Rebecca Nagel


My research interests center around 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 focuses on the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that contribute towards individual fitness variation, using the Antarctic fur seal as a model species.

For this project, I spent two field seasons on the sub-Antarctic Bird Island, South Georgia and together with a fantastic team collected detailed time-series data from mother-offspring pairs in two neighboring colonies of high and low density. Currently, I look at how biometrics, movement behavior and activity, hormone levels, gene expression, epigenetics, and immunity varies in relation to population density and environmental factors.

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

I completed my PhD at the University of Potsdam in the working group of Ralph Tiedemann, where I focused on the genetic basis of adaptive traits and the relative role of behavior and morphology in the African weakly electric fish adaptive radiation. Here, I became interested in the concept of ecological niches, and in particular individual phenotypic variation and adaptation. Prior to that, I completed my Masters thesis under the supervision of Eva Griebeler at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, where I focused on the genetic and phenotypic effects of historic translocation events in red deer populations in southern Germany.

  • 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


Nagel R., Kaiser S., Stainfield C., Toscani C., Fox-Clarke C., Paijmans A.J., Costa Castro C., Vendrami D.J., Forcada J.*, Hoffman J.I.* (2022) Low heritability and high phenotypic plasticity of salivary cortisol in response to environmental heterogeneity in a wild pinniped. Ecology and Evolution, 12: e8757. *joint senior authors

Nagel R., Coleman J., Stainfield C., Forcada J.*, Hoffman J.I.* (2022) Observations of giant petrels (Macronectes sp.) attacking and killing Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella) pups. Aquatic Mammals, 48(6). *joint senior authors

Nagel, R., Mews, S., Adam, T., Stainfield, C., Fox-Clarke, C., Toscani, C., Langrock, R., Forcada, J.*, Hoffman, J.I.* (2021) Movement patterns and activity levels are shaped by the neonatal environment in Antarctic fur seal pups. Scientific Reports, 11:14323. *joint senior authors

Nagel, R., Stainfield, C., Fox-Clarke, C., Toscani, C., Forcada, J.*, Hoffman, J.I.* (2021) Evidence for an Allee effect in a declining fur seal population. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 288: 20202882. *joint senior authors

Hoffman, J.I., Nagel, R., Litzke, V., Wells, D.A. & Amos, W.  (2020) Genetic analysis of Boletus edulis suggests that intra-specific competition may reduce local genetic diversity as a woodland ages. 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. Journal of Fish Biology, 96(4): 905-912. *co-first authors

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: