2014 University Teaching Qualification for Lecturers (BKO)
5 Sep 2007 PhD, ‘Interference competition and patch choice in foraging shore crabs’
5 Sep 2007 Netherlands Inst. for Sea Research & University of Amsterdam
2000 BSc, MSc Population Biology, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
2022 – present Senior Lecturer, School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle
2022 – present Visiting scholar, Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam
2019 – present Visiting scholar, Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
2018 – 2022 Associate Professor, Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam
2013 – 2018 MacGillavry Fellow (tenure track), Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam
2012 – 2013 Research Fellow at University of Oxford (Dept. of Zoology)
2010 – 2012 Research Fellow at Imperial College London (Silwood Park)
2008 – 2010 Rubicon Fellowship (NWO)– held at Imperial College London
2007 – 2008 A. v Humboldt Fellowship – Max Planck Inst. for Ornithology
2005 Marie Curie Research Trainee Fellowship – University of Exeter
Maternity leave Dec 2012 – June 2013
Research conducted within the team ties three research themes:
Eco-evolutionary dynamics, functional trait demography, and developmental plasticity
Climate variability is increasing. How will this affect different animal species? We are in great need of an integrative framework that allows ecologists to predict life history strategies (i.e. the different ways in which individuals trade-off resource investment into survival or reproduction) from functional traits: traits of individuals that inform on the performance of an animal population as a whole. Such a framework is important to inform conservation strategies. Our research takes the mechanistic underpinnings of biological variation as a starting point to extrapolate from life history strategies the responses of populations to future environmental changes. We test this framework mainly on estuarine and marine animals (beach hoppers, ray-finned fish, manta rays and reef sharks). Our analyses are also part of the DEB-IPM project (see Teaching Tab on my Newcastle University website) where we link functional life history traits to population response to environmental change.
For this framework, it is necessary to include eco-evolutionary dynamics, which comprises the understanding of how evolutionary changes (like shifts in genotype and phenotype frequencies) and ecological changes (like the size, composition and growth of an animal population) affect each other. Why? Because for a long time, ecologists ignored evolutionary processes as they were assumed to occur at much longer time scales (thousands to millions of years) compared to ecological processes (days to years). Vice versa, evolutionary biologists ignored ecological processes as these were assumed to occur at such short time scales that their effects would be unnoticeable at the long, evolutionary timescales. However, over the past decades, notions have changed and we now want to understand how ecological and evolutionary variables are both the drivers and the objects of change. Our research aims at formulating and testing predictions on eco-evolutionary population responses to environmental change using long-term population experiments with bulb mites in the lab, and using demographic models parameterised for estuarine and coastal marine species and demographic models. Especially in human-dominated coastal marine environments, we lack understanding of how human activities can impose selection on life history traits like age and size at maturity, and how this affects population dynamics. See for example this special issue on “Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics of Marine Biodiversity in Human-Dominated Coastalscapes“, to which the team contributed.
Finally, the eco-evolutionary process can be significantly influenced by developmental plasticity. Developmental plasticity, whereby a specific input during an individual’s development produces a lasting alteration in phenotype, has been well-documented in human and non-human animals. It is studied by both evolutionary biologists and researchers studying human health. Importantly, developmental plasticity can alter the direction of evolutionary change to the extent that phenotypic variation derived from development becomes encoded in the genome. We aim to unravel the mechanisms and drivers of developmental plasticity using the two male morphs of the bulb mite as our model system. Insights gained will increase our understanding of how functional traits affect the eco-evolutionary dynamics of populations, ultimately contributing to a general framework that can be used to accurately predict how populations respond to environmental change, informing conservation strategies. Some first ideas can be found in my recent paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution.