Since March 2013, the Spatial Ecology and Evolution group of Ghent University (TEREC, Prof. D. Bonte) and the Theoretical and Evolutionary Ecology group from the University of Groningen (CEES, prof. R. Etienne) have set up a collaboration jointly supervising two PhD students on a research project aiming to understand the impact of habitat fragmentation and species assemblages on the process of ecological specialization.
The overall aim of the project is to understand how variation in gene flow through sequential colonization and the presence of interacting species impact the speed at which species will adapt to novel environmental conditions, and how this eventually will lead to species formation (speciation).
Two PhD Students (Adriana Alzate, Karen Bisschop) merge the empirical and theoretical expertise into challenging interdisciplinary research. Adriana Alzate has spent two years in Ghent for experimental research using the spider mite Tetranychus urticae as a model (see figure), and is currently moving to Groningen to validate and synthesise results by means of theoretical modelling. Karen Bisschop received a U4-BOF scholarship from Ghent University and complementary funding from Groningen University to pursue related questions. As for Karen, she uses experimental evolution in Ghent to test these hypotheses and joins the Groningen group at regularly basis to develop advanced skills to link experimental work with theoretical and molecular approaches.