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Three TOP grants for Groningen biologists

17 November 2011

Three of the six TOP grants in the Earth and Life Sciences TOP programme of the NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) have been awarded to researchers at the University of Groningen: Arnold Driessen, Professor of Molecular Microbiology at the Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute, Jan Komdeur, Professor of Avian Evolutionary Ecology at the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies (CEES), and Theunis Piersma, Professor of Animal Ecology at CEES and researcher at NIOZ (Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research).

The maximum TOP grant that can be awarded is EUR 750,000.

TOP grants

Dr Arnold J.M. Driessen, Professor of Molecular Microbiology,
Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute (GBB), University of Groningen

Single-molecule analysis of protein translocation and translocon dynamics

Living cells are surrounded by a lipid membrane, which contains a specific set of membrane proteins involved in substrate transport and communication. The membrane is selectively permeable to secretory proteins, which are translocated by the translocon. In the membrane the translocon forms a narrow, protein-permeable pore, which is also involved in the insertion of membrane proteins in the membrane. The aim of the project is to study the mechanism of the translocon in guiding proteins in and across the membrane.

Dr Jan Komdeur, Professor of Avian Evolutionary Ecology,
Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies (CEES), University of Groningen

The uphill struggle to understand social behaviour – the importance of genes, ecology and evolution

How and why social behaviour develops is a fascinating question. Everyone has a social life, and each individual responds differently to new situations (personality) and changing environmental factors (plasticity). These behaviour aspects are genetically based and influence the individual’s fitness. How these behaviour types are influenced by social interactions and environmental factors, however, is not known. The study by Komdeur’s group focuses on the differences between individuals’ social behaviour types, using the Seychelles warbler as the model organism. The group is examining the effect of natural selection on variation in these behaviour types by integrating new theoretical techniques and empirical field study in a unique way.

Dr Theunis Piersma, Professor of Animal Ecology,
Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies (CEES), University of Groningen
and researcher at NIOZ (Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research)

Shorebirds in space: the development and application of individual tracking tools for all relevant temporal and spatial scales

Shorebirds have long legs which can be ringed to make them identifiable as individuals, and they live in open biotopes where they can be monitored easily. With its waders and meadow birds the Netherlands is a key country for shorebirds. While there is a flourishing research tradition, breakthroughs are difficult to make because colour markings have only limited resolution. Sophisticated tracking tools therefore need to be adapted for use with small birds. Piersma’s group combines three transmission systems to study the annual cycles of black-tailed godwits so as to document continental and intercontinental migrations (satellite transmitters), individual lifetime journeys (geolocators) and local geographical and social processes (DTOA) and interpret them in ecological/evolutionary terms.

Last modified:31 January 2017 11.13 p.m.
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