Research team

Expertise

- Evaluation of landscape connectivity. - Population viability analysisand genetic analysis of (natural) populations.

Individual variation in phenotypic plasticy in relation to intrinsic and extrinsic factors. 15/07/2024 - 14/07/2025

Abstract

Phenotypic plasticity is considered as the main mechanism by which organisms can adapt to climate change over relatively short timescales, yet there is limited knowledge on the sources as well as implications of individual variation in plasticity. This project explores intrinsic and extrinsic sources of variation in plasticity of the timing of breeding in birds, one of the best-studied model systems for phenological responses to climate change. The first three chapters of the thesis utilize multiple long-term datasets of nestbox-breeding birds to assess how plasticity is modulated by characteristics of the current environment (population density, expressed at different spatial scales), of conditions experienced during early life (brood size, data from experimental field manipulations) and of innate individual properties (personality). In the fourth chapter a new methodology is used to assess how the realized timing of breeding (including plastic responses) matches the optimal timing of breeding by accounting not only for reproductive output but also female survival. The requested funding will be necessary to add the fourth chapter to the thesis and thereby broaden the thesis from understanding the drivers of variation in plasticity, to also studying their implications for individual fitness and ultimately population persistence.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Sustainability and Trust in EU Multilevel Governance (STRATEGO). 01/11/2023 - 31/10/2026

Abstract

Given the current tenuous state of trust between institutions and actors at different levels in the EU governance system, the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence STRATEGO aims to teach, research and disseminate knowledge on the dynamics, causes and effects of trust between the actors and institutions involved in EU multi-level governance of sustainable development, with a focus on business and entrepreneurship, climate and biodiversity, and health policies. This empirical scope of STRATEGO connects with the UN's sustainable development goals, the policy priorities of the European Commission and the priorities of the Erasmus+ programme. STRATEGO will develop interdisciplinary synergies on EU governance, trust and sustainable development by bridging teaching, research and outreach efforts across disciplines at the University of Antwerp. Throughout all activities, STRATEGO will go beyond the usual producers and consumers of EU studies. It will bring EU governance knowledge of the Social Sciences, Law and Economics faculties to students and staff of the Science and Health Sciences faculties, and it will reach out beyond the academic environment to foster a dialogue with professionals, civilsociety and the general public. In terms of teaching, STRATEGO will ensure interdisciplinarity through guest lectures, joint supervision of bachelor and master theses and innovative formats such as simulations and micro-credentials. In terms of research, STRATEGO will bring together staff from various disciplines through research seminars, PhD masterclasses and a visiting scheme for early career scholars. In terms of outreach beyond the academic context, STRATEGO will organise activities such as thematic webinars, outreach workshops and activities for specific audiences such as secondary schools.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project website

Project type(s)

  • Education Project
  • Research Project

Linking long-term ecological data across trophic scales in an Open Science framework. 01/09/2023 - 31/12/2024

Abstract

The overall aim of this project is to contribute to building an open research ecosystem for long-term ecological studies. Specifically, the project will develop tools to connect the open-data platform for long-term population studies on birds "SPI-Birds" (https://spibirds.org/en) with other relevant spatial and temporal datasets containing information on land-use, vegetation and climate. Metadata and scripts will be added to the open platform, allowing researchers to test hypotheses on large-scale ecological linkages requiring a wide geographic coverage of data. As a pilot and demonstration study, the project will test hypotheses on the role of forest characteristics and land-use data (e.g. urbanization) in modulating the synchrony between bird phenology (timing of breeding) and climate variation. The project will link up with the new FAIRBIRDS project (ERA-net) dedicated to the development of open data and software platforms.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Global Ecosystem Functioning and Interactions with Global Change. 01/01/2023 - 31/12/2029

Abstract

Ecosystems sustain society by providing natural resources and socio-economic services. Understanding their functioning is thus vital for accurate projections of, among others, global climate and food production and prerequisite to drawing up policies for sustainable management of the planet. This proposal therefore aims at creating the scientific breakthroughs needed to make major advances in understanding of several critical processes that determine the functioning of ecosystems and their interactions with ongoing changes in climate and in resource availabilities. The overarching, long-term goal is to understand ecosystem functioning sufficiently well so that we can, in collaboration with modelling groups, confidently project how ecosystem functioning and services will change in the near and distant future. To pursue this goal, the following four research lines will be prioritized when allocating the Methusalem funding: 1. Obtaining a quantitative understanding of plant carbon allocation to growth, energy production (respiration), and nutrient acquisition (fine roots, root exudation, root symbionts). 2. Improving insight in, and measurements of, biomass production. 3. Better understanding soil carbon dynamics and sequestration. 4. Understanding spatial and temporal variation in carbon and greenhouse gas balances at ecosystem to regional scale and attribution to drivers. In each of these research lines, we aim to understand the mechanisms underlying the global and local spatial variation as well as those underlying the long-term trends and short-term temporal patterns. Focus is on how Global Changes (climate change including extreme events, increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration, nitrogen deposition, etc.) are affecting ecosystem processes and functioning. Many projects will be conducted with the research group of the Methusalem Chair at the University of Hasselt as prioritized partners.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Individual-based Value Assessment of Biodiversity in Policy Implementation (INVABIO). 01/10/2022 - 30/09/2026

Abstract

The central objective of INVABIO is to strengthen biodiversity policies by tackling the implementation gap resulting from the complexity of assessing case-specific biodiversity impacts in permitting and sanctioning decisions. INVABIO will develop a novel value assessment framework that focusses on individual specimens or habitats to qualitatively and quantitatively assess impact gravity. Hence, we merge ecological, legal and economic perspectives into a unified interdisciplinary INVABIO framework aimed at increasing the effective implementation of biodiversity conservation law. As a secondary objective, INVABIO will address the lack of detailed information on value assessment practices in permitting and sanctioning decisions by a coordinated data collection effort for Flanders and create a unique picture of the practical implementation of EU biodiversity legislation. We will evaluate and compare legally allowed (permitted) and illegal (sanctioned) actions in terms of their true biodiversity impacts. To that end, four datasets will be collected, processed and analysed by all partners of the project. These can be divided into two types of which the first pertains to document analysis of: 1. Environmental permits 2. Administrative penalty decisions 3. Criminal sanction decisions and the second type (4th dataset) concerns a survey of officials and practitioners with anonymised data. So this survey will not collect any personal data or sensitive information from the participants. Participants will be contacted in different ways: via calls in newsletters or through professional organisations, via direct emails, via calls on the project website and via snowballing. We will not have a complete list of all email addresses that will receive the call. We do not keep track of IP addresses. We only request information on gender, age group, nationality and occupation. So we cannot identify participants. Combining the INVABIO framework with the current assessment strategies will allow us to identify the dominant perspectives used, comment on the scientific validity of these strategies and formulate promising avenues for improvement. INVABIO allows to identify priority areas for a better execution of biodiversity policies and to develop strategic guidelines for policymakers. Throughout we will be attentive to the applicability of research outcomes to other EU countries. As to dissemination and valorization, INVABIO will construct a web platform which will bring together the different insights and outcomes. The INVABIO web platform will act as a decision support tool for regulatory authorities involved in implementing biodiversity-related legislation by providing access to a unique dataset. Moreover, and based on the INVABIO framework, an interactive tool will allow users to retrieve specific and science-based guidelines for assessing the gravity of biodiversity impacts.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Eco-evolutionary dynamics in spatially structured systems 01/01/2022 - 31/12/2026

Abstract

Eco-evolutionary dynamics are key to adaptation and biological diversification in heterogeneous environments. These eco-evo interactions also steer the three processes of dispersal (departure, transfer and settlement), and therefore the organization of biodiversity in space. A qualitative and quantitative theory is to date lacking. The research network will merge existing research communities on eco-evolutionary dynamics and dispersal ecology. The research network will promote the integration of these fields, not only by stimulating mobility, but also by the further development of collaborative experiments and synthesis actions. More specifically, network will organise a variety of activities, including the organisation of symposia, workshops as fostered by postdoctoral mobility between the Flemish and International partners.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Drivers of individual and temporal variation in host infectiousness: a bird-specific Borrelia as a model system. 01/01/2022 - 31/12/2025

Abstract

A crucial factor to predict the persistence and spread of infections in natural systems (and potential spill-over to humans) is the capacity of so-called reservoir hosts to maintain the infection and transmit it to others. This is known to vary greatly between species, but also within species and through time, although this part of the variation is often less well understood. In this proposal we focus on between- and within-individual variation in infectiousness in a natural population, using a bird-tick-Borrelia system as model. Great tits are among the most important reservoirs of Borrelia garinii, one of the main causal agents of Lyme disease. We will study how the capacity of birds to transmit these bacteria to feeding ticks varies between individuals, how it varies through the annual cycle, and whether stressful episodes may reactivate infections in birds that previously were not infective. We will do this in a well-studied population where we can repeatedly test the infectiousness of the same individuals and relate this to their age, sex, condition and other factors. We will also keep a small number of birds in captivity to study year-round variation in infectiousness in standard conditions. We will challenge birds with moderate stress levels of ecological relevance (e.g. variation in food quality, or brood size). Ultimately we will study how temporal and individual variation affects the basic reproduction number R0 of the infection in nature.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Negative effects of artificial light at night on European common glow-worms (Lampyris noctiluca): mechanisms and evolutionary consequences. 01/11/2021 - 31/10/2025

Abstract

Artificial light at night (ALAN) is increasingly recognized as a substantial threat to biodiversity, in particular to nocturnal species. Due to their light-based sexual communication system, are fireflies and glow-worms especially vulnerable to interference of artificial lights. Recent work has shown that ALAN strongly reduces mate-finding and mating success in European common glow-worms (Lampyris noctiluca), which implies a strong potential selection on traits that may counter these effects. This species is used as a model to study effects of ALAN because it is widespread, easy to capture, and has a simple communication system with non-signalling males being attracted to stationary flightless females. First I will elucidate the exact mechanisms underlying the negative effects of ALAN on mating success by performing behavioural tests and electrophysiological recordings evaluating the responses of males to different light colours. Next, I will explore whether populations are evolving adaptations to cope with this selection pressure by comparing glow-worms both in wild-caught and common garden individuals, from populations with high and low ALAN levels. I will examine several candidate behavioural responses in males, females and larvae, as well as male visual sensitivity, and evaluate whether population differences are a result of phenotypical plasticity or genetic adaptation. Finally I will examine whether impacts of ALAN can be generalized to related glow-worm species.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

The genomic and ecological basis of rapid change in a functionally significant trait: osteoderm evolution in a girdled lizard. 01/01/2021 - 31/12/2024

Abstract

Osteoderms are bony elements that are expressed in the skin of a few disparate groups of tetrapods (i.e. in crocodiles, turtles, armadillos, and some lizard and frog species) – but not in other taxa. In humans, osteoderms are frequent complications of injury and in a few rare inherited disorders. Osteoderms spark interest because they are ecologically relevant (they are likely to function in body protection, thermoregulation and water budget maintenance, in mineral storage) but at the same time exhibit an unusually binary distribution (i.e., they are expressed completely, or not at all). The latter element facilitates research into the genomic substrate of the trait. One species of cordylid lizard, Hemicordylus capensis, uniquely displays intraspecific variation in osteoderms: the trait has evolved repeatedly and therefore is present in some populations, but not in others. The species thus offers exceptional opportunities for learning how, why and when this remarkable trait evolves. With this project, we aim to resolve those issues through a thoroughly integrated approach combining state-of-the-art genomic, functional morphological and ecological techniques. We will also explore if we can extrapolate the findings on this study system to other taxa that (occasionally) express osteoderms, including humans. The project will allow a rare complete view of the evolution of an ecologically relevant phenotypic characteristic with a remarkably discontinuous variation and an unusually disparate taxonomic distribution.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Sharing knowledge on ticks and tick-borne diseases in relation to management of green domains by the Province of Antwerp 21/05/2021 - 31/08/2023

Abstract

This project consists of three parts. First we will compile the present scientific knowledge and facts on abundance and infection prevalences of ticks, and translate this to a practical guideline for tick-related management of the green domains of the Province of Antwerp. Secondly we will estimate infection risk in all provincial domains through field work. We will collect ticks on risk locations (walking trails, play zones...) and reference locations (forest) and analyse the prevalence of pathogens (Lyme Borreliosis) through molecular means. Third, we will implement a training program for managers of provincial domains to share and translate the obtained information.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Tick-Bone Infections in the North Sea Region - A competence network to improve public service delivery based on a one health perspective full application in Call 9 (NORTH THICK). 01/09/2019 - 28/02/2023

Abstract

Ticks are the most important vectors for transmitting diseases, which may cause deaths and are frequently associated with long-term suffering and high costs. During the last decades, ticks carrying disease-causing microorganisms in humans and animals have increased in numbers and spread to new areas. Thus, the number of people and animals afflicted by tick-borne diseases are on the rise. The reasons are complex and may include climate change, increased urbanisation and other human influences on ecosystems. It is challenging for health services and authorities to be updated on optimal strategies for prevention and management of Borrelia infections and TBE, and to keep up with newer tickborne microorganisms and diseases, and to give adequate information to a concerned public. Evidence-based and cost-effective strategies for control of tick-borne diseases are currently the weakest chain in surveillance. NorthTick aims to meeting these challenges regarding tick-borne diseases, by providing a multi-disciplinary and transnational joint effort to improve public health service delivery regarding: (i) risk assessment (ii) efficient preventive measures (iii) optimal diagnostic strategies (iv) best patient management recommendations NorthTick will enhance cooperation between academic institutions, national/regional health authorities, patient organizations and other NGOs, industry and policy makers to develop and exchange knowledge on how to curb the rise in tick-borne diseases and associated burden on society.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project website

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Next generation animal tracking – deciphering the ecological code 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2023

Abstract

In recent years, large-scale scientific initiatives have spurred the development of affordable lightweight tracking devices such that movement data are now collected in unprecedented quantities for a huge variety of species. Yet, appropriate tools to exploit the full potential of these tracking data are lagging behind. However, if we really want to capitalize on big movement data we must invest in an enhanced inference, particularly by combining heterogeneous and very high resolution data streams. And we have to pay attention to spatio-temporal patterns in the clustering sequences of movements or behaviours, which have almost virtually been ignored. To this end, a multidisciplinary consortium was established uniting leading experts in animal behaviour, moving object analysis, space-time or species-distribution modelling, spatio-temporal visualisation, and pattern recognition. By bridging disciplines within and across research areas, this multidisciplinary consortium has both the capacity to promote the development of analytical tools as well as to boost population and community ecology by building a new, integrated framework for the interpretation of state-of-the-art tracking data. We will follow a sequential approach by initially synthesizing how short-term behavioural responses and phenotypic adjustments within individuals, as well as consistent among-individual differences, impinge on movement ecological processes. This will set the stage for exploiting the full potential of tracking data, to understand behavioural responses, conspecific interactions and decision-making.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project website

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Prioritizing Lyme borreliosis risk areas for forest and nature management based on novel insights in tick ecology. 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

Cases of Lyme borreliosis, a disease transmitted to humans by the castor bean tick (Ixodes ricinus), have increased in recent years. To take efficient action it is important to know at which locations, frequently visited by humans, infected ticks can be found. Other studies have shown that certain forest types contain more ticks than others but it is not known what determines the spatial distribution of ticks within a suitable area. In this PhD project, I will investigate the distribution of ticks within forest, with respect to the amount of visitors frequent each location. Subsequently I will examine why ticks end up in this specific location. One aspect that may lead to the observed tick distribution is the location where ticks drop off their hosts after feeding on them, be it deer or smaller animals. To look into this, I will investigate where in our study areas hosts spend their time and where ticks prefer to drop off. Lastly, we will determine in the field which circumstances lead to high mortality among ticks. In these circumstances, there is lesser for intervention. Our findings will be summarized and translated into management recommendations for forest managers and policy makers. This will allow them to organise and manage forests in a more efficient way and reduce tick densities more efficiently. This will save time and money and minimize public health risks for visitors.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

The link between animal personality and infection risk in natural populations of Mastomys natalensis infected with Morogoro arenavirus. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2021

Abstract

Animal personality is the phenomenon that behaviour is consistent through time, meaning, for example, that some individuals are always more aggressive than others. Any behaviour can be defined as a personality trait, as long as it is repeatable through time, but personality traits are generally divided into five categories: boldness, exploration, activity, aggressiveness and sociability. Highly explorative individuals may be more likely to encounter mates and thus have high reproductive success, for example, but they may also be at an increased risk of encountering parasites, pathogens, and predators. These fitness costs of personality are understudied, but may have important implications for disease dynamics. Using the natal multimammate mouse (Mastomys natalensis) - Morogoro arenavirus study system, I will examine the possible links between personality traits, immune functioning, and infection risk. Specifically, I will 1) establish whether M. natalensis show evidence of consistent personality traits and if any traits are correlated, 2) investigate whether host personality traits are associated with viral infections in free-living populations, 3) determine whether there is a relationship between some personality traits and immune system function, 4) experimentally test whether infection alters the expression of personality traits, and 5) use epidemiological models to explore the potential effects of personality on virus transmission dynamics in free-living populations.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

BOF Sabbatical leave 2018-2019 Prof. Erik Matthysen. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

The overall aim of this sabbatical leave is to expand our research into responses of animal populations to climate change, and to explore new research avenues and collaborations. The model system is the seasonal timing (phenology) of insectivorous birds in relation to tree phenology, building on several long-term datasets that we have available. More specifically I will focus on the role of phenology at the level of individual trees, a hitherto understudied aspect of this complex system. The first specific aim is to analyse a unique and recently acquired dataset on phenology of 1600 trees in a long-term study site of bird populations. A side aim is to update my own research skills in analytical softwares. A second aim is to explore possibilities of remote sensing technique that would allow to charachterize individual tree timing at large scales, with the aim to set up novel collaborations and projects. A third specific aim is to increase the visibility of our research group in international collaborations by participating in expert workshops and joint international publications of longitudinal data. Finally I will engage in a thorough exhange of expertise concerning tree phenology and climate change with the PLECO group at University of Antwerp, an internationally leading group in this matter, with the aim to produce a perspective paper and new research proposals.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Abundance of ticks in the Antwerp peri-urban area: policy recommendations for planning of ecological corridors in relation to urban green and health. 01/03/2018 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

In this project we analyze previously collected field data on the abundance of ticks and prevalences of important pathogens. Ticks were collected in about 20 parks and forested areas in and around Antwerp. Based on the outcomes we make policy recommendations on how to deal with tick-borne health risks in an urban area.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Identification of Lyme borreliosis risk areas for forest and nature management based on novel insights in tick ecology. 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

Cases of Lyme borreliosis, a disease transmitted to humans when bitten by the castor bean tick (Ixodes ricinus), have increased in recent years. To take efficient action it is important to know at which locations infected ticks can be found. In past research it has been shown that certain forest types contain more ticks than others. Up to now, however, it is not known what determines the spatial distribution of ticks within such a suitable area. In this PhD project, we will investigate the distribution of ticks on a fine scale, and examine what contributes to the ticks ending up in specific locations. One aspect that may lead to the observed tick distribution is the location where ticks drop off their hosts after they have fed on them, be it deer or smaller animals. To look into this, we will investigate where in our study areas hosts spend their time and, among these locations, where ticks prefer to drop off. Once detached from the host, ticks can still move around. We will confirm whether or not this movement is random. Lastly, we will determine in the field which circumstances lead to high mortality among ticks. In these circumstances, there is no need for intervention. Our findings will be summarized and translated into management recommendations for forest and natural area managers. This will allow them to design and manage greenspaces in a safer way and combat ticks in a more directed way, saving both time and money while minimizing public health risks of visitors.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Individual variation and evolutionary potential of parasite traits in a songbird-tick system: direct and indirect genetic effects. 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

The interaction between parasites and hosts is generally considered as one of the main driving forces in evolution. Evolution can occur if individual characteristics ("traits") are at least partly inherited, and are subject to natural selection. Therefore, to study the evolution of parasite traits, it is necessary to follow the success of individual parasites throughout their life-cycle. In many parasite species this is nearly impossible, except in highly artificial laboratory conditions. We will study the variation and heritability of parasite traits in ticks that are specialized on songbirds. We will breed ticks in the lab, and allow individual ticks to feed once per stage (larva, nymph or adult) on great tits taken from a wild population. In this way we will have information on the genetic relatedness of individual ticks as well as individual birds used in the study. This allows us to study to what extent variation in parasite success (feeding success, survival, number of eggs) is due to genetic variation in the parasite, or genetic variation in the host, or a combination of both. We will also study whether ticks that are highly successful on great tits do less well on other birds, and vice versa. Similarly we will study whether great tits vary in their ability to resist, or at least tolerate infestation by ticks, and whether birds that do better against one tick, are also successful against other tick species.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project website

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

The link between animal personality and infection risk in natural populations of Mastomys natalensis infected with Morogoro arenavirus. 01/10/2016 - 30/09/2018

Abstract

Animal personality is the phenomenon that behaviour is consistent through time, meaning, for example, that some individuals are always more aggressive than others. Any behaviour can be defined as a personality trait, as long as it is repeatable through time, but personality traits are generally divided into five categories: boldness, exploration, activity, aggressiveness and sociability. Highly explorative individuals may be more likely to encounter mates and thus have high reproductive success, for example, but they may also be at an increased risk of encountering parasites, pathogens, and predators. These fitness costs of personality are understudied, but may have important implications for disease dynamics. Using the natal multimammate mouse (Mastomys natalensis) - Morogoro arenavirus study system, I will examine the possible links between personality traits, immune functioning, and infection risk. Specifically, I will 1) establish whether M. natalensis show evidence of consistent personality traits and if any traits are correlated, 2) investigate whether host personality traits are associated with viral infections in free-living populations, 3) determine whether there is a relationship between some personality traits and immune system function, 4) experimentally test whether infection alters the expression of personality traits, and 5) use epidemiological models to explore the potential effects of personality on virus transmission dynamics in free-living populations.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Global Ecosystem Functioning and Interactions with Global Change. 01/06/2016 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

Ecosystems sustain society by providing natural resources and socio-economic services. Understanding their functioning is thus vital for accurate projections of, among others, global climate and food production and prerequisite to drawing up policies for sustainable management of the planet. This proposal therefore aims at creating the scientific breakthroughs needed to make major advances in understanding of several critical processes that determine the functioning of ecosystems and their interactions with ongoing changes in climate and in resource availabilities. The overarching, long-term goal is to understand ecosystem functioning sufficiently well so that we can, in collaboration with modelling groups, confidently project how ecosystem functioning and services will change in the near and distant future. To pursue this goal, the following four research lines will be prioritized when allocating the Methusalem funding: 1. Obtaining a quantitative understanding of plant carbon allocation to growth, energy production (respiration), and nutrient acquisition (fine roots, root exudation, root symbionts). 2. Improving insight in, and measurements of, biomass production. 3. Better understanding soil carbon dynamics and sequestration. 4. Understanding spatial and temporal variation in carbon and greenhouse gas balances at ecosystem to regional scale and attribution to drivers. In each of these research lines, we aim to understand the mechanisms underlying the global and local spatial variation as well as those underlying the long-term trends and short-term temporal patterns. Focus is on how Global Changes (climate change including extreme events, increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration, nitrogen deposition, etc.) are affecting ecosystem processes and functioning. Many projects will be conducted with the research group of the Methusalem Chair at the University of Hasselt as prioritized partners.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

An eco-evolutionary network of biotic interactions 01/01/2016 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

Diversity at all levels of biological organization is shaped by processes related to selection, drift, dispersal and - dependent on the level of organization - speciation/mutation. These ecological and evolutionary processes interact at small to large temporal and spatial scales and generate tightly linked eco-evolutionary dynamics. They thereby affect population responses to environmental change, including the potential for evolutionary rescue. To date, most of these insights are generated from theory and experimental work based on single species or small interacting units (two or three species, e.g. predator-prey). Species do, however, not live in isolation, but in interacting networks. These biotic interactions typically range from positive mutualistic interactions (pollinator or mycorrhizal networks), over neutral to negative antagonistic interactions (in foodwebs and disease networks). Despite the awareness that losses or changes of biotic interactions will eventually impact functional aspects of ecosystems (ecosystem health), they remain a neglected component of biodiversity. The eco-evolutionary dynamics of biotic interactions need to be considered if we aim to move the field of ecology towards a predictive science. Because interactions may evolve by selection in communities, and because the number of interactions exponentially increase with the number of species in networks, ecologists have most often considered them as a black box and rely on statistical approaches that lack a mechanistic foundation to forecast species' responses to global change. This FWO-funded research network aims to advance the field of eco-evolutionary interactions by stimulating advanced collaborations within the research community. The network brings together researchers that are specialized in the field of ecology and evolution, though tackling research questions by means of different approaches and model systems. The proposed multi-disciplinary research community includes both theoretical and empirical biologists, using various aquatic, terrestrial and microbial model systems, and integrates research groups with strong methodological and conceptual expertise in genomics and bio-informatics, network analysis and computation biology. The network will stimulate multidisciplinary collaborations in order to raise the level of eco-evolutionary research in Flanders and to foster its use in predictive ecology. This will be achieved by means of active research collaboration among partners, the organization of specialized workshops to develop conceptual perspectives and synthesis papers, and the organization of bi-annual symposia for graduates, postdoctoral fellows and staff.

Researcher(s)

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Project website

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Systematic conservation planning in the high Andes of Bolivia: application of modeling tools for integrative management of natural areas. 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

The main goal of this project is to evaluate and compare the performance and the constraints in the use of the two mostly used systematic conservation planning tools, Marxan and Zonation, in a tropical terrestrial setting. First, I will collect and process information on biodiversity, ecosystem services and socio-economy of the Tunari National Park of Bolivia. These data will then be used to model the potential suitability of the habitat under current and future predicted climatic scenarios. Finally, I will use Marxan and Zonation to generate a decisionsystem about conservation action for biodiversity and ecosystem services while taking into account anthropogenic and economical requirements, as well as habitat fragmentation and connectivity issues.

Researcher(s)

  • Promoter: Matthysen Erik
  • Co-promoter: Strubbe Diederik
  • Fellow: Fastré Constance

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

GCE - Global Change Ecology. 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

This project represents a research contract awarded by the University of Antwerp. The supervisor provides the Antwerp University research mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions stipulated by the university.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Landscape heterogeneity as a driver of evolutionary divergence in two rodent-borne RNA-viruses: a multi-scale approach. 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

Evolutionary divergence of directly transmitted virus lineages is often thought to occur either via codivergence with their hosts or due to the micro-evolutionary processes related to isolation by distance. Yet, in case of rapidly evolving RNA viruses with reservoir hosts that have distinct habitat preferences, landscape heterogeneity may be an important factor in virus divergence. Unpreferred host habitat is, through its effect on host density, expected to pose a barrier for virus gene flow, even in the absence of genetic isolation in the host. This is a consequence of host density thresholds for successful viral transmission. This project aims to investigate the role of multi-scale landscape patterns in shaping spatiotemporal patterns of viral divergence in two distinct rodent-borne RNA viruses: Puumala hantavirus in Europe and Mopeia arenavirus in Eastern Africa. On a short-term and regional scale, we will study how local land use patterns affect viral clustering through space. On a long term and continental scale we will investigate how virus success in different genetic host groups has led to the types of viruses currently present in these rodents and how this pattern is affected by historic changes in landscape patterns.

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Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Transmission dynamics of tick-borne Borrelia and rickettsial bacteria in a songbird tick community. 01/10/2014 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

This project aims to increase our understanding, by focussing on: 1) the infestation risk of ticks in woodland songbirds, 2) the capacity of bird-specialized ticks to transmit Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, the causative agents of Lyme disease in humans, and 3) the mechanisms of the spread of ticks and their diseases by woodland songbirds. The project focuses on two common hole-breeding songbird acting as tick-hosts, and three tick species with totally different life styles that commonly parasitize terrestrial songbirds in Europe and that co-occur in woodlands.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Research in the field of ornithology. 01/01/2014 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the client. UA provides the client research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Systematic conservation planning in the high Andes of Bolivia: application of modeling tools for integrative management of natural areas. 01/10/2013 - 30/09/2015

Abstract

The main goal of this project is to evaluate and compare the performance and the constraints in the use of the two mostly used systematic conservation planning tools, Marxan and Zonation, in a tropical terrestrial setting. First, I will collect and process information on biodiversity, ecosystem services and socio-economy of the Tunari National Park of Bolivia. These data will then be used to model the potential suitability of the habitat under current and future predicted climatic scenarios. Finally, I will use Marxan and Zonation to generate a decisionsystem about conservation action for biodiversity and ecosystem services while taking into account anthropogenic and economical requirements, as well as habitat fragmentation and connectivity issues.

Researcher(s)

  • Promoter: Matthysen Erik
  • Co-promoter: Strubbe Diederik
  • Fellow: Fastré Constance

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Effects of Afrotropical rainforest fragmentation on lifehistory strategies in a cooperative breeding bird. 01/01/2013 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

We will study how the combination of territory quality, habitat fragmentation and isolation shape reproductive, dispersal, settlement, and territorial strategies in fragmented populations of a tropical, cooperative breeding bird species.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Real-time localization system for population studies of small birds. 01/01/2013 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

This project will develop a new real-time localization system for large-scale monitoring of movements of small free-living birds. The ultimate aim is to develop small miniaturised tags (max 1g) that send spatial information to detection modules in the field, which in turn send this information to a central receiving system. The objective of the current proposal is to clarify the limits and possibilities of this system.

Researcher(s)

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Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Spatial and environmental determinants of eco-evolutionary dynamics: anthropogenic environments as a model (SPEEDY). 01/10/2012 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

The overall objective of SPEEDY is to obtain integrated insight into the responses of populations and communities to urbanization. The integrated nature of our research programme refers to the fact that we consider different biological levels (communities, populations) and we specifically address interactions between both ecological and evolutionary responses (eco-evolutionary dynamics). We also seek mechanistic explanations by looking at organismal traits, consider different stressors associated with urbanization, and perform concerted research on different organism groups and spatial scales. The research will translate into a capacity to provide improved predictions of responses of natural communities to urbanization by incorporating evolutionary responses.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

The role of exploration and experience in the development of spatial behaviour: home ranges and dispersal in the Great Tit. 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

Mobility is one of the most essential characteristics of life, and is closely linked with the acquisition and use of spatial information. We test two general hypotheses using field data and behavioural experiments on songbirds: (a) individuals build up spatial information in the course of their life which they use in subsequent movement decisions, and this creates carry-over effects between life stages; (b) individuals differ consistently in their use of spatial information, and this explains part of the within-population variation in mobility patterns.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Host-parasite interactions between resident songbirds, ixodid ticks and Borrelia spirocheten. 01/10/2011 - 30/09/2014

Abstract

This project aims to increase our understanding, by focussing on: 1) the infestation risk of ticks in woodland songbirds, 2) the capacity of bird-specialized ticks to transmit Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, the causative agents of Lyme disease in humans, and 3) the mechanisms of the spread of ticks and their diseases by woodland songbirds. The project focuses on two common hole-breeding songbird acting as tick-hosts, and three tick species with totally different life styles that commonly parasitize terrestrial songbirds in Europe and that co-occur in woodlands.

Researcher(s)

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Project type(s)

  • Research Project

FWO Visiting Postdoctoral Fellowship (Peter KORSTEN, NL) 01/11/2010 - 31/10/2011

Abstract

This is a fundamental research project financed by the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO). The project was subsidized after selection by the FWO-expert panel.

Researcher(s)

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Project type(s)

  • Research Project

The genetic and developmental basis of developmental buffering. 01/10/2010 - 30/09/2014

Abstract

Buffering is the process that minimizes phenotypic variation arising from genetic and environmental perturbations during development. It is considered an important process in evolutionary biology due to its ability to conceal genetic variation from selection, but nevertheless little is known about its genetic and developmental basis. This projects aims to fill this gap in our knowledge by examining the underlying processes of developmental stability in two unique vertebrate model systems. Developmental stability is the component of development buffering that acts at the individual level by buffering against random variation arising in the developmental process. It can be easily empirically determined by quantifying the level of fluctuating asymmetry, i.e. random deviations from perfect symmetry in a bilateral symmetric trait. To investigate the genetic and developmental basis of developmental stability, I will (1) investigate the associations between levels of fluctuating asymmetry and the presence and severity of congenital abnormalities in early deceased human fetuses (based on a hospital collection) and rabbit fetuses (experimentally exposed to teratogenic products) and (2) use genome-wide screening to detect mutations that influence the level of fluctuating asymmetry. It is expected that this multidisciplinary approach will indicate (1) developmental systems and (2) genetic pathways that affect developmental stability.

Researcher(s)

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Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Evolutionary history of Old World arenaviruses and their murine hosts in Africa. 01/10/2010 - 30/09/2014

Abstract

Arenaviruses are viruses normally carried by rodents. Some of them are highly pathogenic to humans. They are divided into the New World (NW) and the Old World (OW) groups. Until recently, it was assumed that arenaviruses stay with the rodent species in which they are found (co-speciation). While a recent study on NW arenaviruses did not find any evidence to support this assumption, the only existing study on OW arenaviruses is not convincing one way or the other. Recent discoveries of new arenaviruses suggest that their evolutionary history is more subtle than previously thought with possible transfers between species depending on the relatedness of the hosts. My project aims to i) analyze a large number of existing rodent samples from East Africa to discover new arenaviruses and test the limits of host specificity; ii) sequence new strains/species of arenaviruses starting with two I found during my first FWO postdoctoral mandate. With this expanded data on OW arenaviruses, I will analyze the processes generating variation in arenaviruses and test for co-speciation and transfer events. I will also test for signals of the selective effect arenaviruses have on their hosts by analyzing polymorphism of the host cell receptor gene of OW arenaviruses.

Researcher(s)

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Project type(s)

  • Research Project

The role of niche conservatism, genetic variation and facilitative species interactions in explaining the invasion success of non-native species. 01/10/2010 - 30/09/2013

Abstract

By addressing several understudied aspects of invasions, this project aims to increase our understanding of invasion success. First, using data on bird introductions in Europe, I will assess the validity of the often used assumption of niche conservatism (i.e. the tendency of species to retain ancestral ecological traits), as niche shifts during invasion may allow species to occupy habitats different from the ones used in their native range. Second, I will use the invasion of Europe by ring-necked parakeets to study the influence of intraspecific niche variation on invasion success. Geographical variation in niche requirements can result in variation in speciesenvironment relationships, and ignoring this can lead to both over- and underestimates of the invasion potential. Lastly, most research on biotic interactions has focused on negative interactions (competition, predation). However, facilitation could be equally important and the recent colonization of European cities by different parakeet species offers an opportunity to study facilitation among invading species.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

FWO Visiting Postdoctoral Fellowship (Joël WHITE, France). 01/05/2010 - 30/04/2011

Abstract

The general aim of this project is to study the processes contributing to the evolution of host specificity in parasites, using bird-tick interactions as a model system. One of the major aims is to study transmission of parasites within and among host species. Because parasites are nidicolous and therefore restricted to nest sites (cavities), the use of nest or roost cavities by hosts in response to parasite infestation plays a crucial role in transmission. Birds can avoid cavities with parasites by using different kinds of information: the current presence of parasites, their own previous experience in the nest site (personal information) or information obtained from observing other birds (social information) - which is perhaps less likely in the case of ectoparasites. By switching between parasitized and parasite-free nests, birds may actually carry parasites to noninfested sites and thereby enhance transmission of parasites between cavities and even among host individuals or species.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Eco-evolutionary dynamics in natural and anthropogenic communities. 01/01/2010 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

This is a fundamental research project financed by the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO). The project was subsidized after selection by the FWO-expert panel.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Population structure, transmission and host specificity in a nidicolous ectoparasite, the tick Ixodes arboricola. 01/01/2010 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

The aim of this project is to study host specialization and genetic structure in an ecologically specialized tick species, I. arboricola. This project will deliver novel insights into the evolution of host specialization in ticks and more generally in parasites, and the role of different mechanisms herein. In addition we will obtain detailed insights in host selection, transmission and dispersal in a group of ectoparasites with high societal relevance.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Selection on dispersion-related traits in highly dynamic environments: the natterjack toad (Bufo calamita) as model species. 01/10/2009 - 30/09/2011

Abstract

This project tests the hypothesis that dispersal-related traits are subjected to different selective pressures depending on the isolation and lifespan of populations. Natterjack toads are used as a model species. Toads are collected in small isolated populations as well as larger network populations, and raised in a common environment. We measure traits that are potentially related to dispersal including development, morphology, locomotion, exploratory behaviour and habitat use. Using these data we study differentiation among populations as well as associations among traits. We also determine the extent of neutral (molecular) variation among populations.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Dispersal, parental care and personality traits in the Great Tit. 01/10/2009 - 30/09/2011

Abstract

The general aim of this project is to study how individual variation in behaviour, in offspring as well as parents, contributes to variation in dispersal in natural populations. We use the great tit as a model system using dispersal data from an ongoing population study in a fragmented woodland system. The study of personalities is based on previous research showing that a standardized exploration score provides information on heritable behavioural syndromes. We study how different aspects of spatial behaviour (dispersal, home ranges, family movements during parental care) are related to each other and to personality variation. This variation will be linked also to available fitness data (survival and reproduction).

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Mate choice & patterns of adaptive variation in the European black vulture (Aegypius monachus). 01/09/2009 - 31/08/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand KMDA. UA provides KMDA research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Layout and development of an ecological landscape model as a model instrument for the ecological infrastructure in the Antwerp port. 15/12/2008 - 15/07/2011

Abstract

This project will produce a landscape ecological model that allows to quantify the effect of planned or realised changes in the Antwerp Harbour area on the connectivity between natural animal populations. The model is based on analysis of least-cost paths as a function of landscape resistance. The model is parameterized for a number of target species including natterjack toad and bats with additional species to be determined. The project will deliver a practical instrument for monitoring the functioning of the Ecological Infrastructure in the harbour area.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Dispersal, connectivity and population viability of birds in a fragmental afrotropical rainforest. 01/10/2008 - 30/09/2012

Abstract

This project aims to model viability of threatened bird populations in highly fragmented biodiversity hotspot in Kenya, based on demographic data, behavioural observations and landscape connectivity analysis. The results will be integrated in a multidisciplinary study on reforestation priorities within the study area.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Population viability in fragmented rainforest: integrating individual-based modeling with landscape dynamics and connectivity. 01/01/2008 - 31/12/2011

Abstract

This project aims to study factors that affect the long-term population viability of Afrotropical bird species for which forest deterioration and isolation act synergistically at different spatial scales. We will parameterize and integrate spatially-explicit metapopulation-, forest- and landscape-models that encompass both fine-grained and coarse-grained dynamic processes.

Researcher(s)

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Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Sabbatical leave within the framework of animal ecology. 01/01/2008 - 31/07/2008

Abstract

The purpose of this sabbatical leave is to answer a number of research questions using state-of-the-art statistical analyses on long-term datasets. This includes analyses of survival, population structure and heritability of traits. In particular I will study changes in life-history traits because of climate change and the role of genetic variation therein.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Selection of dispersion-related traits in highly dynamic environments: the natterjack toad (Bufo calamita) as model species. 01/10/2007 - 30/09/2009

Abstract

This project tests the hypothesis that dispersal-related traits are subjected to different selective pressures depending on the isolation and lifespan of populations. Natterjack toads are used as a model species. Toads are collected in small isolated populations as well as larger network populations, and raised in a common environment. We measure traits that are potentially related to dispersal including development, morphology, locomotion, exploratory behaviour and habitat use. Using these data we study differentiation among populations as well as associations among traits. We also determine the extent of neutral (molecular) variation among populations.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Dispersal, parental care and personality traits in the Great Tit. 01/10/2007 - 30/09/2009

Abstract

The general aim of this project is to study how individual variation in behaviour, in offspring as well as parents, contributes to variation in dispersal in natural populations. We use the great tit as a model system using dispersal data from an ongoing population study in a fragmented woodland system. The study of personalities is based on previous research showing that a standardized exploration score provides information on heritable behavioural syndromes. We study how different aspects of spatial behaviour (dispersal, home ranges, family movements during parental care) are related to each other and to personality variation. This variation will be linked also to available fitness data (survival and reproduction).

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

The making of an action plan for the aquatic warbler (Acrocephalus Paludicola) in Flanders. 01/04/2007 - 31/10/2007

Abstract

As part of an international conservation programme, we analyse the occurrence and habitat use of the Aquatic Warbler during migration in Flanders. In addition to a literature study on ecology and migration we analyse observation and ringing records in detail. We describe the biotopes used by the species and provide recommendations for protecting and improving the habitat for this species, as well as for monitoring of the migratory population.

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    Project type(s)

    • Research Project

    Do organisms follow the route with lowest resistance? An evaluation of least cost connectivity models considering empirical data and individual based simulation models. 01/01/2007 - 31/12/2008

    Abstract

    Least-cost models are increasingly used as a simple GIS tool to quantify connectivity among habitat patches. While the method is easy to use, few data are available that allow a validation of model paths in relation to real dispersal paths. We use a combination of empirical data and behavioural simulations to test this.

    Researcher(s)

    Research team(s)

    Project type(s)

    • Research Project

    Study into factors that determine the persistence and extension of populations Asian ground squirrels. 01/01/2007 - 31/12/2007

    Abstract

    This project is a preliminary study of the distribution of a potentially invasive exotic species, and the factors that may determine whether the species is able to expand its distribution.

    Researcher(s)

    Research team(s)

      Project type(s)

      • Research Project

      Dispersal, parental care and personality traits in the Great Tit. 01/10/2006 - 30/09/2007

      Abstract

      The general aim of this project is to study how individual variation in behaviour, in offspring as well as parents, contributes to variation in dispersal in natural populations. We use the great tit as a model system using dispersal data from an ongoing population study in a fragmented woodland system. The study of personalities is based on previous research showing that a standardized exploration score provides information on heritable behavioural syndromes. We study how different aspects of spatial behaviour (dispersal, home ranges, family movements during parental care) are related to each other and to personality variation. This variation will be linked also to available fitness data (survival and reproduction)

      Researcher(s)

      Research team(s)

        Project type(s)

        • Research Project

        Impact of invasive bird species. 01/02/2006 - 28/02/2007

        Abstract

        This project aims to predict the future distribution and ecological impact of introduced Ring-necked Parakeets Psittacula krameri. Count data are used to model habitat requirements, and this leads to a potential habitat map for the Flanders region. Data from different European populations combined with behavioural observations will result in scenarios of future range expansion. Finally, we estimate the impact on native hole-nesting species through competition for nest-sites.

        Researcher(s)

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          Project type(s)

          • Research Project

          Personality traits,dispersion and differences in nestling behaviour for the Great Tit. 01/01/2006 - 31/12/2007

          Abstract

          Researcher(s)

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            Project type(s)

            • Research Project

            BOF/IWT research fellowship. 01/01/2006 - 31/12/2006

            Abstract

            Researcher(s)

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              Project type(s)

              • Research Project

              Dispersal, parental care and personality traits in the Great Tit. 01/05/2005 - 30/04/2009

              Abstract

              We aim to investigate the behavioural mechanisms underlying variation in dispersal in birds, i.e. the degree of movement between birth and reproduction. In particular we will study (1) the relation with heritable personality traits that determine the animals' response to unfamiliar situations and/or conspecific individuals (so-called "shy-bold" continuum), and (2) the influence of parental behaviour on dispersal of offspring, notably the extent of family movements preceding dispersal.

              Researcher(s)

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              Project type(s)

              • Research Project

              Possibilities of NTMB for the extension of the ecological infrastructure in the port of Antwerp. 01/04/2005 - 30/11/2006

              Abstract

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                Project type(s)

                • Research Project

                Study of the spread of invasive Ring-necked Parakeets in Flanders and an estimation of the effect on native species. 01/01/2005 - 31/12/2005

                Abstract

                In our modern globalized world more and more organisms are transported across the world and consequently more and more organisms are able to establish themselves outside their original distribution area. It is commonly known that some of these exotic species could have an enormous ecological and economical impact, but generally the knowledge necessary to make a statement about the potential expansion and impact of an established alien is lacking. The aim of this project is to make a scientific evaluation of the potential spread and impact of explosive increasing exotic species. This will be done using the Ring-necked Parakeet (Psittacula krameri), a cavity nesting bird from India and Afrika that was introduced in several European cities. By linking several parakeet-dataset with geographical data and habitat records, an 'ecological profile' of the parakeet will be made. By means of this ecological profile, a potential habitat map will be produced. I will also estimate at what rate the parakeet might occupy the suitable habitat. By analyzing the number of parakeets, the number of native cavity nesting birds and habitat characteristics I will present an 'impactrelation' for the effect of competition for cavities. By applying this impactrelation on the predicted parakeet expansion, I will be able to predict the effect of the Ring-necked Parakeet on the populations of native cavity nesting birds.

                Researcher(s)

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                  Project type(s)

                  • Research Project

                  Estimating population parameters in endangered afrotropical birds using temporal genetic samples. (BIRDGENOTEMP) 01/10/2004 - 30/09/2006

                  Abstract

                  Effective population size (Ne) and migration rate (m) govern the viability of fragmented populations and, tus, are key targets for conservation action. Although they are, arguably, two of the most important demographic parameters, they are notoriously difficult to get good estimates of. Thus, better measurement methods are required. Novel statistical techniques using multiple genetic samples collected over space and time promise a dependable means for estimating both parameters with reasonable accuracy and precision, but these methods have rarely been applied in empirical datasets. We propose to apply them to two populations of birds, one of them a threatened endemic, living in the highly fragmented Taita Hills forest, SE Kenya. Genetic data from white- starred robin Pogonocichla stellata and endemic Taita thrush Turdus hellen have been collected in 1996-1997 via discrete mark-recapture sessions. At the start of the proposed study, we endeavour to collect an extra batch of similar genetic data from the same populations as the 1996-1997 dataset. Then, using recently developed moment and maximum-Iikelihood methods, we shall use temporal changes in allele frequencies to estimate both Ne and m and contrast1hem to independent estimates of population size, N, and dispersal computed using the traditional mark-recapture. Finally, we shall use the estimates of Ne and m to predict loss of genetic variation and overall population viability under various scenarios, e.g., increasing habitat loss and decreasing patch connectivity. Such information will help in prioritising conservation and management action directed at rescuing these threatened habitats and species from further attrition and decline. The applicant shall be directly involved in all components of this work, viz., fieldwork, DNA sampling, extraction and sequencing, state-of-the-art data analyses, and quality control and interpretation.

                  Researcher(s)

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                    Project type(s)

                    • Research Project

                    FWO Visiting Postdoctoral Fellowship FWO. (G. MEASEY) 01/10/2004 - 30/09/2005

                    Abstract

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                      Project type(s)

                      • Research Project

                      15/06/2004 - 30/09/2004

                      Abstract

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                        Project type(s)

                        • Research Project

                        15/06/2004 - 30/09/2004

                        Abstract

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                          Project type(s)

                          • Research Project

                          04/05/2004 - 30/09/2004

                          Abstract

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                            Project type(s)

                            • Research Project

                            BOF/IWT Research Fellowship. 01/02/2004 - 30/09/2004

                            Abstract

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                              • Research Project

                              Social organisation and dispersal of a tropical passerine in a fragmented habitat. 01/01/2004 - 31/12/2007

                              Abstract

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                                • Research Project

                                01/10/2003 - 30/09/2004

                                Abstract

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                                  Project type(s)

                                  • Research Project

                                  01/09/2003 - 31/08/2004

                                  Abstract

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                                    Project type(s)

                                    • Research Project

                                    Developmental stability as measure of individual quality in the Great Tit (Parus major) : a challenge experiment. 01/01/2003 - 31/12/2006

                                    Abstract

                                    This project aims at contributing to a general theoretical framework for the association between developmental stability and individual quality, through experimental study of the stress sensitivity of different traits and life stages. We therefore expose individual Great Tits to a `challenge experiment' with limited stressfactor, so as to reduce their buffering capacity during development (reflected by increased asymmetry) but without directly affecting their fitness. This allows us to compare induced levels of asymmetry across traits under similar stress regimes, and to relate asymmetry (and, hence, the instability of development) to effective fitness differences at individual level. Presumed stress effects are validaded through a set of independent, biological data (physiological respons variables).

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                                      • Research Project

                                      01/01/2003 - 31/03/2003

                                      Abstract

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                                        • Research Project

                                        Evolutionary changes of mophology and behaviour in a woodland butterfly due to habitat fragmentation. 01/10/2002 - 30/09/2004

                                        Abstract

                                        The purpose of this PhD-project is to investigate whether habitat fragmentation leads to micro-evolutionary changes in morphological and behavioural (mate-locating behaviour) traits relating to mobility in butterflies. The study species is Pararge aegeria. The main question is whether there are differences in individual mobility traits among butterfly populations which are characterised by a different type of habitat fragmentation, using morphologically relevant traits and dispersal assessments.

                                        Researcher(s)

                                        • Promoter: Matthysen Erik
                                        • Co-promoter: Van Dyck Hans
                                        • Fellow: Merckx Thomas

                                        Research team(s)

                                          Project type(s)

                                          • Research Project

                                          Analysis of dispersal patterns for use in population modelling : exploration and valorisation of large datasets. 01/05/2002 - 30/04/2004

                                          Abstract

                                          This project aims to apply and test recent statistical methods to estimate dispersal between habitat patches, using large datasets from different field studies. The results can be applied in spatial models for population conservation and management. With this project we aim to extend the knowhow of the research unit, to create possibilities for further exploitation of existing datasets, and establish and/or strengthen contacts for participation in research networks in the 6th Framework Programme.

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                                            • Research Project

                                            Study on the possibilies of sustainable breeding of chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs). 01/03/2002 - 28/02/2004

                                            Abstract

                                            Following the European Bird Directive (79/409/EEG), re-stocking with wild-caught chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs) in Flanders has been strongly regulated since 1990. The Government thereby financially supports the breeding of chaffinches, which has led to a significant increase in the number of bred individuals. This project estimates the chance of inbreeding in the absence of re-stocking with wild-caught chaffinches. Genetic variability (estimated with micro-satellite DNA markers) of bred populations will be compared with representative samples of wild-caught individuals. Rates of loss of genetic variability under different scenarios of exchange between breeders and re-stocking are estimated through computer simulation.

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                                              • Research Project

                                              An integrated study of flight ability in the speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria L.): performance, morphology and quantitative genetics. 01/01/2002 - 31/12/2003

                                              Abstract

                                              In this project, we study variation in performance, morphology and quantitative genetics within the speckled wood butterfly. We will address the question to what extent the flight apparatus of this butterfly is adapted to several functions in its environment. In a next step we look at the heritabilities and genetic correlations of the studied morphological traits and performance measures. Finally, we investigate the consistency of these relationships in a different environment.

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                                                • Research Project

                                                01/01/2002 - 30/11/2003

                                                Abstract

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                                                  • Research Project

                                                  Temporal and spatial variation in relationships between behaviour and morphological 'design' in butterflies. 01/10/2001 - 31/08/2004

                                                  Abstract

                                                  The thermal environment has a strong effect on the activity and behaviour of flying ectotherms, like butterflies. This project aims to understand the seasonal changes in behaviour, morphology and their interactions in multivoltine, temperate butterflies. Study species are ' among others ' the Speckled wood (Pararge aegeria), Green-veined white (Pieris napi) and the Map (Araschnia levana). Complex seasonal interactions between `design' and behaviour (mate-locating and dispersal) are analysed. Spatial variation in seaonal interactions is also taken into account (differences in design-behaviour relationships among habitat types and differently fragmented woodland types). Comparative morphological analyses and behavioural studies between seasonal forms are done for the other species. Flight performance and thermoregulation are central issues. This project combines research on phenotypic plasticity with behavioural ecological and functional morphological research.

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                                                    • Research Project

                                                    Relationships between individual behaviour and dispersal in butterflies living in fragmented landscapes. 01/10/2001 - 31/08/2003

                                                    Abstract

                                                    There is a growing scientific interest to understand the role of particular landscapes features for the dispersal of organisms. Degree of exchange has been studied intensively, but the focus on dispersal as a process (including associated behaviour and morphology) is rather new. This project aims to understand butterfly dispersal within a framework of meta-populations from a behavioural ecological and evolutionary point of view. Study species are habitat specialists of heahtlands (e.g. Hipparchia semele, Plebeius argus). Research issues are: comparison of behaviour and morphology between dispersing and resident individuals, observation and experimental study of behaviour along habitat vs. non-habitat borders and within non-habitat, detailed analysis of dispersal between habitat patches taking into account features of the landscape matrix using spatial explicit modelling methods. This research combines population ecology, functional morphology and behavioural ecology within a framework of nature conservation.

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                                                      • Research Project

                                                      01/04/2001 - 30/09/2001

                                                      Abstract

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                                                        • Research Project

                                                        Gene flow and effective population size in non-equilibrium conditions. 01/01/2001 - 31/12/2004

                                                        Abstract

                                                        Maintenance of genetic variation is a central aim to long-term management of free-living populations. Estimates of effective population size and gene flow often require assumptions on equilibrium between mutation, gene flow and drift, and are not applicable to strongly fluctuating or decreasing populations. In this project we use time series of genetic samples of birds and mammals to test methods calculating genetic parameters in non-equilibrium conditions.

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                                                          • Research Project

                                                          Environmental effect on phenotypic expression. 01/01/2001 - 30/09/2001

                                                          Abstract

                                                          This research project is one of the first studies which investigates the inter-relationship between phenotypic plasticity, developmental stability and canalization within and between different environments. As model organism we have chosen the Speckled wood Pararge aegeria because of its distinctive wing pattern and the fact that it is proven to have variable traits under different environments (Van Dyck and Wiklund in press.). As environmental conditions we have chosen 1) nutritional stress as an external stress, 2) inbreeding as an internal stress and 3) seasonal variation (photoperiod) as a regularly occurring and predictive environmental variation. These different forms of environmental variation are given under both laboratory as field conditions. Phenotypic plasticity, developmental stability and canalization are studied on linear traits (like wing and tibia lengths), surface measurements (like eyespot surface), and shape (as configurations of landmarks). Comparisons are made between different types of traits, and differences in phenotypic expression will be discussed in the light of their functional significance (e.g. wing surface) or their relation with fitness (e.g. body mass).

                                                          Researcher(s)

                                                          Research team(s)

                                                            Project type(s)

                                                            • Research Project

                                                            01/12/2000 - 28/02/2005

                                                            Abstract

                                                            Researcher(s)

                                                            Research team(s)

                                                              Project type(s)

                                                              • Research Project

                                                              Butterfly populations within the "Mechelse Heide" area ' a unit of the Flemish ecological network `under construction'. 16/10/2000 - 30/09/2002

                                                              Abstract

                                                              The aim of this research is to propose a series of suitable measures regarding management and habitat restoration in the 'Mechelse Heide' area (Belgium, Limburg) focusing on particular rare and threatened butterfly species. Regional recovery programs are made for the Silver-studded Blue (Plebeius argus), the Grayling (Hipparchia semele), the Silver-spotted Skipper (Hesperia comma), the Green Hairstreak (Callophris rubi), the Ilex Hairstreak (Satyrium ilicis), the Glanville Fritillary (Melitaea cinxia) and the Mazarine Blue (Polyommatus semiargus). For this purpose, populations and (potential) habitats are surveyed (including the matrix surrounding habitat patches) and additional field data and relevant ecological literature are collected. For three species that went extinct in the area (the Alcon Blue Maculinea alcon, the Large Heath Coenonympha tullia, and the Idas Blue Plebeius idas) the project deals with the possibility of re-introduction. Finally, additional distributional data on the Chequered Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon), the White Admiral (Limenitis camilla), the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) and the Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros) are collected in order to have a better estimate of their local status.

                                                              Researcher(s)

                                                              Research team(s)

                                                                Project type(s)

                                                                • Research Project

                                                                Evolutionary changes of mophology and behaviour in a woodland butterfly due to habitat fragmentation. 01/10/2000 - 30/09/2002

                                                                Abstract

                                                                The purpose of this PhD-project is to investigate whether habitat fragmentation leads to micro-evolutionary changes in morphological and behavioural (mate-locating behaviour) traits relating to mobility in butterflies. The study species is Pararge aegeria. The main question is whether there are differences in individual mobility traits among butterfly populations which are characterised by a different type of habitat fragmentation, using morphologically relevant traits and dispersal assessments.

                                                                Researcher(s)

                                                                Research team(s)

                                                                  Project type(s)

                                                                  • Research Project

                                                                  Social aspects of dispersal strategies in the Great Tit (Parus major). 01/10/2000 - 09/09/2002

                                                                  Abstract

                                                                  Dispersal between sites of birth and reproduction is a key process in population dynamics as well as social organisation. This project investigates the relation between dispersal strategies and social status of individually marked Great Tits (dominance, territory establishment, pair formation). This includes the study of individual quality measures (condition, signal traits) and the effects of dispersal on reproductive success and survival.

                                                                  Researcher(s)

                                                                  Research team(s)

                                                                    Project type(s)

                                                                    • Research Project

                                                                    Effects of stress on the evolutionary potential of developmental stability 01/10/2000 - 28/02/2002

                                                                    Abstract

                                                                    Developmental stability (DS i.e. the ability of an individual to buffer its development against random disturbances) is most often estimated by fluctuating asymmetry (FA i.e. small random deviations from perfect symmetry). The evolutionary potential of developmental stability has been the subject of much recent debate in the literature. There appears to be a high degree of heterogeneity in observed relationships between DS and fitness and in the heritabilities of FA and DS. One potential source that may explain this or part of this heterogeneity is the amount of environmental stress present in the different studies. In additions different traits and different kinds of stress may have varying effects. The aim of this project is to study the effects of different forms of environmental stress on the evolutionary potential of developmental stability of a variety of traits.

                                                                    Researcher(s)

                                                                    Research team(s)

                                                                      Project type(s)

                                                                      • Research Project

                                                                      Viability of bird metapopulations. (METABIRD) 01/07/2000 - 30/06/2003

                                                                      Abstract

                                                                      The purpose of this project is to integrate data from long-term detailed demographic studies of spatially structured bird populations across Europe. By doing this we hope to give an empirical foundation for the development of realistic models for the dynamics of spatially structured populations, in order to evaluate the consequences of habitat alterations and develop some general guidelines for management of endangered or threatened birds. In addition, field experiments (with particular reference to density-dependence and dispersal) are carried out in order to test critical assumptions of the models under consideration.

                                                                      Researcher(s)

                                                                      Research team(s)

                                                                        Project type(s)

                                                                        • Research Project

                                                                        Dispersal strategies in relation to environmental quality, individual quality and social structure in the Great Tit (Parus major). 01/01/2000 - 31/12/2003

                                                                        Abstract

                                                                        The spatial structure of natural populations is determined by the degree of interaction of individuals or social groups that occupy different parts of the habitat. The most influential factor in this spatial structuring is individual dispersal behaviour, defined as the movement between site of birth and site of reproduction. The aim of this project is to obtain more insight in the role of environmental variation and social structure in the dispersal process of a model species, the Great Tit. An essential element is the quantification of parameters of individual quality and condition.

                                                                        Researcher(s)

                                                                        Research team(s)

                                                                          Project type(s)

                                                                          • Research Project

                                                                          Study of changes in genetic structure of populations by comparing recent and historical DNA 01/01/2000 - 31/12/2001

                                                                          Abstract

                                                                          The increasing fragmentation of natural habitats affects viability and genetic architecture of animal and plant populations. We aim to study the 'genetic erosion' process by comparing recently fragmented populations with DNA samples from museum specimens dating back before the fragmentation event. This project involves a pilot study on a restricted dataset of birds in fragmented montane forest in Kenya, in collaboration with the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity in Copenhagen. We aim to prepare project proposals for the 5th Framework Programme that will further explore and apply this methodology.

                                                                          Researcher(s)

                                                                          Research team(s)

                                                                            Project type(s)

                                                                            • Research Project

                                                                            An integrated study of flight ability in the speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria L.): performance, morphology and quantitative genetics. 01/01/2000 - 31/12/2001

                                                                            Abstract

                                                                            In this project, we study variation in performance, morphology and quantitative genetics within the speckled wood butterfly. We will address the question to what extent the flight apparatus of this butterfly is adapted to several functions in its environment. In a next step we look at the heritabilities and genetic correlations of the studied morphological traits and performance measures. Finally, we investigate the consistency of these relationships in a different environment.

                                                                            Researcher(s)

                                                                            Research team(s)

                                                                              Project type(s)

                                                                              • Research Project

                                                                              Conservation policy and biodiversity in Flanders: the use of different species and of multi-species approaches 01/12/1999 - 30/11/2001

                                                                              Abstract

                                                                              The aim of this study is threefold. First, we summarize existing knowledge from the (international) literature on terminology and concepts associated with the use of species for nature conservation and nature policy purposes (e.g. indicator species, umbrella species, focal species, etc.), as far as it is relevant to the situation in Flanders. This includes an analysis of sets of criteria to select target species and indicator species. A multi-species approach (or multi-taxa approach) is adopted. Secondly, we screen the indicator-values of different taxonomic groups. Thirdly, a study case for selecting species in order to plan and evaluate management of wet heathland biotopes is examined.

                                                                              Researcher(s)

                                                                              Research team(s)

                                                                                Project type(s)

                                                                                • Research Project

                                                                                Effects of the landscape structure on dispersal, morphology and gene flow in a series of tropical forest bird species of the Taita Hills, South East Kenia. 01/10/1999 - 30/09/2002

                                                                                Abstract

                                                                                The overall objective of the study is to link dispersal, morphometric differentiation and life-history parameters of a series of afrotropical forest species to their population (genetic) structure and dynamics, in a landscape ecological context.

                                                                                Researcher(s)

                                                                                Research team(s)

                                                                                  Project type(s)

                                                                                  • Research Project

                                                                                  Evolutionary changes in morphology and behaviour of a forest butterfly due to habitat fragmentation. 01/10/1999 - 30/09/2000

                                                                                  Abstract

                                                                                  The purpose of this PhD-project is to investigate whether habitat fragmentation leads to micro-evolutionary changes in morphological and / or behavioural traits relating to mobility in butterflies. The Speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria) was chosen as the study species since there is already evidence in this species for a relation between morphological variation and mobility at the local scale, namely the mate-locating behaviour. This has been interpreted within the framework of different adaptations for flight capacity. Therefore, we explicitely examine whether mate-locating behaviour and / or its relation with morphology, is influenced by habitat fragmentation. Specific purposes are: i) Investigating whether there are differences in individual mobility traits among butterfly populations which are characterised by a different degree of habitat fragmentation. This will also include the study of seasonal variation (spring / summer generation). ii) Testing the hypothesis whether these mobility differences can be explained as an evolutionary response. Therefore, we analyse the genetic base (heritability) of the morphological and behavioural variation by means of a 'common garden' experiment. On the other hand we investigate the amount of gene-flow between the populations. iii) Since mate-locating behaviour may interact with other aspects of mobility (e.g. dispersal), we test whether particular changes occur as well.

                                                                                  Researcher(s)

                                                                                  Research team(s)

                                                                                    Project type(s)

                                                                                    • Research Project

                                                                                    Inventarisation of Siberian ground squirrels in and around the nature reserve "De Westhoek" in De Panne 01/10/1999 - 30/11/1999

                                                                                    Abstract

                                                                                    Siberian ground squirrels have been established in a few forests in Flanders and are slowly expanding their populations. In view of possible future measures to restrict the distribution of this alien species, we studied the small population in De Panne by means of counts and a limited mark/recapture programme. This study was commissioned by the Flemish Ministry, Department of Nature Conservation (AMINAL).

                                                                                    Researcher(s)

                                                                                    Research team(s)

                                                                                      Project type(s)

                                                                                      • Research Project

                                                                                      An integrated study of the adaptation process: locomotion as model function 01/01/1999 - 31/12/2002

                                                                                      Abstract

                                                                                      It is often assumed that biological evolution will inevitably lead, through the process of natural selection, to an optimal design for each ecological function. However, the adaptation process may be impeded or slowed down by constraints or trade-offs, obscuring the relationship between form and function. In theory, the adaptation process involves four stages: genetic variation may lead to variation in design which in turn may cause differences in performance for a given function, ultimately causing differential fitness (survival/reproductive success). Constraints may operate on all relationships between the stages. Here we propose an integrated and experimental study of the complete adaptation process that tackles all stages and relationships in three model species for a single function, locomotion. Locomotion is ecologically relevant since it is essential for many biological processes such as feeding, escaping from predators and dispersal. Performance can be easily quantified in terms of speed, acceleration, endurance and manoeuvrability. The model species are an insect, an amphibian and a reptile. Locomotory performance of these ectothermic animals is strongly temperature-dependent. Temperature is used as a model for the importance of fluctuating environmental parameters in evolution. The role of trade-offs in adaptation is investigated by considering interactions between different locomotory components, such as speed vs. endurance. The specific research questions are the following: (1) - What is the variation in performance? Do trade-offs exist? How does temperature influence performance? (2) - What are the mechanistic causes of variation in performance (morphological, physiological, kinematic)? (3) - Is some of the variation in performance genetically determined? (4) How does variation in performance translate to differences in survival or reproductive success? To answer these questions, the three model species will be raised in the laboratory under different temperature regimes, and performance for several locomotory components will be measured and may be followed throughout development. This is mainly done by digitization of high-speed video registrations of moving test animals and numerical analysis of the quantitative data. The obtained data on variation in performance can be correlated to parameters of design, resulting from morphometric, morphological and kinesiological research. The importance of genetic variation is assessed by measuring performance and design parameters in individuals with known relatedness (parent/offspring, sibs, half-sibs) obtained from breeding experiments (quantitative genetics). The question whether variation in performance also implies variation in fitness, is determined by comparing survival chances in laboratory or field conditions with a given predator pressure (better performing individuals are expected to have a higher chance to escape), by measuring pairing success or by directly counting the number of offspring. To achieve this research programme, the competence and expertise of three research groups of the UIA are joined. The laboratories of Functional Morphology, Ethology and Animal Ecology each have experience in research on particular aspects of the general scheme, have broad experience with research on, and raising of, model species, and most of the required facilities are present. The requested budget includes only incubators for temperature-controlled breeding experiments. The very labour-intensive nature of most of the research aspects involved in this proposal, explains why most of the requested budget is reserved for taking on additional scientific and technical personnel.

                                                                                      Researcher(s)

                                                                                      Research team(s)

                                                                                        Project type(s)

                                                                                        • Research Project

                                                                                        The adaptive value of luminiscent behaviour in glowworms (Lampyridae, Coleoptera). 01/01/1999 - 31/12/2000

                                                                                        Abstract

                                                                                        Adult glowworms use light signals for mate attraction. This study, however, aims to investigate the adaptive value of luminiscent behaviour in other stages (larvae in particular) and in adults of (rare) diurnal species. Through experiments and field observations on three indigenous but markedly different species, the possible roles of light signals in predator deterrence, signaling of distastefulness, and intraspecific communication are investigated.

                                                                                        Researcher(s)

                                                                                        Research team(s)

                                                                                          Project type(s)

                                                                                          • Research Project

                                                                                          Species action plan for the large blue butterfly Maculinea alcon. 01/12/1998 - 30/11/2000

                                                                                          Abstract

                                                                                          This project aims to make a scientific-based recovering plan for the legally protected and threatened large blue butterfly Maculinea alcon and its habitats in Flanders (N-Belgium), funded by the Flemish Ministry (Nature division). In all Flemish (remnant) populations and in all potentially suitable wet heathland or moorland areas, we collect data on presence, distribution and abundance of the butterfly, its hostplant (the Marsh gentian Gentiana pneumonanthe), the different species and densities of (host) ants, structure of the vegetation and current or future management options. For all these areas we will report our conclusions on the management, possibilities of habitat re-creation measures and translocation, and on other policy measures.

                                                                                          Researcher(s)

                                                                                          Research team(s)

                                                                                            Project type(s)

                                                                                            • Research Project

                                                                                            Adaptive relationships between morphological and behavioural variation in butterflies. 01/10/1998 - 30/09/2001

                                                                                            Abstract

                                                                                            This study aims to understand functional relationships between morphological ("design") and behavioural variation in heliothermic insects from an evolutionary point of view, using speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria L.) as the principal model. Study topics include: differences between phenotypes in ecologically relevant flight performance, sexual differences and the role of sexual selection, causes of phenotypic variation (e.g. heritabilities), and relevance of these relationships to mobility at the landscape level (dispersal).

                                                                                            Researcher(s)

                                                                                            Research team(s)

                                                                                              Project type(s)

                                                                                              • Research Project

                                                                                              Inventarisation of Siberian ground squirrels in and around the nature reserve "De Westhoek" in De Panne 01/10/1998 - 30/11/1998

                                                                                              Abstract

                                                                                              Siberian ground squirrels have been established in a few forests in Flanders and are slowly expanding their populations. In view of possible future measures to restrict the distribution of this alien species, we studied the small population in De Panne by means of counts and a limited mark/recapture programme. This study was commissioned by the Flemish Ministry, Department of Nature Conservation (AMINAL).

                                                                                              Researcher(s)

                                                                                              Research team(s)

                                                                                                Project type(s)

                                                                                                • Research Project

                                                                                                Evaluation of the corridor function of landscape elements using connectivity models. 01/01/1998 - 31/12/2000

                                                                                                Abstract

                                                                                                The exchange of individuals between isolated populations of five forest animal species is studied in two different areas. The resulting patterns are linked to spatial connectivity models which predict the accessibility of forest patches from a given starting point within the landscape. The resulting models can be used as tools to evaluate the degree of connectivity in different land-use scenarios.

                                                                                                Researcher(s)

                                                                                                Research team(s)

                                                                                                  Project type(s)

                                                                                                  • Research Project

                                                                                                  The use of selective access to nest sites as an experimental system in population ecological research. 01/01/1998 - 31/12/1999

                                                                                                  Abstract

                                                                                                  Competition between individual tits (Parus) is manipulated by electronically restricting the access to nestboxes to selected individuals. In an initial phase we test whether this competitive advantage is reflected in a higher dominance position and higher settling success in selected individuals. In the longer term this pilot system may be used for experimental manipulations of population dynamica and genetica of free-living populations.

                                                                                                  Researcher(s)

                                                                                                  Research team(s)

                                                                                                    Project type(s)

                                                                                                    • Research Project

                                                                                                    Genetic variation and effects of inbreeding in isolated vertebrate populations: a study with microsatellite DNA markers. 01/01/1998 - 31/12/1998

                                                                                                    Abstract

                                                                                                    This extension of our original project allows us to develop specific primer sets for a number of target species, using new techniques, so that markers with an optimal level of polymorphism can be used in population genetic applications.

                                                                                                    Researcher(s)

                                                                                                    Research team(s)

                                                                                                      Project type(s)

                                                                                                      • Research Project

                                                                                                      Development of a digital geographical model for the study of landscape patterns and their effects on population processes in the Taita Hills, Kenya. 01/11/1997 - 30/10/1999

                                                                                                      Abstract

                                                                                                      This project supplements current studies on endemic bird populations in isolated forest fragments in the Taita Hills, Kenya. Preliminary data suggest important differences in population parameters between forest fragments. For a proper assessment of geographical isolation in the study area, its complex variation in topography and land-use patterns will be incorporated in a GIS model.

                                                                                                      Researcher(s)

                                                                                                      Research team(s)

                                                                                                        Project type(s)

                                                                                                        • Research Project

                                                                                                        A study of the dispersal and local adaptation of winter moth in a fragmental environment. 01/10/1997 - 30/09/2000

                                                                                                        Abstract

                                                                                                        With mark-recapture experiments and poly-aerylamide gel electrophoresis will te effect of habitatframgentation on dispersal and colonization abilities and local adaptation be investigated.

                                                                                                        Researcher(s)

                                                                                                        Research team(s)

                                                                                                          Project type(s)

                                                                                                          • Research Project

                                                                                                          The adaptive value of natal dispersal in the Great Tit. 01/10/1997 - 30/09/1999

                                                                                                          Abstract

                                                                                                          The aim of this Ph.D.-project is to yield a contribution to finding a functional explanation for natal dispersal. Additionally, I will try to find what selection pressures result in the sex-bias in natal dispersal, observed in many animal species, and to what extent parents influence the dispersal of their offspring. Therefore, data will be gathered in unmanipulated conditions and experiments will be done. The study species is the great Tit and the study area consists of a number of small wood plots south-east of the city of Antwerp.

                                                                                                          Researcher(s)

                                                                                                          Research team(s)

                                                                                                            Project type(s)

                                                                                                            • Research Project

                                                                                                            Temporal and spatial population structure in the tiger beetle Cicindela hybrida 01/10/1997 - 30/09/1999

                                                                                                            Abstract

                                                                                                            This project uses the tiger beetle Cicindela hybrida as a model to find out how variation in the length of the life cycle causes exchange between temporal populations, and whether temporal structure of the life cycle affects dispersal strategy. This empirical work is supplemented with theoretical work on how natural selection determines the occurence of strategies that influence exchange between populations in such a system in a positive or negative way.

                                                                                                            Researcher(s)

                                                                                                            Research team(s)

                                                                                                              Project type(s)

                                                                                                              • Research Project

                                                                                                              Reproductive strategies in Lestes species (Odonata: Lestidae). 01/10/1997 - 30/09/1999

                                                                                                              Abstract

                                                                                                              The aim of this project is to study sexual selection in two dam-selfly species of the genus Lestes: L.sponsa and L.viridis. We will focus on intra- and interspecific variation in reproductive strategies and the underlying mechanisms. This information will be collected during an intensive study of the behavioral and population ecology of both species.

                                                                                                              Researcher(s)

                                                                                                              Research team(s)

                                                                                                                Project type(s)

                                                                                                                • Research Project

                                                                                                                Thermodynamics and the ecological economical value of biodiversity. 01/10/1997 - 31/01/1999

                                                                                                                Abstract

                                                                                                                The effect of human development and biological invasions on a specific site will be investigated using thermodynamics and probably other types of models. The economical implications of the human and biological phenomena will then be further assessed.

                                                                                                                Researcher(s)

                                                                                                                Research team(s)

                                                                                                                  Project type(s)

                                                                                                                  • Research Project

                                                                                                                  Behavioural analysis of movements within and between habitat patches bij tiger beetles, by means of automated registration and computer simulations. 01/10/1997 - 31/12/1998

                                                                                                                  Abstract

                                                                                                                  The aim of this project is to gain insight in behavioural decision rules used by animals moving within and between discrete habitat patches connected by corridors. All movements are filmed by an automated system. The results are compared with computer simulations that generate movement patterns from different assumptions.

                                                                                                                  Researcher(s)

                                                                                                                  Research team(s)

                                                                                                                    Project type(s)

                                                                                                                    • Research Project

                                                                                                                    Ecological genetica: pattern and processes of genetic variation in naturel populations. 01/01/1997 - 31/12/2006

                                                                                                                    Abstract

                                                                                                                    Genetic variation within a species includes genetic variation within naturel populations and genetic differentiation between populations. The combination of gene flow, naturel selection end genetic drift cause intraspecific genetic variation. The degree to which genetic differentiation between naturel populations is determined by chance rather than by natural selection is controversial. It is exactly in this field that the research network is active.

                                                                                                                    Researcher(s)

                                                                                                                    Research team(s)

                                                                                                                      Project type(s)

                                                                                                                      • Research Project

                                                                                                                      Genetic variation and effects of inbreeding in isolated vertebrate populations: a study with microsatellite DNA markers. 01/01/1997 - 31/12/2000

                                                                                                                      Abstract

                                                                                                                      In a number of populations of birds, small marnmals and one amphibian, we investigate firstly how dispersal between populations (measured by mark/recapture or telemetry techniques) relates to the level of genetic variation and genetic differentiation between populations (by means of microsatellite DNA markers). Secondly we will investigate whether, and to what extent, reproductive success is negatively affected by loss of genetic variation.

                                                                                                                      Researcher(s)

                                                                                                                      Research team(s)

                                                                                                                        Project type(s)

                                                                                                                        • Research Project

                                                                                                                        The adaptive value of luminiscent behaviour in glowworms (Lampyridae, Coleoptera). 01/01/1997 - 31/12/1998

                                                                                                                        Abstract

                                                                                                                        Adult glowworms use light signals for mate attraction. This study, however, aims to investigate the adaptive value of luminiscent behaviour in other stages (larvae in particular) and in adults of (rare) diurnal species. Through experiments and field observations on three indigenous but markedly different species, the possible roles of light signals in predator deterrence, signaling of distastefulness, and intraspecific communication are investigated.

                                                                                                                        Researcher(s)

                                                                                                                        Research team(s)

                                                                                                                          Project type(s)

                                                                                                                          • Research Project

                                                                                                                          The adaptive value of luminiscent behaviour in glowworms (Lampyridae, Coleoptera). 01/01/1997 - 31/12/1998

                                                                                                                          Abstract

                                                                                                                          Adult glowworms use light signals for mate attraction. This study, however, aims to investigate the adaptive value of luminiscent behaviour in other stages (larvae in particular) and in adults of (rare) diurnal species. Through experiments and field observations on three indigenous but markedly different species, the possible roles of light signals in predator deterrence, signaling of distastefulness, and intraspecific communication are investigated.

                                                                                                                          Researcher(s)

                                                                                                                          Research team(s)

                                                                                                                            Project type(s)

                                                                                                                            • Research Project

                                                                                                                            Factors affecting the social organisation and dispersal of tropical forest birds in a fragmented habitat. 01/10/1996 - 30/09/1999

                                                                                                                            Abstract

                                                                                                                            The main objective is to gain an insight into the effects of recent tropical rainforest fragmentation on fitness-related parameters, population dynamics, dispersal and gene flow of Turdus helleri, Apalis thoracica fascigularis and Zosterops poliogastra silvanus, three Kenyan forest endemics which differ in mobility and degree of habitat specialisation. Results from this study, conducted in Kenya, will be compared with findings in temperate zone areas.

                                                                                                                            Researcher(s)

                                                                                                                            Research team(s)

                                                                                                                              Project type(s)

                                                                                                                              • Research Project

                                                                                                                              The adaptive value of luminiscent behaviour in glowworms (Lampyridae, Coleoptera). 01/10/1996 - 31/12/1996

                                                                                                                              Abstract

                                                                                                                              Adult glowworms use light signals for mate attraction. This study, however aims to investigate the adaptive value of luminiscent behaviour in other stages (larvae in particular) and in adults of (rare) diurnal species. Through experiments and field observations on three indigenous but markedly different species, the possible roles of light signals in predator deterrence, signaling of distastefulness, and intraspecific communication are investigated.

                                                                                                                              Researcher(s)

                                                                                                                              Research team(s)

                                                                                                                                Project type(s)

                                                                                                                                • Research Project

                                                                                                                                The study of behaviour: an evolutionary and interdisciplinary approach. 01/01/1996 - 31/12/2000

                                                                                                                                Abstract

                                                                                                                                The aim of this scientific research community is to use an evolutionary and interdisciplinary approach to study animal behaviour. Initially, three specific research topics will be addressed: (1) the evolutionary study of the song system' in passerines; (2) the study of sexual selection, and (3) the study of the proximate and ultimate factors determining the timing of reproduction.

                                                                                                                                Researcher(s)

                                                                                                                                Research team(s)

                                                                                                                                  Project type(s)

                                                                                                                                  • Research Project

                                                                                                                                  A study of the possibilities for recovery of Grey Partridge populations in Flanders. 30/09/1995 - 30/09/1998

                                                                                                                                  Abstract

                                                                                                                                  This study is a scientific evaluation of ongoing management projects aiming to remedy the decrease of population levels of Grey Partridge in Flanders. This entails a study of the partridge populations and their predators and an evaluation of habitat improvement both with respect to the partridges and other elements of fauna and flora.

                                                                                                                                  Researcher(s)

                                                                                                                                  Research team(s)

                                                                                                                                    Project type(s)

                                                                                                                                    • Research Project

                                                                                                                                    The adaptive value of natal dispersal in the Great Tit. 30/09/1995 - 30/09/1997

                                                                                                                                    Abstract

                                                                                                                                    The aim of this Ph.D.-project is to yield a contribution to finding a functional explanation for natal dispersal. Additionally, I will try to find what selection pressures result in the sex-bias in natal dispersal, observed in many animal species, and to what extent parents influence the dispersal of their offspring. Therefore, data will be gathered in unmanipulated conditions and experiments will be done. The study species is the great Tit and the study area consists of a number of small wood plots south-east of the city of Antwerp.

                                                                                                                                    Researcher(s)

                                                                                                                                    Research team(s)

                                                                                                                                      Project type(s)

                                                                                                                                      • Research Project

                                                                                                                                      Temporal and spatial population structure in the tiger beetle Cicindela hybrida 30/09/1995 - 30/09/1997

                                                                                                                                      Abstract

                                                                                                                                      This project uses the tiger beetle Cicindela hybrida as a model to find out how variation in the length of the life cycle causes exchange between temporal populations, and whether temporal structure of the life cycle affects dispersal strategy. This empirical work is supplemented with theoretical work on how natural selection determines the occurence of strategies that influence exchange between populations in such a system in a positive or negative way.

                                                                                                                                      Researcher(s)

                                                                                                                                      Research team(s)

                                                                                                                                        Project type(s)

                                                                                                                                        • Research Project

                                                                                                                                        Reproductive strategies in Lestes species (Odonata: Lestidae). 30/09/1995 - 30/09/1997

                                                                                                                                        Abstract

                                                                                                                                        The aim of this project is to study sexual selection in two dam-selfly species of the genus Lestes: L.sponsa and L.viridis. We will focus on intra- and interspecific variation in reproductive strategies and the underlying mechanisms. This information will be collected during an intensive study of the behavioral and population ecology of both species.

                                                                                                                                        Researcher(s)

                                                                                                                                        Research team(s)

                                                                                                                                          Project type(s)

                                                                                                                                          • Research Project

                                                                                                                                          Genetics in the wild of plasticity in Araschnia levana. 01/01/1995 - 31/12/1996

                                                                                                                                          Abstract

                                                                                                                                          The evolutionary significance of plasticity is considerable, since all organisms are at least in some character plastic. The genetics of plasticity is however hardly studied outside the lab. This study uses natural groups of related larvae in the field to determine the genetics of the wing pattern in Araschnia levana.

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                                                                                                                                            Dispersal and population structure of animals in fragmented landscapes. 30/09/1994 - 30/09/1998

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                                                                                                                                            We investigate how dispersal by individual animals, and the resulting exchange between (sub)populations, is affected by environmental changes, in particular in landscape structure, on ecological and evolutionary time scales.

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                                                                                                                                              Mobility, dispersal and phenotypic variation in the speckled wood butterfly Pararge aegeria L. and the wall brown butterfly Lasiommata megera L. in a patchy environment. 30/09/1994 - 30/09/1996

                                                                                                                                              Abstract

                                                                                                                                              This project concentrates on phenotypic, thermoregulatory and behavioural variation in two European Satyrid butterflies (Lepidoptera). It looks for explanations to possible links between those components, and investigates the implications to dispersal between habitat patches.

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                                                                                                                                                Temporal and spatial population structure in the tiger beetle Cicindela hybrida 30/09/1994 - 29/09/1995

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                                                                                                                                                This project uses the tiger beetle Cicindela hybrida as a model to find out how variation in the length of the life cycle causes exchange between temporal populations, and whether temporal structure of the life cycle affects dispersal strategy. This empirical work is supplemented with theoretical work on how natural selection determines the occurence of strategies that influence exchange between populations in such a system in a positive or negative way.

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                                                                                                                                                  Roe deer management in Flanders. Criteria for a culling plan based on roe deer ecology. 30/09/1994 - 31/03/1995

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                                                                                                                                                  Roe deer hunting in Flanders is only allowed after an official culling has been approved by the Forestry department. In order to present biologically sound guidelines for roe deer management I studied population dynamics and the evolution of body size and body condition of roe deer in Flanders.

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                                                                                                                                                    Dispersal by juvenile Nuthatches Sitta europaea in a fragmented landscape: a radiotracking study 01/01/1992 - 31/12/1992

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                                                                                                                                                    Juvenile Nuthatches are equipped with radio transmitters and followed intensively during the main dispersal phase shortly after fledging. The aim is to gain insight in dispersal behaviour, factors that influence dispersal patterns, and the use of different landscape elements by dispersers. The latter will help to understand effects of habitat fragmentation.

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                                                                                                                                                      Effects of habitat fragmentation on population dynamics and ì genetic structure of small hole-nesting passerinesì 30/09/1991 - 29/09/1993

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                                                                                                                                                      Habitat fragmentation has effects on 1) habitat quality and 2) dispersal of habitat-specific species. The first aspect is studied by examining mortality, predation, reproduction and food in woodlots differing in size and isolation, the second through movements of marked individuals in a 300 km2 area. Target species are Nuthatch Sitta europaea and tits Parus spp.

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                                                                                                                                                        30/09/1989 - 29/09/1991

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