I am very much interested in ecological and evolutionary dynamics of complex communities, and especially the role of indirect interactions and specificity in such dynamics. Plants provide excellent model systems to study this, because plants evolve in a community context that include mutualists such as pollinators and antagonists such as herbivores. Such plant-associated communities are riddled with indirect interactions varying from low to highly specific.
In my current postdoctoral research with Prof. dr. Florian Schiestl, I will study the importance of indirect interactions for evolution. Using experimental evolution, I will investigate how flower traits evolve in response to direct and indirect interactions between plants, herbivores, and pollinators. By comparing simple and complex networks of plants, herbivores, and pollinators, I will elucidate the importance network complexity on plant evlution, and the contribution of direct and indirect interactions. While herbivores and pollinators impose direct and indirect selection on plants, plants return the favour and impose selection on herbivores and pollinators. Moreover, herbivores and pollinators interact and impose selection on each other. In parallel with flower trait evolution, I will investigate coevolution/co-selection in herbivores.
Before this work, I did a PhD at the Laboratory of Entomology under the supervision of Prof. dr. Marcel Dicke, Dr. Erik H. Poelman, and Dr. Dani Lucas-Barbosa. I investigated specificity of plant-mediated interactions between herbivores and flower visitors, associated plant fitness consequences, and the underlying molecular and physiological mechanisms.