Microbiota and Symbiosis

Almost all animals and plants, from unicellular protists to mighty blue whales, are inhabited by diverse microbial communities. Those microbial lodgers have an immense capacity to affect host physiology, which creates the potential for entangling microbial fitness with the fitness of their living biological habitat. I study the resulting multilayered eco-evolutionary dynamics of microbial populations that happen to reside in other organisms, which are themselves part of a dynamic host population.

Host-Virus Coevolution

Viruses have major impacts on ecosystems across all scales. Besides being responsible for causing numerous diseases and the turnover of vast amounts of biomass globally, they can also help maintain diversity and facilitate horizontal gene transfer in microbial communities. I am interested in classical antagonistic coevolution where the virus plays a predator-like role, but also in the more subtle and potentially even beneficial effects viruses can have on their host populations.

Eco-Evolutionary Theory

While I usually aim to connect my theoretical work as directly as possible to empirical data, ideally working closely with experimental biologists, I also explore more abstract and conceptual models in ecology and evolution. This includes studying mathematical models from a dynamical systems point of view using analytical and numerical methods.


I am a scientist at the Department for Evolutionary Theory at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön. Before embarking on the adventure of an academic career I learned the art of coding and software development at Bertelsmann AG and arvato Systems in Gütersloh. I studied in Osnabrück earning Diploma and PhD degrees in the Theoretical Systems Science group of Horst Malchow and then left the North German Plain to join Ivana Gudelj's group at the University of Exeter. After moving back to Germany I spent two years with the Ecology and Ecosystem Modelling Group of Ursula Gaedke at the University of Potsdam before arriving in Plön.
Besides my research I enjoy riding motorcycles and I believe that this is not only great fun, but in fact a very valuable experience. Or as one of the worlds leading young scientists puts it: Motorcycles are great for their acceleration. Every physicist should learn to ride a motorcycle. It gives one a certain physical intuition. --Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski

  • since 2016
    Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Plön, Germany
  • 2014 - 2016
    Lecturer in Theoretical Ecology
    University of Potsdam, Germany
  • 2011 - 2014
    Associate Research Fellow
    Biosciences, University of Exeter, UK
  • 2011
    PhD at the University of Osnabrück, Germany
  • 2009
    Diploma in Applied System Science. University of Osnabrück, Germany
  • 2000 - 2003
    Software Developer (Fachinformatiker)
    Bertelsmann AG, Gütersloh, Germany
  Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology       sieberyakyak.foo@evolbio.mpg.de       +49 (0)4522 763 579    


The Neutral Metaorganism

Preprint: bioRxiv

M Sieber, L Pita, N Weiland-Bräuer, P Dirksen, J Wang, B Mortzfeld, S Franzenburg, RA Schmitz, JF Baines, S Fraune, U Hentschel, H Schulenburg, TCG Bosch and A Traulsen

pdf | doi

One man's trash is another man's treasure - the effect of bacteria on phytoplankton-zooplankton interactions in chemostat systems

Limnology and Oceanography: Methods
accepted (2018)

M Raatz, S Schälicke, M Sieber, A Wacker and U Gaedke


Temperate phages as self-replicating weapons in bacterial competition

Journal of the Royal Society Interface
14:20170563 (2017)

X-Y Li, T Lachnit, S Fraune, TCG Bosch, A Traulsen and M Sieber

pdf | doi

Eco-evolutionary dynamics in a coevolving host-virus system

Ecology Letters
19:450-459 (2016)

J Frickel, M Sieber and L Becks

pdf | doi

Do-or-die life cycles and diverse post-infection resistance mechanisms limit the evolution of parasite host ranges

Ecology Letters
17:491-498 (2014)

M Sieber and I Gudelj

pdf | doi

Dispersal network structure and infection mechanism shape diversity in a coevolutionary bacteria-phage system

The ISME Journal
8:504-514 (2014)

M Sieber, M Robb, SE Forde and I Gudelj

pdf | doi

Disease-induced modification of prey competition in eco-epidemiological models

Ecological Complexity
18:74-82 (2014)

M Sieber, H Malchow and FM Hilker

pdf | doi

The hydra effect in predator-prey models

Journal of Mathematical Biology
64:341-360 (2012)

M Sieber and FM Hilker

pdf | doi

Prey, predators, parasites: intraguild predation or simpler community modules in disguise?

Journal of Animal Ecology
80:414-421 (2011)

M Sieber and FM Hilker

pdf | doi

Partial differential equations

In Modelling complex ecological dynamics
Jopp, Reuter and Breckling (Eds.).
Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg (2011)

M Sieber and H Malchow


Noise can prevent onset of chaos in spatiotemporal population dynamics

European Physical Journal B
78:253-264 (2010)

SV Petrovskii, A Morozov, H Malchow and M Sieber

pdf | doi

Oscillations vs. chaotic waves: Attractor selection in bistable stochastic reaction-diffusion systems

European Physical Journal Special Topics
187:95-99 (2010)

M Sieber and H Malchow

pdf | doi

Noise-induced suppression of periodic travelling waves in oscillatory reaction-diffusion systems

Proceedings of the Royal Society A
466:1903-1917 (2010)

M Sieber, H Malchow and SV Petrovskii.

pdf | doi

Constructive effects of environmental noise in an excitable prey-predator plankton system with infected prey

Ecological Complexity
4:223-233 (2007)

M Sieber, H Malchow and L Schimansky-Geier

pdf | doi