Louise Vet's research

Louise Vet's research deals with the ecology and evolution of multitrophic systems of plants, herbivore insects and their natural enemies.


Being attached to both the NIOO-KNAW and Wageningen University & Research, my present research is conducted in two places: at NIOO in the Department of Multitrophic Interactions and in Wageningen in the Laboratory of Entomology. In both places I collaborate with several excellent and enthusiastic scientists and supervise PhD students. There is fruitful interaction between the groups and collaboration in several research projects.

Ecology is an interdisciplinary science and this is nicely reflected by my own research. Using behavioural, chemical ecological but also neurobiological (and recently genomic) approaches we study the functioning of natural enemies in a multitrophic context. At the NIOO we focus on the role of plant defence in linking above- and belowground multitrophic interactions, and in shaping community structure. In Wageningen we focus on insect behaviour and information processing. We have close collaborations with several international high quality research groups.We investigate the evolution of foraging and life history traits of insects that function in a diverse multitrophic world. Throughout my career I favoured a species comparative approach to answer evolutionary questions and it still pays off. With the behavioural approach we compare the foraging behaviour of parasitoid species. How do they deal with spatial variation of their hosts and host-food plants? The chemical ecological approach is used to study the infochemical use by the foraging insect parasitoids. How, when and why do parasitoids use plant odours to locate their hosts? The neurobiological research line is closely linked to this and investigates information processing (learning and memory) of these plant odours by the parasitoids. Recently we entered the field of genomics to find the genes that are involved in this odour learning of our parasitic wasps.

My research ranges from fundamental to strategic. The fundamental questions relate to understanding the evolution of species traits and species interactions within communities. Understanding the functioning of herbivores and their natural enemies in natural and agro-ecosystems is crucial for the strategic development of sustainable agro ecosystems that are primarily based on the prevention of pests and diseases (life-support function of biodiversity).

Keywords: multitrophic interactions, especially plant-natural enemy interactions, linking above- and belowground multitrophic interactions; herbivore-induced plant volatiles, plant defence, natural enemy foraging behaviour, sensory perception, information processing, neurobiology, phenotypic plasticity, odour learning, genomics, variation in spatial host distribution; parasitoid movement patterns; optimal foraging, aggregation, chemical espionage, competition, niche differentiation, species and strain comparison, effect of vegetational diversity on searching behaviour, odour masking, population dynamics, functional biodiversity.