RNDr. Martin Volf, Ph.D.

Job Position: Head of Laboratory - Laboratory of Evolutionary Ecology

Contact details

Phone: +420 38 777 5038
E-mail: volf@entu.cas.cz


I specialize on insect-plant relationships, evolution of plant defensive traits, and chemical ecology. Mainly, I am interested in the roles that insect-plant coevolution plays in promoting the astonishing chemical diversity in plants.

Throughout my projects, I aim at linking various approaches to studying origins and roles of chemical diversity in plants. My research interests range from macroevolutionary studies showing how chemical diversity evolves in response to interactions with natural enemies, through studies showing how plant chemical diversity varies at intraspecific level along major ecological gradients, to studying temporal changes within individual plants that help them to cope with insect herbivores. This allows me to see the evolution and roles of chemical diversity from a broad perspective.

I am particularly interested in the evolutionary trends in Ficus and Salix chemical defences. Both Ficus and Salix are key plant genera supporting high diversity of insects. Understanding the evolution of their specialized metabolites is thus crucial for understanding not only the evolution of plant chemical diversity but also for understanding the factors driving diversity and specialization of insect herbivores.

Curriculum vitae


Researcher unique identifier(s): ResearcherID: O-4321-2017, ORCID: 0000-0003-4126-3897

Website: https://www.volflab.com/


2012 – 2016Ph.D. in Entomology, University of South Bohemia. Honours (cum laude). Supervisor: prof. Vojtěch Novotný, Title: Specificity of insect-plant associations and their role in the formation of plant defences and speciation

Date of defence: 12.10. 2016

Professional Experience

2019 – present Group leader at Biology Centre, Czech Academy of Sciences

2017 – 2019 Postdoc / Alexander von Humboldt fellow at iDiv (supervised by Nicole van Dam)

2016 – 2017 Postdoctoral research scientist at Biology Centre, Czech Academy of Sciences

2016 – 2017 Postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution (hosted by K. A. Teixeira)

2016 Predoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution (hosted by K. A. Teixeira)

2012 – 2016 Postgraduate fellowship at Biology Centre, Czech Academy of Sciences

Supervision of Students and Postdoctoral Fellows

Postdoc: 1 finished and 1 ongoing, Czech Academy of Sciences (CZ), Ph.D.: 3 ongoing, University of South Bohemia (CZ), Ph.D. co-supervision: 1 ongoing, University of South Bohemia (CZ), M.Sc.: supervision: 1 finished, University of South Bohemia (CZ). M.Sc. co-supervision: 1 finished, University of Leipzig (DE), M.Sc. internships: 2 finished, iDiv (DE), B.Sc.: 1 finished and 1 ongoing, University of South Bohemia (CZ), B.Sc. co-supervision: 1 finished, University of South Bohemia (CZ).

Teaching Activities

University of South Bohemia: Courses on Scientific reading and writing; main lecturer

University of South Bohemia: Field course in zoology; assistant lecturer

University of Jena: Research seminar in ecology; invited speaker

Awarded Grants and Fellowships

2021-2023 – Supervisor of a postdoctoral researcher within MEMOVA - MEMOBiC II programme

2020-2022 – Czech Science Foundation, Junior Research Grant, 20-10543Y, Why is there such high diversity of chemical defences: role of insect herbivory in promoting chemical diversity in willows

2020-2022  Czech Academy of Sciences, fellowship within the Programme for Research and Mobility Support of Young Researchers, MSM200962004, Diverge or converge: do harsh abiotic condition restrict divergence of defences in alpine willows?

2019-2020 – Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, AvH Return Fellowship

2017-2019 – Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, AvH Research Fellowship for Postdoctoral Researchers

Prizes and Awards

2021 – Otto Wichterle Award for outstanding young researchers, Czech Academy of Sciences

2020  Josef Hlávka Award for Young Researchers of the Czech Academy of Sciences

2019  A key-note talk in “Rising Star” category at the 7th Conference of the Czech Ecological Society, Olomouc


I have published one book chapter and 28 peer-reviewed papers in IF journals (20 of them during the last five years), including PNAS, Ecology Letters, Current Opinion in Insect Science, or Journal of Animal Ecology. Citations: Publons: 559 (Hi=10, ResearcherID: O-4321-2017), Google Scholar: 771 (Hi=11).

Key publications

Volf, M., Volfová, T., Seifert, C.L., Ludwig, A., Engelmann, R.A., Jorge, L.R., Richter, R., Schedl, A., Weinhold, A., Wirth, C. and van Dam, N.M., (2022). A mosaic of induced and non‐induced branches promotes variation in leaf traits, predation and insect herbivore assemblages in canopy trees. Ecology Letters, 25, 729-739.

Volf, M., Salminen, J.-P. & Segar, S. T. (2019) Evolution of defences in large tropical plant genera: perspectives for exploring insect diversity in a tri-trophic context. Current Opinion in Insect Science, 32, 91-97.

Volf, M., Segar, S. T., Miller, S. E., Isua, B., Sisol, M., Aubona, G., Šimek, P., Moos, M., Laitila, J., Kim, J., Zima Jnr, J., Rota, J., Weiblen, G. D., Wossa, S., Salminen, J. P., Basset, Y. & Novotny, V. (2018) Community structure of insect herbivores is driven by conservatism, escalation and divergence of defensive traits in FicusEcology Letters, 21, 83-92.

Volf, M., Pyszko, P., Abe, T., Libra, M., Kotásková, N., Šigut, M., Kumar, R., Kaman, O., Butterill, P., Šipoš, J., Abe, H., Fukushima, H., Drozd, P., Kamata, N., Murakami, M. & Novotny, V. (2017) Phylogenetic composition of host plant communities drives plant‐herbivore food web structure. Journal of Animal Ecology, 86, 556-565.

Volf, M., Hrcek, J., Julkunen‐Tiitto, R. & Novotny, V. (2015) To each its own: differential response of specialist and generalist herbivores to plant defence in willows. Journal of Animal Ecology, 84, 1123-1132.

Reviewing Activities

Reviewer for research journals – 15 journals including Ecology Letters, Ecology, Journal of Ecology, or Functional Ecology. Referee for student grant agencies at the University of South Bohemia (CZ) and Charles University (CZ).

Ongoing Major International Collaborations

Nicole M. van Dam, iDiv, Germany: Prof. van Dam was my postdoc supervisor, and we actively continue our collaboration. We aim at showing the role of indirect plant defences and chemical diversity in treetops. Our collaboration has resulted in several key publications and more are under way.

Juha-Pekka Salminen, University of Turku, Finland: We investigate the evolution of polyphenols in plants and their role in insect-plant interactions. We also collaborate on projects examining how insect herbivores sequester, detoxify, or excrete plant metabolites to cope with the diversity of specialized metabolite produced by plants. This has resulted in five joint publications so far.

Jeannine-Cavender Bares, University of Minnesota, United States: We investigate the evolution of European and North American willow species. Our ongoing collaborative project serves as pilot project for the proposed ERC project. We also collaborate within the ASCEND project (www.spectralbiology.org) that uses spectral biology to understand diversity in changing environments.

Brian E. Sedio, University of Texas, United States: We investigate the evolution of plant chemical diversity in speciose plant genera using advanced metabolomics and bioinformatics methods.

Natascha Wagner, University of Göttingen, Germany: We collaborate on inferring a phylogeny of willows. We have also shown slow plastome evolution in the genus and collaborate on a project focused on developing a pipeline that would allow combining different types of genomics data.

Simon T. Segar, Harper Adams University, United Kingdom: I have collaborated with Dr. Segar on the topic of plant evolution and their chemical diversity since my PhD studies. This collaboration has resulted in multiple publications, including an Ecology Letters paper showing that the composition of herbivore communities may fundamentally affect the trajectories by which plant chemical diversity evolves.

Teaching Advances in Ecology
University of South Bohemia

Practical writing and communication in biology
University of South Bohemia

Critical Reading in Ecology
University of South Bohemia

Total found: 44 records
Leong J., Mezzomo P., Kozel P., Volfová T., de Lima Ferreira P., Seifert C.L., Butterill P. T., Freiberga I., Michálek J., Matos Maravi P. F., Weinhold A., Engström M.T., Salminen J.-P., Segar S.T., Sedio B.E., Volf M. (2024) Effects of individual traits vs. trait syndromes on assemblages of various herbivore guilds associated with central European Salix. Oecologia Early View : DOI: 10.1007/s00442-024-05569-0
Marinček P., Léveillé-Bourret É., Heiduk F., Leong J., Beilleul S.M., Volf M., Wagner N.D. (2024) Challenge accepted: Evolutionary lineages versus taxonomic classification of North American shrub willows (Salix). American Journal of Botany Early View : DOI: 10.1002/ajb2.16361
Molleman F., Mandal M., Sokól-Letowska A., Walczak U., Volf M., Mallick S., Moos M., Vodrážka P., Prinzing A., Mezzomo P. (2024) Simulated Herbivory Affects the Volatile Emissions of Oak Saplings, while Neighbourhood Affects Flavan-3-ols Content of Their Leaves. Journal of Chemical Ecology Early View : DOI: 10.1007/s10886-024-01471-4
Segar S. T., Ré Jorge L., Nicholls L., Basset Y. F., Rota J., Kaman O., Sisol M., Gewa B., Dahl C. N., Butterill P. T., Mezzomo P., Miller S., Weiblen G., Salminen J.-P., Novotný V., Volf M. (2024) Species swarms and their caterpillar colonisers: phylogeny and polyphenols determine host plant specificity in New Guinean Lepidoptera. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 11 : article number: 1308608.
DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2023.1308608
Seifert C.L., Moos M., Volf M. (2024) Different fates of metabolites and small variation in chemical composition characterise frass chemistry in a specialist caterpillar. Physiological Entomology 49 : 110-117.
DOI: 10.1111/phen.12429
Volf M., Fontanilla A., Vanhakylä S., Abe T., Libra M., Kogo R., Lilip R., Kamata N., Murakami M., Novotný V., Salminen J.-P., Segar S.T. (2024) High intraspecific variability and previous experience affect polyphenol metabolism in polyphagous Lymantria mathura caterpillars. Ecology and Evolution 14 : article number: e10973.
DOI: 10.1002/ece3.10973
Volf M., Renoult S., Panthee S., van Dam N.M. (2024) Quantifying various aspects of chemical diversity in hybrid plants can help understanding ecological consequences of hybridization. American Journal of Botany 111 : article number: e16283.
DOI: 10.1002/ajb2.16283
Xiao X., Ré Jorge L., Volf M., Moos M., Gélin U., Finnie S., Freiberga I., Jančúchová Lásková J., Weiss M., Novotný V., Sam K. (2024) The effect of drought-induced leaf traits on Ficus leaf palatability is species specific. Ecosphere 15 : article number: e4831.
DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.4831
Mezzomo P., Weinhold A., Aurová K., Ré Jorge L., Kozel P., Michálek J., Nováková N., Seifert C.L., Volfová T., Engström M., Salminen J.-P., Sedio B.E., Volf M. (2023) Leaf volatile and nonvolatile metabolites show different levels of specificity in response to herbivory. Ecology and Evolution 13 : article number: 10123.
DOI: 10.1002/ece3.10123
Volf M., Leong J., de Lima Ferreira P., Volfová T., Kozel P., Matos Maravi P. F., Hörandl E., Wagner N.D., Luntamo N., Salminen J.-P., Segar S.T., Sedio B.E. (2023) Contrasting levels of β-diversity and underlying phylogenetic trends indicate different paths to chemical diversity in highland and lowland willow species. Ecology Letters 26 : 1599-1571.
DOI: 10.1111/ele.14273
Fontanilla A., Aubona G., Sisol M., Kuukkanen I., Salminen J.-P., Miller S., Holloway J., Novotný V., Volf M., Segar S.T. (2022) What goes in must come out? The metabolic profile of plants and caterpillars, frass, and adults of Asota (Erebidae: Aganainae) feeding on Ficus (Moraceae) in New Guinea. Journal of Chemical Ecology 48 : 718-729.
DOI: 10.1007/s10886-022-01379-x
Kozel P., Leong J., Malenovský I., Šumpich J., Macek J., Michálek J., Nováková N., Sedio B.E., Seifert C.L., Volf M. (2022) Specialised chemistry affects insect abundance but not overal community similarity in three rare shrub willows: Salix myrtilloides, S. repens and S. rosmarinifolia. European Journal of Entomology 119 : 368-378.
DOI: 10.14411/eje.2022.038
Leong J., Ré Jorge L., Seifert C.L., Volf M. (2022) Quantity and specialisation matter: Effects of quantitative and qualitative variation in willow chemistry on resource preference in leaf-chewing insects. Insect Conservation and Diversity 15 : 453-460.
DOI: 10.1111/icad.12559
Mäntylä E., Ré Jorge L., Koane B., Sam K., Segar S. T., Volf M., Weinhold A., Novotný V. (2022) Ficus trees with upregulated or downregulated defence did not impact predation on their neighbours in a tropical rainforest. Arthropod-Plant Interactions 16 : 285-296.
DOI: 10.1007/s11829-022-09892-2
Volf M., Volfová T., Hörandl E., Wagner N.D., Luntamo N., Salminen J.-P., Sedio B.E. (2022) Abiotic stress rather than biotic interactions drives contrasting trends in chemical richness and variation in alpine willows Functional Ecology 36 : 2701-2712.
DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.14169
Volf M., Volfová T., Seifert C. L., Ludwig A., Engelmann R.A., Ré Jorge L., Richter R., Schedl A., Weinhold A., Wirth C., van Dam N.M. (2022) A mosaic of induced and non‐induced branches promotes variation in leaf traits, predation and insect herbivore assemblages in canopy trees. Ecology Letters 25 : 729-739.
DOI: 10.1111/ele.13943
Abe T., Volf M., Libra M., Kumar R., Abe H., Fukushima H., Lilip R., Salminen J.-P., Novotný V., Kamata N., Murakami M. (2021) Effects of plant traits on caterpillar communities depend on host specialisation. Insect Conservation and Diversity 14 : 756-767.
DOI: 10.1111/icad.12510
Seifert C. L., Ré Jorge L., Volf M., Wagner D.L., Lamarre G., Miller S., Gonzalez-Akre E., Anderson-Teixeira K., Novotný V. (2021) Seasonality affects specialisation of a temperate forest herbivore community. Oikos 130 : 1450-1461.
DOI: 10.1111/oik.08265
Volf M., Weinhold A., Seifert C. L., Holicová T., Uthe H., Alander E., Richter R., Salminen J.-P., Wirth C., van Dam N.M. (2021) Branch-localized induction promotes efficacy of volatile defences and herbivore predation in trees. Journal of Chemical Ecology 47 : 99-111.
DOI: 10.1007/s10886-020-01232-z
Wagner N.D., Volf M., Hörandl E. (2021) Highly Diverse Shrub Willows (Salix L.) Share Highly Similar Plastomes. Frontiers in Plant Science 12 : 662715.
DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2021.662715

More publications


Biology Centre CAS
Institute of Entomology
Branišovská 1160/31
370 05 České Budějovice

Staff search