My research is focused on the evolutionary genomics of contemporary processes, particularly in ecological and conservation contexts.
I am interested in the evolutionary mechanisms that lead to the divergence of previously homogeneous groups and populations and in adaptive responses to environmental change.
Here at University Bielefeld I join the team investigating the current dynamics within the Antarctic fur seal in response to past exploitation and the increasing impact of climate change.
I will work on whole-genome resequencing data to look at the impact that the historic population bottleneck in this species continues to have on their ability to adapt to their currently changing surroundings.
Specifically, I want to investigate the impact of past and current inbreeding on the population fitness via genetic load within the fur seal population within the last decades.
Previous research and other interests
I acquired my PhD a at the Puebla Lab (ZMT, Bremen), working on the genomics of speciation within the Caribbean hamlets (Hypoplectrus spp). The hamlets are a colorful genus of reef fish that present an evolutionary radiation (they recently diversified into many different species).
During my PhD, I assembled the Hamlet reference genome and applied whole genome resequencing data to investigate how the hamlets mating preferences in combination with their striking color patterns are reflected in the genomic signatures that differentiate the individual species.
Since then I have conducted a short-term postdoc at the Crofoot Lab (MPI, Konstanz) to broaden my scientific toolkit and to look at disruptive processes within populations from a behavioral perspective.
Here, I worked on the dynamics of inter-group dominance hierarchies within several groups of white-face capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus) that compete over a shared resource.
In general, I am interested in the interface of ecology and evolution, in the genomic signatures of adaptation and population structure that are emerging from contemporary and recent influences.
If you are not careful, I might talk to you about R (or even worse – git or nextflow), reproducible science and open data. That is unless I’m in the kitchen or behind my camera or a new board game. When I need to cheer up, I turn to Terry Pratchett, when I need to find motivation I watch Carl Sagan or listen to David Attenborough (“there’s safety in numbers”).
- 2017-2020: Doctoral candidate at the Puebla Lab (GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel & Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT))
- 2014-2017: M.Sc. Biological Oceanography (GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel)
- 2010-2014: B.Sc. Environmental Science (Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg)
Hench, K., Helmkampf, M., McMillan, W. O., & Puebla, O. (2022). Rapid radiation in a highly diverse marine environment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(4). https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2020457119
Moran, B. M., Hench, K., Waples, R. S., Höppner, M. P., Baldwin, C. C., McMillan, W. O., & Puebla, O. (2019). The evolution of microendemism in a reef fish (Hypoplectrus maya). Molecular Ecology, 28(11), 2872–2885. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.15110
Hench, K., Vargas, M., Höppner, M. P., McMillan, W. O., & Puebla, O. (2019). Inter-chromosomal coupling between vision and pigmentation genes during genomic divergence. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 3(4), 657–667. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-019-0814-5
Hench, K., McMillan, W. O., Betancur-R, R., & Puebla, O. (2017). Temporal changes in hamlet communities (Hypoplectrus spp., Serranidae) over 17 years. Journal of Fish Biology, 91(5), 1475–1490. https://doi.org/10.1111/jfb.13481
Department of Animal Behaviour
Funded by: Bielefeld Young Researchers’ Fund