I am an Associate Professor in Community Ecology of Plant-Insect Interactions at the Laboratory of Entomology, Wageningen University in the Netherlands. My research team studies the interactions between plants and insects addressing curiosity driven questions on how plants defend themselves against the numerous insects they harbour, what shapes the composition of these insect communities and how insect behaviour is adapted to the complexity of the ecological communities they are part of. Fundamental understanding of these interactions is key in development of sustainable and resilient agriculture in which pest insect occurrence is kept below an economic threshold using plant traits and insect interactions such as biological control to reduce pesticide use.
Our research focuses on the mechanisms and community-wide consequences of the induced responses of plants to insect herbivore damage as a major component of plant defence strategies. Induced plant responses to herbivory initiate trait mediated indirect interaction networks among many members of plant-insect communities, such as herbivores, parasitoids, hyperparasitoids, and pollinators.
My vision is that these indirect plant-mediated species interactions are an important factor in structuring insect communities, affect plant fitness and thereby consequentially are important in selection on plant traits. Currently, my projects combine an ecological, modelling, genomic and chemical approach and deal with: i) insect community ecology, ii) plant defence to multi herbivory, iii) plant growth-defence strategies, iv) parasitoid behaviour, v) hyperparasitoid ecology. I have been trained as vertebrate ecologist and have worked on the taxonomy and reproductive biology of poison frogs, still using this background in teaching outreach and ecological research.