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Dr Ulrike Bauer

Dr Ulrike Bauer

Dr Ulrike Bauer
Dipl Biol (Wuerzburg, Germany), PhD (Cantab)

Royal Society University Research Fellow

Area of research

Biomechanics and ecology of plant-insect interactions

Life Sciences Building,
24 Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TQ
(See a map)

+44 (0) 117 39 41296


  • Biomechanics, ecology and evolution of plant-insect interactions
  • Evolution and development of functional plant morphology and physiology
  • Mechanical plant defences and trapping mechanisms of carnivorous plants

My research combines the study of functional plant morphology with elements of biomechanics, ecology and developmental biology. I use carnivorous plants as a model to investigate mechanical defence strategies of plants, a severely under-researched area with important implications for diverse fields ranging from agriculture to biomimetic engineering. My early work focused on ecological questions, such as the interaction of wetness-activated pitcher plant traps with rain, condensation and nectar secretion, and the implications for prey capture. Later, my focus shifted towards evolutionary questions, using experimental field ecology and comparative analysis of trap morphology to study the evolution of alternative trapping strategies. The recent discovery of two new trapping mechanisms based on anti-adhesive surface structures drew my interest towards the underlying mechanisms that render plant surfaces slippery for insects. Current projects focus on the developmental underpinnings of micro-patterned, anti-adhesive surfaces, the material properties of specialised trapping structures, and the visco-elastic behaviour of trapping fluids.


2017 - present Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Bristol
2014 - 2016 Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, University of Bristol
2010 - 2013 Henslow Research Fellow of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, University of Cambridge / Robinson College Cambridge
2006 - 2010 PhD (Zoology), University of Cambridge / Trinity College Cambridge
2002 - 2006 Diploma of Biology, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
2000 - 2002 Pre-diploma of Biology, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf
1996 - 2000 Horticulturist, Solingen Botanical Garden



My fascination for the biomechanical aspects of plant-insect interactions was sparked off during an undergraduate research project on Asian Nepenthes pitcher plants at the University of Würzburg in 2004. Since then, my research has revolved around the topic of specialised, slippery plant surfaces, gradually broadening in scope and methodology. In 2006, I was awarded an External Research Scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge, and moved to the Insect Biomechanics Lab of Dr Walter Federle. Many extended field trips to South East Asia followed, during which I supervised project students, gave public lectures, learned to speak Malay, and established a network of lasting scientific and administrative contacts. After graduating with a PhD in Zoology in 2010, I continued my research as an independent Junior Research Fellow, first at the Department of Plant Sciences, Cambridge, and since January 2014, at the School of Biological Sciences in Bristol where I currently hold a Royal Society URF. In my quest to understand the 'mechanical ecology' of plants and insects, I currently collaborate with molecular biologists, chemical and mechanical engineers, ecologists and biomechanics researchers in three continents. In my spare time, I like to explore the natural world with a camera and set of binoculars, and push my personal bounderies as a competitive rower and keen climber.


Project students:

Jan-Mar 2016 Hannah Berg (MSci project)
Oct-Dec 2015

Sid Dougan (final year undergraduate project)

Emily Wood (final year undergraduate project

Sep - Dec 2014 Marion Paulin, Ecole National Supérieure d’Agronomie de Toulouse (internship)
Jan - Apr 2012 Michaël Sauvagnat, Université Antilles Guyane (masters project)
Mar - May 2008 Hannes Seidel, Julius-Maximilians Universität Würzburg (advanced research project)
Feb - Apr 2007

Christoph Willmes, Julius-Maximilians Universität Würzburg (advanced research project)

Ingolf Karl, Julius-Maximilians Universität Würzburg (advanced research project)

Tilo Weber, Julius-Maximilians Universität Würzburg (advanced research project)






  • plant-insect interactions
  • biomechanics
  • ecology
  • evolution
  • functional morphology
  • carnivorous plants


  • field work
  • manipulation experiments
  • force measurements
  • high-speed video
  • laser vibrometry
  • SEM



School of Biological Sciences

Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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