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Robin Heinen

Robin Heinen is our Institute of Biology Leiden's nominee for the C.J. Kok Jury Award 2019.

‘I was literally shaking when I received the first printed copy of my thesis. It came out beautiful, and exactly as I had hoped. I am very proud that I managed to finish all the work on time, just before the birth of my baby son earlier this year.’

About Robin's research

Plants are able to repel some organisms and attract others via the exudation of carbon and other compounds from their roots. As a result, the soil microbiome often reveals plant species-specific patterns. These patterns in soil communities may persist in the soil for a long time. These so-called soil legacies can alter the growth of plants that grow later in the same soil. The effects of entire soil communities, in the form of plant-specific soil legacies, can also have strong effects on chewing and phloem-feeding insect herbivores.

This thesis sets out to explore how general these soil legacy effects occur in a broad range of plant species and a common herbivore, the cabbage moth. Furthermore, it assesses whether these species-specific legacy effects on plant-insect interactions can be predicted using plant growth rate (fast/slow) and plant functional type (grass/forb). Using experimental setups in which soils with different legacies are created, measuring levels of secondary metabolites, and using gene expression assays, this study shows that soil communities can play an important role in mediating aboveground plant-insect interactions. Soil matters

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