Organizing Committee

Hans van Veen, Netherlands Institute of Ecology, the Netherlands - Chair 
Hans van Veen was Head of the Department of Microbial Ecology of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology, NIOO-KNAW, in Wageningen, and Professor of Microbial Ecology at Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands. He retires in 2014, but remains active in science, including the organization of this conference. His main research interest was in the role of micro-organisms in the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems. He has been involved in research on several topics including the microbial ecology of the rhizosphere, and in particular in the role of microbes in global change and land use related processes and the regulation of the diversity and the functioning of bacterial and fungal communities in soil. In the past his work focused on the modeling of microbial transformations of N and C, the fate of (genetically modified) micro-organisms inoculated into soil and the application of molecular biological and genomic methodology in soil microbiology. 

Ellis Hoffland, Wageningen University, the Netherlands - Secretary
Ellis Hoffland has been interested in the role that plant roots and related soil organisms play in the cycles of nutrient elements and carbon ever since she started my PhD in 1991. Her motivation to study these cycles is their relevance to food production. The rhizosphere is the entry point of nutrients in the food chain. The natural bias in her work is towards the biological aspects of these cycles and, more specifically, of soil-plant interactions. But whenever relevant and possible (i.e. almost always) she tries to include chemistry. is convinced that integration of chemical and biological (and physical) information provides unique opportunities to elucidate feedbacks that are operating in complex environmental systems such as the rhizosphere. 

Liesje Mommer, Wageningen University, the Netherlands - Treasurer

Biodiversity is an important societal topic that requires rigorous ecological research input. Liesje Mommer's ambition as a scientist is to contribute to this issue by investigating the multitude of interactions in plant communities. Although answers to the current biodiversity issues are likely to be found belowground, little research has focused on roots due to technical hurdles. She was therefore challenged to develop new methods to quantify species abundance in mixed root samples (Mommer et al 2008; 2010). The first application of this method only limited evidence for a long-standing hypothesis in ecology, namely that spatial niche differentiation drives the positive biodiversity effects on productivity. However, evidence was found for an alternative mechanism to drive the enhanced productivity at higher diversity levels: species-specific root distributions as the result of interactions between neighbouring plants, soil biota and root exudates. 

René Geurts, Wageningen University, the Netherlands
René Geurts' research focuses around the molecular aspects of the nitrogen-fixing rhizobium symbiosis. This symbiosis is well known from legumes, but also occurs in the genus Parasponia of the Cannabis family. In both cases root nodules are formed in which rhizobium is hosted and find the appropriate conditions to fix nitrogen. Recent research has revealed that rhizobium co-opted a signal molecule of endomycorrhizal fungi and in this way can establish the symbiotic interaction on legumes and parasponia. The central objective of his research is to understand why only these plant species are permissive for rhizobium, and others are not.

Wim van der Putten, Netherlands Institute of Ecology, the Netherlands
Wim van der Putten is head of the department of Terrestrial Ecology at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology and professor in Functional Biodiversity at Wageningen University. He is a soil ecologist with a wide interest in multitrophic-level interactions with a strong focus on belowground-aboveground interactions. In 2012, he received an ERC-advanced grant to study community re-arrangement under climate warming. 

Jos Raaijmakers, Netherlands Institute of Ecology, the Netherlands
Jos Raaijmakers is head of the Microbial Ecology department of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO). The research program of the department aims to understand/identify: i) key factors and mechanisms that shape microbial communities and microbial activities in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, ii) the role of microorganisms in ecosystem functioning, and iii) patterns in the assembly and dynamics of microbiomes associated with plants and other eukaryotes. Rhizosphere research at NIOO focuses on how microorganisms (bacteria, fungi) affect plant growth, development and health. Specific emphasis is given to the natural functions of microbial metabolites in soil and rhizosphere environments.

We would be proud to welcome you in Maastricht.