Fifteen foreign guest researchers will contribute to domestic research in 2022

With the support of the academic program strengthening the international competitiveness of Hungarian research groups, fifteen more internationally renowned guest professors will be able to participate in the work of research groups operating in Hungarian research centers, research institutes and higher education institutions. The Distinguished Guest Scientist Fellowship Program of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences made it possible to invite researchers for 3-6 months to Hungary. Within the framework of the application, a maximum of HUF 2.5 million monthly support could be obtained.

Applications were received from all three major disciplines – humanities and social sciences, life sciences, and mathematics and natural sciences.

The submitted applications were decided by a seven-member jury of experts in the respective fields of science after a thorough professional evaluation and comparison of the received applications. Out of the HUF 131 million grant, the jury decided to award grants ranging from HUF 6.3 million to HUF 14.28 million.

The Distinguished Guest Scientist Fellowship Program coming to the Centre for Ecological Research:
Professor Gábor Lövei from the University of Aarhus, Denmark, is involved in research on the assessment and protection of ecosystem services and biodiversity at the Centre for Ecological Research. This research topic has become an international priority, the two most important obstacles being the use of structural features instead of function and the overemphasis on positive services. The first substitution is problematic, and the second can backfire on nature conservation as an overemphasis on the values of nature. The guest researcher will work with the hosting team in three areas: 1. Developing a conceptually coherent system for the direct quantification of ecosystem services and damage; 2. Theoretical development of ecosystem damage assessment; 3. Development of an integrated, multifunctional assessment method that allows for the joint assessment of the benefits and harms of ecosystems.

Professor Herbert C. Wagner is a researcher at the Institute for Animal Ecology and Landscape Planning in Graz. The topic he studied together at the Centre for Ecological Research is human expansion and the associated environmental transformation activity that is leading to the mass extinction of species and the impoverishment of biodiversity. A multitude of species disappear from the face of the Earth before we can explore them. This so-called biodiversity crisis is affecting all parts of the world. The protection of the natural environment and the diversity of species must begin with an understanding of biodiversity; you need to know what to keep. Therefore, the knowledge of biodiversity, the description and listing of species is one of the most pressing problems in science today. Some species are so morphologically similar that even experienced experts cannot distinguish them, their description requires a whole new approach. However, the so-called recognition and distinction of cryptic species is key because, although formally similar, they may differ fundamentally in terms of their ecological needs and their role in ecosystems. The research examines the unique and largely unexplored diversity of Mediterranean grass ant species (genus Tetramorium) using a modern concept called integrated taxonomy that combines new methods and data from different disciplines. The Evolutionary Ecology Research Group would also like to contribute to a better understanding of ant diversity through research in this collaboration.

Professor Emeritus of the University of Toronto, Daniel Rusk Brooks, joining the work of the Centre for Ecological Research’s Emerging Pathogens Ecology Research Group, will conduct two complementary studies in collaboration with Hungarian and other foreign colleagues. The first shows that pathogens are unlikely to engage in a strong coevolutionary arms race or Red Queen dynamics with their host. Both concepts can be suggested to support that host changes are rare and thus the risk for emerging infectious diseases is small. However, modeling, conceptual, and empirical studies suggest that the risk for emerging diseases is quite large, giving pathogens a huge potential for survival, and indicating that the crisis of emerging infectious diseases is only just beginning. The joint research helps to illustrate the power of the Stockholm paradigm with traditional models. The second research uses a preliminary modeling result called stepping-stone dynamics. This suggests that the primary vector of a pathogen is often not the host in which the pathogen was developed, but rather one of the hosts in which the pathogen is capable of transmitting to other susceptible hosts. Particular emphasis is placed on examining whether, based on this, humans are the primary super-spreaders of COVID worldwide and responsible for the infection of a wide range of wildlife, which are now sources of re-infection, and maintain SARS-CoV-2 as a worldwide public health issue. The three months provided by the program allows for an excellent opportunity to jointly implement the above research plan with the Hungarian research group.

The Large Evolutionary Transitions Research Group at the Centre for Ecological Research will host Professor Mauro Santos, a researcher at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. The collaboration aims to model genetic evolution with dynamic species interaction patterns to study how the community is changing and evolving. To what extent can community-level artificial selection be successfully applied to the desired quantitative stamps? The answers to this question will help advance one of the major aspirations of modern biology, which focuses on discovering microbial communities

Source: MTA