Rebecca Nagel


My research interests center on phenotypic variation and species adaptation. By integrating genetic, behavioral, and environmental data I aim to understand both the proximate and ultimate causes driving traits to change over time.

My current work at Bielefeld University is nestled within the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Centre Transregio NC³ and aims to better understand the fitness consequences of niche choice and niche conformance. We use the Antarctic fur seal as a model system and employ genetic, behavioral, and time-series data to address these biological concepts.

We aim to collect data from mother-offspring pairs in two neighboring colonies of high and low social density on Bird Island, South Georgia. By assessing individual quality and collecting data on immune response, hormonal response, gene expression, epigenetics, and movement patterns, we hope to better understand how an individual’s phenotype my interact with its environment.

Previous Research and Other Interests
C.compressirostris_Karla Fritze
Photo Credit: Karla Fritze

At the University of Potsdam, where I completed my PhD work, I conducted research on the genetic and behavioral basis of trait diversification in African weakly electric fish. This included research into gene expression, genomics, mating patterns, and behavior. Prior to that, I focused on the genetic and phenotypic effects of translocation events in red deer populations in southern Germany at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz.

  • 2014–2017: PhD from the University of Potsdam, Germany
  • 2011–2013: MSc from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany
  • 2006–2010: BSc from Nazareth College, NY, USA


Hoffman, J.I., Nagel, R., Litzke, V., Wells, D.A. & Amos, W.  Genetic analysis of Boletus edulis suggests that intra-specific competition may reduce local genetic diversity as a woodland ages. (2020) Royal Society Open Science, 7: 200419.

De Cahsan, B.*, Nagel, R.*, Schedina, I. M., King, J. J., Bianco, P. G., Tiedemann, R., Ketmaier, V. (2020) Phylogeography of the European brook lamprey (Lampetra planeri) and the European river lamprey (Lampetra fluviatilis) species pair based on mitochondrial data. 96(4): 905-912. *co-first author

Amen, R., Nagel, R., Hedt, M., Kirschbaum, F., Tiedemann, R. (2020) Morphological differentiation in African weakly electric fish (genus Campylomormyrus) relates to substrate preferences. Evolutionary Ecology, 34: 427-437.

Nagel, R., Forcada, J. & Hoffman, J.I. (2019) The complete mitochondrial genome of the Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella).  Mitochondrial DNA Part B, 4: 2936-2937.

Nagel, R., Kirschbaum, F., Engelmann, J., Hofmann, V., Tiedemann, R. (2018) Electric pulse characteristics can enable species recognition in African weakly electric fish species. Scientific Reports, 8: 10799.

Nagel, R., Kirschbaum, F., Engelmann, J., Hofmann, V., Pawelzik, F., Tiedemann, R. (2018) Male-mediated species recognition among African weakly electric fishes. Royal Society Open Science, 5(2): 170443.

Nagel, R., Kirschbaum, F., Tiedemann, R. (2017). Electric organ discharge diversification in mormyrid weakly electric fish is associated with differential expression of voltage-gated ion channel genes. Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 203(3): 183-195.

Nagel, R. (2017). Digest: Females that look alike do not always mate alike. Evolution, 71(1): 184.

Contact Details

Department of Animal Behavior
Bielefeld University
Postfach 100131
33501 Bielefeld

email: rebecca.nagel[at]
tel.: +49 521 106-2833
twitter: @RebeccaLNagel

I am funded by: