Plant & Soil Microbial Ecology Laboratory



Within our lab we study various aspects of the microbial ecology of soils and plants. An overarching line is how soils and plants interact through microbial communities in terms of nutrient flows, plant community composition and biodiversity, and soil integrity.

The work stems from a fascination of how these various interactions currently shape soil microbial networks, the vegetation and cycling of nutrients, but also how these processes may change in response to environmental changes such as land use, nutrient inputs, and drought.

One important player we work on are the mycorrhizal fungi, which are part of an ancient symbiosis with plants. These fungi are crucial for nutrient uptake of a large number of plants, but also act as a gateway of plant sugars to soil, thereby having a major influence on soil and its (microbial) inhabitants.

Through taking the biology and evolutionary context of microbial interaction networks into account, we expect to come to a deeper understanding of how the environment shapes ecosystems and vice versa.

The field systems currently studied in the lab include tropical rainforests, heathlands, temperate grasslands, subartctic Iceland, and peatlands.

Current Lab members


Erik Verbruggen Group leader For the most up-to-date publications of Erik Verbruggen visit  Google Scholar






Catherine Preece Post doctoral researcher her current work focuses on the impact of drought on plant-soil interactions, and in particular the differences in root and rhizosphere traits between crops and their wild relatives. 






Johan de Gruyter PhD student works on the development, seasonal dynamics and resistance to drought of soil microbial food webs. Although the main aim is to investigate the entire microbial soil food web, there is an emphasis on protists and mycorrhizal fungi.




Dajana Radujkovic PhD student has a strong interest in soil microbes in the grassland biome. She tries to understand how nutrients affect both microbial communities and plant communities, and potential interactions between them.





Irene Ramirez Rojas PhD student works on plant-soil microbial interactions in tropical rainforests in French Guiana. Her main focus is on nutrient and drought effects on soil microbial communities, and how these may affect plant-plant interactions.





Lingjuan Li PhD student assesses the effect of changing weather patterns, in parcticular the change of precipitation frequency and intensity on soil microbial communities and the functions they perform. This is done in the framework of the BOF funded project REGIME SHIFT .





Coline Le Noir de Carlan PhD student examines the effect of soil warming on soil microbes and their interactions with plants. She does this as part of the Marie Curie ITN 





Joining the lab

If you're a Msc student interested in the microbial ecology of plants and soil, please contact us regarding internship possibilities.

We currently don't have any vacancies for PhD or Post-doc positions, but if you are interested in joining the lab, you are welcome to enquire about potential fellowship opportunities.