dr. MG (Mark) Sterken

dr. MG (Mark) Sterken

Assistant Professor

Research conducted by the Laboratory of Nematology is part of the research program of the Graduate School Experimental Plant Sciences (EPS) and the C.T. de Wit Graduate School for Production Ecology & Resource Conservation (PE&RC).

Research:

Genetic approaches are very powerful tools to understand the role of genes in the context of fitness and selection pressures. The increasing tools, data, and understanding of relevant evolutionary pressures make that population- and quantitative genetics are currently at the forefront of understanding the role of (a)biotic selection pressures on natural wild populations. This for example crucial to understand basic questions about evolution and the interplay between niche and genetic variation within a species. Furthermore, it can also lead to very practical questions, for example: what is the potency of an infestation with plant parasitic nematodes to break trough the resistance genes that are used to control them?

In my research I use population- and quantitative genetics in combination with phenotypic characterization and molecular biology to understand plant-parasitism in nematodes. I work on various nematode species, including the root-knot nematode Meloidogyne hapla, the cyst-nematodes Globodera pallida and Globodera rostochiensis, the stem-nematode Ditylenchus dipsaci and the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. In this research I aim to uncover allelic variation that matters for parasitism. This touches on very fundamental questions: how does parasitism work at a population level? What is the role of natural genetic variation in parasitism? Furthermore, it also translates to very practical questions: can we predict virulence in nematode populations? Can genetic variation inform integrated pest management?

I work at the intersection where data-heavy work is combined with experimental work in the lab or in the field. My team therefore consists of people with bioinformatic skills and/or practical expertise. As the various species require their own approach and knowledge about their biology, I naturally work together with different research groups within and outside the laboratory of nematology. On various projects I also work together with stakeholders such as breeding companies, service providers, and legislative authorities.

Research group:

  • Muhammad Iqbal Maulana
  • Stefan van de Ruitenbeek