Department of Biology
Yan Sun  

Ecology & Evolution
Dept Biology
University of Fribourg
phone: 0263008848


Current research

I am highly interested in understanding the mechanisms and drivers behind processes shaping our environment.

During my master thesis at the Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences & Wuhan Botanical Institute-CAS, I examined the effects of resource availability on the plant tolerance to herbivory of the invasive plant Alternanthera philoxeroides, one of the most important invasive plants in China.

The focus of my doctoral research - jointly carried out at the CABI Bioscience Centre Switzerland in Delémont and the University of Fribourg - was to study various aspects on ecosystem impact of and recovery from invasive plant species in order to further our understanding of the factors underlying impact. I am mainly stationed at CABI in Delémont and jointly supervised by Urs Schaffner. This project is associated to our NCCR project on "Spread and evolution of invasive plants", and to our collaborative projects with the research groups of John Maron, University of Montana, USA. I mainly used the European native Aster Centaurea stoebe L. that has become highly invasive in North America. Besides hard and time-intensive field work, greenhouse and common garden experiments, I pioneered in working out new conceptual ideas in explaining the differential impact of native vs. exotic plant species, and in more general terms, to measure ecosystem impact of exotic plant species.

During my last postdoc stay at University of California, Berkeley (ESPM), I extended to more evolutionary aspects of plant-insect interactions and species distribution modelling. I changed my study system to Ambrosia artemisiifolia, where I conduced greenhouse, quarantine, microsatellite experiments with plants from the native (USA) vs. introduced (China) range to disentangle the effects of divergent selection from that of other evolutionary forces. Besides, I also developed species distribution models to predict the distribution of six potential biocontrol agents of A. artemisiifolia in Europe to determine.

My current study interests are expending to using NGS tools to explore the ecological and evolutionary changes fo A. artemisiifolia under climate change and biologicla control. 

Curriculum vitae

2017-now Postdoc, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
2016-2017 Swiss National Science Foundation Postdoc, University of Tübingen, Germany
2015-2016 Postdoc, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
Swiss National Science Foundation Postdoc,  
Dept. Environmental Sciences

University of California, Berkeley (USA)


PhD student, CABI-Europe & University Fribourg, Switzerland
2007-2009 Msc in Ecology, Wuhan Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
2006- 2007
MSc in Ecology, Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
2002- 2006
Bachelor of Engineering, Wuhan University, China



Sun Y, Zhongshi Zhou, Rui Wang, Heinz Müller-Schärer. (2018),Biological control opportunities of ragweed are predicted to decrease with climate change in East Asia[J]. Biodiversity Science, 25(12): 1285-1294. doi:10.17520/biods.2017096. Download

 Sun Y & Junod A. 2017. Invasive plants differ from native plants in their impact on native communities. Journal of Vegetation Science, 28: 1250-1259. Download

Sun Y, Brönnimann O and Müller-Schärer H. Climatic suitability of the accidentally introduced leaf beetle Ophraella communa in Europe: a potential biological control candidate for ragweed. Notiziario della Società Botanica Italiana, 0: 1-10 (2016), Download

Sun Y, Brönnimann O, Roderick GK, Poltavsky A, Lommen STE and Müller-Schärer H. 2017. Climatic suitability ranking of biological control candidates: a biogeographic approach for ragweed management in Europe. Ecosphere8(4):e01731. 10.1002/ecs2 .1731, Download Appendix

Lommen STE, Jolidon EF, Sun Y, Bustamante Eduardo JI and Müller-Schärer, H. 2017. An early suitability assessment of two exotic Ophraella species (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) for biological control of invasive ragweed in Europe. European Journal of Entomology, 114: 160–169, Download

Sun Y, Müller-Schärer H and Schaffner U. 2016. Neighbour origin and ploidy level drvie impact of an alien invasive plant species in a competitive environment. PLoS ONE, 11(5): e0155712. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0155712. Download

Sun Y, Müller-Schärer H, Maron JM, Schaffner U. 2015. Origin matters: diversity affects the performance of alien invasive species but not of native species. The American Naturalist, 185:725-736. Download

Sun Y, Müller-Schärer H, Maron JM, Schaffner U. 2015. Bio-geographic effects on early establishment of an invasive alien plant. American Journal of Botany, 104: 1-5. Download

Sun Y, Müller-Schärer H and Schaffner U. 2014. Plant neighbours rather than soil biota determine impact of an alien plant invader. Functional Ecology, 28: 1545- 1555. Download

Sun Y, Collins AR, Schaffner U and Müller-Schärer H. 2013. Dissecting impact of plant invaders: do invaders behave differently in the new range? Ecology, 94(10): 2124–2130. Download  Appendices

Montserrat Vila, Jose L. Espinar, Martin Hejda, Philip E. Hulme, Vojtech Jarosik, John L. Maron, Jan Pergl, Urs Schaffner, Yan Sun and Petr Pysek. 2011. Ecological impacts of invasive alien plants: a meta-analysis of their effects on species, communities and ecosystems. Ecology Letter, 14: 702–708. Download 

Sun Y, Ding J and Frye MJ. 2010. Effects of resource availability on tolerance of herbivory in the invasive Alternanthera philoxeroides and the nativeAlternanthera sessilisWeed Research, 50: 527–536. Download

Sun Y, Ding J and Ren M. 2009. Effects of simulated herbivory and resource availability on the invasive plant, Alternanthera philoxeroides in different habitats. Biological Control, 48: 287-293. Download

Ecology & Evolution - ch du musée - 1700 Fribourg - Tel +41 26 / 300 8835 - Fax +41 26 / 300 9741
heinz.mueller[at] - Swiss University