Erik van Bergen

Erik van Bergen, Dr.

Postdoctoral fellow


Research interests

I am an evolutionary ecologist interested in species interactions and the eco-evolutionary consequences of climate change.
I received a MSc from Leiden University (NL), a PhD from the University of Cambridge (UK), and worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (PT), the University of Helsinki (FI) and the University of Zurich (CH).

I have used natural populations of tropical and temperate butterflies to study how climatic factors affect interactions with their host plants. During my PhD, I explored whether patterns of ecological diversification in tropical butterflies were linked to rapid changes in habitat structure and host plant availability during the Miocene.
More recently, I used a 25-year-long time series of a spatially-structured butterfly metapopulation to evaluate how abiotic factors – such as severe drought – affect the strength of biotic interactions. My research has also contributed to our understanding of life-history evolution, developmental plasticity, inbreeding depression, and the concept of developmental bias.

My current postdoctoral research with Prof. Dr. Tobias Zuest aims to understand how the gain of functionally novel chemical defenses allows plants to escape co-evolved herbivores. Specifically, we conduct large-scale selection experiments aiming to evolve glucosinolate-adapted specialist herbivores (Plutella xylostella) for increased resistance to cardenolides – an evolutionary novel chemical defense in the genus Erysimum (Brassicaceae). Read more about my research here: