Submitted by editor on 24 February 2020.

Nina with a beetle teaching insects to Biology students in the French Pyrenees


We are super excited to welcome Nina Fatouros to Oikos! She is an Associate professor (tenure-track) at the Biosystematics Group in Wageningen University (The Netherlands). She was kind enough to introduce herself better in the interview below! Take a peek!

Personal website: www.ninafatouros.nl / Twitter: @trichogramma74

Keywords: herbivore-induced plant defences, insect pheromones, insect host location, insect symbiosis, insect egg deposition


1. What’s your main research focus at the moment?

I am an Entomologist working on the evolution of species interactions at the Biosystematics Group at Wageningen University, The Netherlands, led by Prof. Eric Schranz. I am interested in the evolutionary pathways that gave rise to intricate interactions between plants, herbivorous insects (mainly butterflies and moths), their symbiotic microbes and natural enemies (hymenopteran parasitoids). I mainly study plant resistances to insect eggs (‘egg-killing’) that resemble plant immunity responses to pathogens. Besides my interest in the fundamental aspects on the evolutionary ecology of insect-microbe-plant interactions I aim to transfer the gained knowledge to the society and stakeholders. Together with my VIDI/Aspasia team we are studying the evolutionary and molecular mechanism and genetic basis of an insect egg-killing plant trait in crops. Besides the Vidi/Aspasia project I work on the behavioral ecology of biological control agents, like egg-killing parasitic wasps (i.e. Trichogramma wasps, see picture), and am involved in biocontrol projects.

A picture of a Trichogramma egg parasitoid parasitising a cabbage white butterfly egg

2. Can you describe your research career? Where, what, when?

I completed my PhD at the Freie Universität Berlin in 2006, studying tritrophic interactions between plants, herbivores and parasitic wasps and chemical signals involved therein. I conducted several postdocs at Wageningen University, Freie Universität Berlin and briefly at Mainz University continuing to study the chemical and evolutionary ecology of insects, and their interactions with plants. In 2015/16, I received a Vidi grant (comparable to ERC starting grant) and an Aspasia grant, both by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). The latter is appointed to talented experienced female researchers to encourage their promotion to an associate professorship. These grants helped me to get a tenure-track position at Wageningen University in 2016, where I am now at the associate professor level.

3. How come that you became a scientist in ecology?

I mainly got inspired by courses and professors during my Biology study in Berlin. I enjoyed especially the excursions and to explore nature which became possible in the surroundings of Berlin after the fall of the wall. One professor of Entomology inspired me a lot during his courses, he taught me macrophotography of insects, and to identify insects. Thereafter, I was hooked and did my thesis and internships all on insect ecology.

4. What do you do when you're not working?

Spend time with my two daughters, play basketball, read crime stories and popular scientific books, and during vacations swim, photograph and hike/cycle a lot (according to my Dutch husband, vacations always have to be close to mountains…).

The beautiful view on the French Pyrenees in the excursion area which we enjoy every year during the course.