Thesis subjects: Main Subjects

Within our research group, four important research topics can be distinguished. Within each of these topics several MPs or IPs can be chosen. Below the topics and possible subjects are listed. However, this list is not limitative, so for more information just contact us.

1. Stress- and adaptation physiology

In this topic the capabilities of aquatic organisms to adapt to changing environmental conditions, whether related to climate change or pollution, are studied at different levels of organisation ranging from the molecular up to the organismal level including behaviour. Both physiological acclimatization within one generation and (genetic) adaptation processes over generations are investigated, looking at organismal fitness, physiological biomarkers and gene expression rates.  At the moment within the Sphere-group about 6  PhD students and 2 postdocs are working on this topic

2. Field ecotoxicology

In this topic we look at the distribution, accumulation and effects of micro pollutants under real field conditions both in the aquatic and the terrestrial environment. Effects are studied at different levels of biological organization on field organisms, ranging from the biochemical/physiological to the community level. At the moment within Sphere about 4 PhD students and 1 postdoc are working on this topic.

3. Bio-availability and Toxicity

In this topic functional relationships are studied between exposure to micro pollutants and effects at the level of uptake, accumulation and toxicity. We are also exploring the links between the properties of microplastics (size, shape, chemical functionality) and their availability and toxicity to a range of organisms. The central objective is to answer questions that are relevant for the establishment of environmental quality standards. At the moment within the Sphere group about 4 PhD students are working on this topic.

4. Genomics of Adaptation

Genome sequences form the substrate of evolution. As such they provide a detailed record of the evolution and adaptation of organisms. For example, past selective pressures leave their marks in the genomes and point to genes relevant for genetic local adaptation. We analyse large-scale genome sequencing data and use statistical techniques to reveal this information and understand how natural populations respond to human-induced and natural pressures for adaptation. Furthermore, gene expression (the rate at which the genetic code is translated into proteins) provides us with valuable information about the molecular mechanisms involved in phenotypic adaptation. Finally, we employ experimental approaches in fishes and other organisms to establish links between adaptive genetic variants and their phenotypic responses.

5. Dynamic modelling

This topic is an overarching theme of all research in the SPHERE group. We develop dynamic models that describe mechanistic links between exposure conditions, bioavailability, modes of uptake, biotic handling machinery, and effects. This topic is integrated in virtually all our research, no specific examples of this are given.