My research investigates how cooperation between species (mutualism) evolves and persists. Why do partners provide services to a host at a cost to themselves? My experimental approach utilizes physiological manipulations to force individuals to 'cheat' - I then monitor partner response to evaluate if (and how) punishment is enacted.
Using this approach, we can study cooperation in diverse systems, including the legume-rhizobia symbiosis and the mycorrhizal symbiosis. Current research is exploring the feasibility of extending conclusions derived from laboratory manipulations to other mutualistic systems in the field, such as obligate-pollination mutualisms and ant-plant mutualisms.
More generally, I am interested in understanding how mutualisms are responding to a rapidly changing world. My ultimate aim is to link environmental changes with the evolutionary dynamics of these widespread partnerships
Found on website of the VU