top of page


Mutualism evolution and stability are major outstanding questions in evolutionary biology. To address these questions, I have adopted subterranean ant-trophobiont (e.g. aphids & mealybugs) interaction networks as a novel study system. My research can be subdivided in four research themes: three empirical and one theoretical, and employs a broad range of methods, from behavioural experiments, advanced microscopy, high-throughput sequencing to computer simulations. In this way, I aim to contribute to a better understanding of the emergence and persistence of cooperation between species.



Ant-trophobiont ecological interaction networks

Using DNA barcoding and morphology, I map specificity in subterranean network of ants, aphids, mealybugs, their gut bacteria and the aphids' and mealybugs' host trees.

2013 - 2017

The Rockefeller University, New York

Postdoctoral Fellow

Microbiomes in ant-trophobiont mutualisms

Both ants and their trophobionts have specialized bacteria in their gut that facilitate nutrient uptake and excretion. I study what bacteria are there and what their influence is on the mutualism.

2007 - 2012 

University of Groningen & University of Copenhagen

PhD Theoretical Biology CUM LAUDE

2004 - 2006 

University of Groningen

Top-MSc. Evolutionary Biology CUM LAUDE

2001 - 2004 

Wageningen University & Research Center

BSc. Biology, specialised in Ecology CUM LAUDE

Partner choice in ant-trophobiont mutualisms

This theme ties the previous two together. The prime commodity of ant-trophobiont mutualisms is 'honeydew', the sugary excrement of aphids. I study whether the ants' preference for certain aphids can be influenced by the ants' and aphids' gut bacteria.

Universal patterns in mutualistic networks

Using computer simulations, I study whether some network architectures may be more favorable than others for the evolution and stability of mutualism, such as that between ants and the trophobionts they tend in their nests.


De Nationale DenkTank 2012

Selected member, topic: sustainable food chains

2015 - 2018

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

EU Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow

2019 - present

Stichting Milieu Centraal

Strategic Researcher

Sustainable Consumption & Circular Economy

bottom of page