iDiv Summer School 2024: Plant-pollinator interactions in restored grasslands

Lead teacher: Prof Tiffany Knight

Date and location: 23 to 30 May 2024 in Leipzig, Germany

Application deadline: 18 February 2024

The 2024 iDiv summer school will provide students with hands-on experience in pollination ecology research. We will teach using a case study comparing restored to reference grasslands for the diversity and composition of plants and pollinators and the structure of plant-pollinator interaction networks.

Ecological restoration aims to recover natural habitats that have been degraded by human activities. Because restoration can help conserve biodiversity, provide vital ecosystem services to humanity and mitigate climate change, restoration activities lie at the center of many global initiatives for environmental protection. The United Nations made restoration a global political priority when they declared 2021-2030 to be the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (

Most vascular plant species rely on the interactions with animal pollinators for reproduction, and restoring the diversity and composition of pollinators to levels similar to the reference state is critical for restoring terrestrial ecosystem services. Globally, there is a growing interest in examining how plants, pollinators and the structure of their interactions establish in restored compared to reference sites.

We will collect data in the region between Magdeburg and Halle in Saxony-Anhalt. This region harbors one of Germany’s largest restoration initiatives, which saw formerly intensively used arable fields converted back to semi-natural grasslands. Restored sites range from 5 to 25 years old. Reference semi-natural grasslands are imbedded throughout this landscape.

The summer school is aimed at Bachelor students (in their final years) and/or MSc students, specializing in the fields of botany, ecology, entomology or other related fields from around the world. We are open to considering students from other career stages (e.g., PhD students, postdoctoral associates) if they are good motivation for wanting an introduction to this topic.

We look forward to receiving your applications and hope to welcoming you soon in Leipzig.

For questions about the summer school please contact the organisation team Dr Nicole Sachmerda-Schulz and Beate Horn from the yDiv graduate school via

Didactic aims and elements

Didactic aims

Students will learn pollinating field sampling methods for plants and pollinators, insect identification, and statistical analyses of biodiversity and network change. We will accomplish this by creating an authentic research experience in which students collect data on plant communities and plant-pollinator interactions in the field. Insects will be identified to family level for all flies and to genus and species levels for syrphid flies, bees and butterflies using iDiv’s laboratory facilities (microscopes). The diversity and composition of plants and pollinators and their network structure will be compared using four computer labs in the programming language R.

Our goal is for students to apply the knowledge they learned in the summer school back in their home region. This can involve something very simple, such as running a transect to monitor butterflies once you are back home using the standardized methodology you learned in the summer school.

Didactic elements

We will provide lectures on:

  • Introduction to Pollination Ecology
  • Introduction to Ecological Restoration
  • Methods for sampling plant-pollinator interactions
  • Introduction to the Saxony Anhalt region
  • Butterfly monitoring
  • Insect identification
  • Pollen sampling and identification

We will provide computer labs (in R):

  • Introduction to R for those using the programing language for the first time (optional)
  • Biodiversity of plants and pollinators using package iNext
  • Composition of plants and pollinators using package vegan
  • Network structure using packages Bipartite and Bootstrapnet

We will also provide other opportunities to networking with the broader scientific community at iDiv.

Expected performance
Students need to actively participate in field and lab activities.



Tiffany Knight(MLU/UFZ/iDiv): expertise in pollination ecology, ecological synthesis

Demetra Rakosy(UFZ/iDiv): expertise in entomology, network analyses

Stefan Klotz(UFZ/iDiv) expertise in Botany, understanding land use change, experimental design

Annette Trefflich(State Institute of Agriculture and Horticulture, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany): expertise in Botany, agroecology

Reinart Feldmann (UFZ/iDiv): expertise in entomology, ecological monitoring

Elisabeth Kühn (UFZ): expertise in entomology, butterfly monitoring

Felicitas Wolf(MLU/UFZ/iDiv): expertise in plant-pollinator interactions in restored grasslands

Will Glenny (UFZ): expertise in plant-pollinator interactions in restored grasslands


Date and venue

The summer school takes place from 23 to 30 May 2024 at the iDiv building in Leipzig, Germany. The site has good transport connections to the city centre and to the accommodation.

The address is Puschstr. 4, 04103 Leipzig/Germany.


The total cost of the course is EUR 150 without accommodation and EUR 350 including accommodation. This covers the costs of teaching and materials, coffee breaks and lunch, two dinners and the cultural programme. The participants will be provided a single room in a two-room apartment in the city center (Apartment Central) from 22-31 May (9 nights).

In addition, 2-3 fellowships are available that will cover the registration fee as well as travel costs to Leipzig. These fellowships are for students from regions that are often underrepresented in science.

Application is closed

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