About me

I am an Entomologist working at the Biosystematics group at Wageningen University, The Netherlands, led by Prof. Eric Schranz. I am interested in the evolutionary pathways that gave rise to intricate interactions between plants, butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) their symbiotic microbes and natural enemies (hymenopteran parasitoids). Besides my interest in the fundamental aspects onĀ  the evolutionary ecology of insect-microbe-plant interactions I aim to transfer the gained knowledge to the society and stakeholders. I am involved in a large European project studying 'Fundamental and applied aspects on biological control by the use of natural enemies' (see BINGO project) and coordinate a large national project on the use of natural variation in resistance traits (see NWO/TTW Vidi project: Pest-killing plants). Caterpillars of lepidopteran insect pests cause serious problems in agriculture and forestry, and finding alternatives to chemical pesticides is important to reduce their threats to agricultural production. In 2016, I received a 5-year grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to 'Unravel the mechanism of a pest egg-killing trait in a cabbage crop'. Together with my team we will combine molecular biology and (meta)genomics, transcriptional analysis, chemical analysis of plant and insect metabolites, and experimental ecological studies to gain novel insights on how plants make use of this highly effective 'first line of defence' - killing of insect eggs. The project is supported by several crop breeding and seed companies. Caterpillars can suffer from defences primed by environmental cues. Egg deposition is a reliable cue for plants to enhance their defences against future attack as studied in the large German CRC 973 project on 'Priming and Memory of Organismic Responses to Stress' in which I am a collaborator and PhD co-supervisor.