News & Events

Steven Orzack
Steven Orzack, prominent evolutionary ecologist, visited the MARM group on February 4th. To add to the distinguished company, Hans Metz and Hans Reddingius also joined us. In the morning, Steven gave an informal talk on The emergence of theoretical population biology in the 1960s.
In the afternoon, he gave a lecture entitled Modelling in biology – Past? Present? Future?, in which he highlighted the Dutch contribution to the development of theoretical biology. We concluded the day with a lively discussion on the philosophy of model building in ecology and evolution which continued up to dinner in ‘Da Carlo’.

MARM's 1st Bday
On December 1st, the MARM project was one year old. We celebrated this special occasion on the 11th of December with a cake and a day of scientific and cultural activities.

In the morning, during a scientific outreach session Franjo gave a general overview of our research interests and approach; and eight members of our group presented short introductions to their projects and showed some first results. This session was meant for the general public, with as special guests our office manager Ingeborg Jansen, Rense Buijvoets from Sensu and a composer Reiko Yamada.

The birthday cakes
The birthday cakes
Franjo and Ingeborg killing the cakes.......
Franjo and Ingeborg killing the cakes.......

In the afternoon, Reiko told us about her projects in which she uses inspiration from science in research to make sound installations, compose shorter or longer pieces or in other way engage with audience. Check out previous projects on her website! We look forward to having her among us next year. Afterwards we visited the exhibition “Presence” in the Groninger Museum: an interactive artwork that released our own creative spirits in a play with light and shade.

MARM at the exhibition Presence
MARM at the exhibition Presence
MARMot at the exhibition Presence
MARMot at the exhibition Presence
Last year many MARM people started their projects and presented exciting new results at various conferences. We are looking forward to an even more wonderful and productive next year!

Zoology2019 logo
At the end of November (27-29) a first joint conference of the KNDV (Dutch Royal Society of Zoologists), RBZS (Royal Belgian Zoological Society) and NVG (Netherlands Society for Behavioural Biology) took place in Groningen. The focus of the conference was Learning and Memory in the Animal Kingdom – from nematodes to humans. The programme contained many interesting talks, including a couple of parallel sessions, six plenaries, featuring the Distinguished Zoologist Lecture Dr Richard Morris, the Brill Baerends lecture by Dr Susanne Åkesson, and the Dobberke Evening Lecture by Dr Jolle Jolles.

We also presented our work:

Magdalena Kozielska and Elles Jetten gave a talk A neural network modelling approach to the evolution of emotions and learning

Emiliano presented a poster Artificial neural network models for the evolution of assortative learning


Apu presented a poster Migration syndrome in three-spined sticklebacks


ESEB 2019 logo
The 2019 Congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) took place in Turku, Finland, on the 19-24th of August. A couple of us attended and presented their work:

Franjo gave a talk: Regulatory networks link phenotypic plasticity to evolvability. His talk can be watched at the conference website.

Boris gave a talk: Long live the queen: eusociality and the evolutionary theory of aging.

Magdalena presented a poster Evolution of emotions and learning – a neural network model


Daniel presented a poster How can division of labour in social insects evolve?


The ESEB congress was as always intensive, with many talks from different evolutionary biology areas. Evolution of adaptation seemed to be one of the more popular topics covered among others by sessions Rapid evolutionary adaptations: potential and constraints; and Genetics and genomics of adaptations. Two sessions were devoted to theoretical work: Mathematical models in evolutionary biology; and Evolutionary game theory: modern development and interdisciplinary adaptations. Theoretical talks in other sessions were rather scarce.
Many of the talks can be watched at the congress website. Many of the posters have been archived at Figshare, just search for Evol2019 or ESEB2019.

Lukas Geyrhofer
On the 19th of June we were visited by Lukas Geyrhofer, currently a postdoc at the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) in Haifa. He gave a talk about his work in an international project on the evolution of antibiotic resistance:

Public good dilemmas in the evolution of antibiotic resistance

Thomas Oudman
Thomas Oudman from the University of St. Andrews and NIOZ was visiting our group on the 11th and 12th of June. He gave a talk about his work on the role of culture in migratory barnacle geese:

Taking animal decisions seriously: the roles of culture and experience in the ecology and evolution of migratory behaviour by barnacle geese

Abstract: Arctic breeding birds are facing strong ecological changes along their migration routes, which requires them to adjust their strategies. What are the inheritance mechanisms of migratory behaviour, and how do they help or constrain species in changing it? Barnacle geese breeding on Spitsbergen face changes in food phenology along their staging sites. More than forty years of observations in the UK, along the Norwegian coast and on Spitsbergen show a clear response in migratory behaviour. We designed individual-based models to simulate different potential ways in which geese might develop and adjust their migratory behaviour. Using Approximate Bayesian Computation methods, we compared the resulting simulations with the actual patterns that emerge from bird counts and mark-recapture analysis of ring readings. The results suggest that group-decisions are crucial to explain the observed behavioural changes, and that older individuals lead groups, informing their decision by individual experiences. Young geese change strategy more often than older geese. This does not seem to result from a higher tendency to explore, but from a stronger tendency to switch between groups. In other words, it looks like barnacle geese have an advanced cultural system that allows them to respond to trends in environmental conditions spanning several generations.

We also had interesting discussions about other aspects of animal culture, learning, migratory behaviour and ecology and evolutionary biology.

NLSEB logo
On the 16th of April the second conference of the Nederlands Society for Evolutionary Biology took place in Akoesticum in Ede (Netherlands). Many MARMots attended the meeting and some presented their work during the poster session:

Xiaoyan Long “Coevolution of sex-specific parental roles and the sex ratio”

Timo van Eldijk “Does evolutionary rescue theory predict evolution of antibiotic resistance?”

Apu Ramesh “Eco-evo-devo of migration syndromes”

We are happy to announce that Timo and Apu received poster prizes, 3rd and 2nd place, respectively.


The Lorentz workshop ends with the public event Does Culture Evolve?, a line-up of internationally acclaimed researchers will critically discuss the supposed cultural habits of fruitflies, Darwinian approaches to the study of religion, the spread and evolution of fake news, and general arguments for and against the Darwinization of culture. This event is in the Boerhaave museum in Leiden, at 5 April 19.00 hour. The event is free, but registration is required. Check the website for more info.

As part of his Lorentz Fellowship, Franjo organizes the Lorentz workshop Probing the Foundations of Cultural Evolution, in the Lorentz Center@Oort venue in Leiden, from 1 to 5 April. The workshop lectures are open to anyone interested. Check the website for the program and more info.

Carlos Botero
From 1-10 April 2019, we will be visited by Carlos Botero, who is an assistent professor at Washington University in St. Louis. Carlos is visiting on the occasion of the Lorenz Workshop in Leiden. On 8 April he will present a guest lecture (Linnaeusborg, Blue Room (5172.0571), 15.00):

Eco-evolutionary implications of climate change

Abstract: Environmental conditions play a major role in determining the survival and reproduction of individuals and the long-term persistence of populations. In this talk, I will go over the different approaches my team has taken to explore how animals cope with and adapt to variable and unpredictable conditions and to understand how these eco-evolutionary feedback loops are ultimately responsible for shaping biological communities.

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