co-supervised with Jacintha Ellers at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
* Mark defended his thesis on 30 sept 2020
I am an integrative biologist, interested in all aspects of the evolutionary ecology of the mega-diverse insects. My research is primarily question-driven. To test the ensuing wide range of hypotheses, I apply a diverse set of methods and theory. These derive from several major fields of biology:
- Evolutionary biology: Physiological and local adaptation, molecular evolution, life-history evolution, niche differentiation, speciation, phenotypic plasticity;
- Entomology: Behaviour, ecology, and evolution of insects, particularly parasitoid wasps;
- Bioinformatics: Transcriptomics, comparative genomics, data analysis and statistics, custom pipelines in R and bash (Linux).
My PhD research was on physiological adaptation at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam with Jacintha Ellers and Ken Kraaijeveld, where I wrote my thesis with the title ‘The evolutionary loss of lipogenesis in insect parasitoids: Molecular mechanisms and ecological aspects’. In this work, I unravelled the gene regulatory mechanisms that inhibit lipogenesis while maintaining the underlying genes’ pleiotropic functions in the model species Nasonia vitripennis (Hymenoptera: Pteromalidae).
Currently I work as a junior group leader (“Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter”) with Jürgen Gadau in Münster. There I work on five main projects on evolutionary processes that may contribute to the vast biodiversity of insect parasitoids:
- Rapid adaptation to novel hosts;
- Evolutionary transitions and the loss of sexual reproduction;
- Genome evolution of parasitoids with peculiar lifestyles;
- Pre-zygotic reproductive isolation in (contemporary) parasitoid speciation;
- Chemical ecology of courtship behaviour in the parasitoid Aphidius ervi.