- Ph.D. University of Edinburgh (2005)
- M.Sc. Wageningen University (2001)
- Population Biology, Evolution, and Ecology
- Computational Biology
Graduate Program Affiliation
- Population Biology, Ecology and Evolution
We study the ecology and evolution of parasites and their hosts, and are interested in co-infections of different parasite species, self-medication in hosts, and local coevolution of hosts and parasites. One of our main interests is the evolution of parasite virulence (i.e. parasite-induced reductions of host fitness). Intuitively, because parasites depend on their hosts for their survival, they should be harmless to their hosts, yet is well known that most parasites cause harm.
We experimentally test the evolutionary theories that virulence can evolve as a by-product of natural selection optimizing between-host parasite transmission, and that within-host competition between parasite genotypes can select for more harmful parasites. Although some of our work focuses on malaria parasites in laboratory mice, most of our work involves monarch butterflies and their protozoan parasites. Monarchs occur worldwide in populations that differ in the larval host plants that they consume, and host plants can change parasite virulence.
This allows us to investigate how local environmental conditions (in this case host plants) can select for lower or higher virulence. We use a combination of experiments, field work, theoretical models and molecular biology. Apart from carrying out research, we also organize scientific outreach to the community.
Research Lab Description
We study the evolution of parasites and their hosts. One of our main questions is how environmental conditions can select for more or less harmful parasites.