Previous work



Research interests

Community genetics

In community genetics, the fields of community ecology and population and quantitative genetics meet. Species, populations and individuals not only adapt to the abiotic environment, but also to changes in the species composition and related changes in the relative contribution of those species to the community. This interplay between species can result in interesting genetic dynamics that are crucial to understand how changes in the environment are affecting the community.

Local adaptation

Human induced changes of natural habitats force many species to adapt to new environmental conditions. This will primarily target ecological relevant traits and result in locally adapted populations. Genes important for ecological adaptation are often unique within species or clusters of related species, and are called “Orphan genes”. Unravelling the cues that triggers localized adaptation, the required adaptations and the corresponding changes in the genome is important to understand whether species can adapt to the new environment, and whether there are limits to local adaptation.

Modularity in genetic architecture

When two physiological pathways affect the same two traits, such that pleiotropic effect are positive in the first pathway and negative in the second, the relative contribution of both pathways in crucial for explaining the relation between the two traits. This modularity is more and more recognized as an important explanatory mechanism in cases where a difference in the environment results in opposite genetic correlations between two traits. The main challenge is to develop new methods and techniques to unravel the influence of those different pathways on the realised phenotype of the individuals.

Life-history evolution

Life-history traits are important factors for many aspects of biology and ecology. Understanding the origin and effect of life-history variation within and among species is an important aspect for unravelling the dynamics of communities and populations in response to changes in the environment.


When an environment changes, species can either adapt or go extinct. What causes that difference? Why can one species adapt to the changing environment and goes the other extinct? Knowing which characteristics of the different species are responsible for the presence or absence of that species will increase our understanding of the changes in biodiversity and how we can prevent extinction of those species.

Sexual size dimorphism

In most species, males and females differ in size. In most groups, males are more variable in size than females. The allometry for sexual size dimorphism (SSD) found in many (but not all) taxonomic groups, has led to the formulation of Rensch's rule: SSD increases with increasing body size when males are the larger sex but decreases with increasing body size when females are the larger sex. Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain this pattern, but none of those has the generality that is needed to explain a pattern that is so general present across the animal kingdom. The big question is what mechanism explains this general available pattern.