Our aim is to understand the relationship between biodiversity and the structure of ecological communities.
We do this across all scales, organisms, and biomes.
By understanding how plants and animals function in their natural environments, we can guide conservation efforts and work with local communities to mitigate impacts of global change.
With a strong focus on soil animals and microbes, biogeochemical cycles, litter decomposition, symbiosis, and plant-microbe interactions, our aim is to understand how even the smallest organisms can drive vital ecosystem functions.
We study urban ecosystems across the globe with the aim of understanding how ecological processes function, and organisms evolve, in human-dominated systems.
Our researchers work in global outposts, from remote field stations of the arctic tundra, to rocky landscapes of the Caribbean, to diverse tropical forests of the Amazon.
When experiments are unethical, too expensive or simply impossible (there is only one Earth), we use numerical models to simulate the dynamics of vegetation and its interactions with the climate from individual plots to the whole planet Earth.
We conduct research in marine and fresh water aquatic ecosystems, spearing the design of international ecotoxicology protocols to promote safe water and soils. This includes the study of metals, pesticides, nanoparticles and microplastics, and their interactions with living organisms.
Working with the VU Fire Laboratory, we test what plant species influence fire risk disproportionately to their abundance, asking whether global fire danger can be predicted and controlled.
Our aim is to understand how behaviours, organismal traits, and genetic variation give organisms the plasticity they need to survive in a rapidly changing world. From mating strategies of hermaphrodites to feeding strategies in soil animals, and functional traits of plants, we use field experiments and lab manipulations to understand what drives ecological and evolutionary adaptation.
Through innovation and investment in genomics technology and expertise, we are helping advance national and international ecological genomics programs and spearheading gene expression techniques. Our work includes transcriptomics analysis tools for living organisms to assess soil quality. We are also using these approaches to understand the genomic consequences of stress tolerance, and designing new ways to study the microbiomes of insects.
We are working with local organizations and involving citizens in crowd-sourcing research initiatives to beckon in an new era of hands-on science. We also have a strong focus on Ecology and Evolution in Dutch ecosystems, including long-term studies across the Dutch Dunes.
Through international networks and collaborations, we are improving our predictions of climate variability in cold biomes, revising our understanding of the global carbon and nitrogen cycle, pioneering new agricultural strategies, developing regulations for chemical risks in the environment, and establishing global forest management strategies.