is changing. The differences are magnified because studies are so different when it comes to the species studied, the methods used and the analytical procedures," says Chase. This makes it difficult to make concrete statements about how and where biodiversity is changing, and importantly, to identify the reasons for these changes. "There is no question that biodiversity is changing in many ways around the world, and that these changes are ongoing because of the actions of people. However, we lack a clear and consistent way to quantify exactly what these changes are and how to attribute potential causes of these changes," Chase continues. This knowledge, however, is required for accurate and effective conservation measures, which have also been mandated by the recent international agreements at the UN.

One of Chase's fields of expertise is the synthesis of large data sets on the distribution and abundance of species from across the world with the help of computer-assisted methods. With this synthesis, new insights are gained. With the help of the ERC funding, Chase now wants to take this work to a new level: "One of the biggest challenges we have in biodiversity science is that we are getting much better at understanding what has happened to biodiversity in the past, and we’re starting to provide some answers as to the potential causes of those changes. However, we are particularly bad at forecasting biodiversity change into the future. There are many ways to try this, although which ones work best is anyone’s guess." By compiling biodiversity change through time from many thousands of sites across the planet, and combining it with new statistical tools, the researcher hopes to  provide better forecasts for how biodiversity might change in the future.

Jonathan Chase was born in the USA. After studying at the University of Michigan and Utah State University, he completed his doctorate at the University of Chicago in 1998. After several years of teaching and doing research at various US universities, Chase was appointed Professor of Biodiversity Synthesis at MLU and iDiv in Germany in 2014. He is the author of more than 138 scientific articles published in renowned journals such as Nature, Science and PNAS, as well as two foundational books. Clarivate Analytics included Chase in the list of "highly cited researchers 2022", representing the most frequently cited researchers worldwide.

The ERC Advanced Grants are among the most prestigious and coveted research awards in Europe. The European Research Council awards them to world-leading scientists who applied for funding of their highly ambitious and promising research projects. A total of almost 1,650 project proposals was submitted in this round of ERC Advanced Grants, from which 218 were selected for funding across Europe. The funding rate is thus 13.2 percent.



Prof Dr Jonathan Chase
Head of the Biodiversity Synthesis research group
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Phone: +49 341 9733120

Email: jonathan.chase@idiv.de
Web: www.idiv.de/en/groups-and-people/core-groups/synthesis.html


Kati Kietzmann
Media and Communications
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 9739222
Email: kati.kietzmann@idiv.de


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