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Research GELIFES Research

Adaptive diversity and eco-evolutionary dynamics

Organismal evolution is shaped by ecological processes, which in turn are influenced by evolutionary change. Therefore, understanding adaptation - or the lack thereof - requires the integration of evolutionary and ecological perspectives. We investigate the mechanisms underlying biological diversity at different levels of organisation: from the molecular mechanisms that generate phenotypic variation, to species interactions in ecological communities and the macro-evolutionary patterns of species diversity.

We study a variety of organisms including bacteria, plants and (in)vertebrate animals. Our approaches range from theoretical modelling and comparative analysis to experimental evolution and field ecology.


Patterns and processes studied: adaptive radiation, cognition, competition, cultural evolution, ecology of fear, facilitation, herbivory, host-parasite interactions, natural selection, niche construction, self-organisation, sexual selection, speciation.

Disciplines and approaches: behavioural ecology, biogeography, bioinformatics, community ecology, comparative genomics, conservation ecology, ecosystem dynamics, evolutionary systems biology, experimental ecology, experimental evolution, molecular evolution, phylogenetics, population genetics & genomics, sensory ecology, theoretical biology.

Selected research themes
  • Drivers of organismal diversity: the role of adaptive (e.g. natural and sexual selection) and non-adaptive (e.g. drift) mechanisms in differentiation, speciation, extinction and coexistence (van Doorn, Etienne, Fontaine, Maan, Weissing)
  • Ecosystem functioning: resilience and adaptive capacity in the face of (human-induced) disturbance (Berg, Eriksson, Olff, Smit)
  • Community assembly: processes governing (experimental and natural) community dynamics (Etienne, Smit)
  • Eco-evolutionary feedback: ecological causes and consequences of evolutionary change (Eriksson, Fontaine, Maan)
  • Mechanistic underpinnings of evolutionary change: evolutionary causes and consequences of alternative genetic architectures and phenotypic plasticity (van Doorn, Fontaine, Maan, Weissing, Wertheim, van de Zande)
  • Eco-evolutionary genomics: inference of ecological and evolutionary processes from genomics (Fontaine, Wertheim, van de Zande)
  • Timescales of evolutionary change (Both, Olff, Weissing)
  • Self-organisation: navigation and collective motion in birds and fish (Hemelrijk)
  • Evolutionary systems biology (van Doorn, Weissing)
  • Zernike Ecology Project (Both, Dietz, Maan, Smit)

Martine Maan, Michael Fontaine, Chris Smit

Associated staff:

Matty Berg, Christiaan Both, Klemens Eriksson, Rampal Etienne, Charlotte Hemelrijk, Han Olff, Sander van Doorn, Franjo Weissing, Bregje Wertheim, Louis van de Zande

Last modified:27 July 2017 09.42 a.m.