Hi, my name is Bram, I’m 27 years old and I work in the Population Biology group at the University of Amsterdam. I am currently in my second year as a PhD candidate. My research focuses on a South American spider mite species (Tetranychus evansi), a small herbivore that feeds on tomato plants. The reason that we are interested in this species, is that it can manipulate the defense response of the tomato plant, preventing the plant from accumulating toxins or attracting natural enemies. I am not investigating the mechanistic basis of this defense manipulation, but I rather study the evolutionary costs and benefits of defense manipulation from the mite’s perspective. Is it costly for the mite to manipulate the defense of its host? What benefits does it receive? Can mites benefit from the defense manipulation of others, without investing resources for defense manipulation itself? Should we always consider defense manipulation to be an adaptation of the mite, or can it also be adaptive from a plant’s perspective? By addressing the full breadth of possible consumer – resource interactions in this course, I hope to gain more insight into the evolutionary dynamics between plants and herbivores.
In my free time I enjoy choir singing and playing tennis, as well as cycling and ice skating. I’m looking forward to the course a lot and meeting you all!