As an ecologist I have always been interested in what determines where species occur and how they respond to challenges and particularly changes in their environment. The environment is rapidly changing as a result of human activities while the consequences for wild flora and fauna are often poorly understood. Studying the impact these changes have on a larger scale, i.e. on population and community level, and trying to understand the underlying mechanisms on individual level we can learn to assess the ecological impact and mitigate where possible.
Currently this is focussed on dragonflies and frequently in an applied context where I try to help nature managers to improve conditions for dragonflies with an emphasis on rare and threathened species.
In 2016 and 2017 I was working at the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, IGB-Berlin in the project Verlust der Nacht. Here I study the effect of artificial light on several groups of organisms, primarily in a moist grasslands with ditches that has been experimentally illuminated since 2012. In this project I work with Alessandro Manfrin on the effect of artificial light on the movement of invertebrates and food web dynamics in this field and with Maja Grubišić on the development of periphyton under nocturnal illumination. Both Maja and Alessandro defended their theses in 2017.
As a post-doc at Wageningen University I have been studying the effects of artificial light at night on flora and fauna. The core of this project is a large scale field experiment where we have three different light treatments and a dark control each consisting of a row of 5 streetlights perpendicular to a forest edge. This set up is replicated 8 times on different locations in the Netherlands. Here long term effects of light on many different groups of organisms, a.o. bats, mice, moths, plants and birds are monitored. The emphasis of my work within this experiment is on insects and vegetation. As this setup allows testing of effects on population level but does not give insight in the underlying mechanisms I have conducted lab experiments on moths together with a PhD student I co-supervise. We showed that several aspects of the life history of moths are disrupted by light at night, including initiation of diapause, pheromone production and mating. We showed that the impact of artificial light extends far beyond attraction. More information on this project can be found on www.lichtopnatuur.org
The research on artificial light has been covered in Dutch and international media on a number of locations. These are a few:
Article in ScienceNews on artificial light and moth pheromones online
Special on the ecological effects of artificial light in the BBC program Shared Planet link
Two page spread in the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant link
An item on light and the migration of toads in the Dutch television program Vroege Vogels link
In the past I have studied how climate change and the resulting range shift of plants affects plant soil interactions. I showed that plant species that expend their range northwards have a less negative plant soil feedback in the newly colonised range than both conspecifics in their native range and related species in their new range. This is likely a result from an escape from specialist pathogens that are not able to spread as fast as their plant host. Therefore these plants have a temporary advantage that enables them to expand more rapidly.