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Ian Sanders - Professor

For more information about mycorrhizas, our research projects in Lausanne and in the field in Colombia, with lots of photos and animations please visit:


Research Interests

I am interested in the effects of symbiosis on the ecology and evolution of organisms. We concentrate on the symbiosis between fungi and plants, known as the mycorrhizal symbiosis because of its importance for plant phosphate nutrition and plant growth. All globally important crops form this symbiosis. The symbiosis could be an essential tool in the future for better managing the depleting global phosphate reserves and in helping to feed the rapidly growing human population – especially in tropical countries. My interests are in understanding how the genetics and molecular biology of the fungal partner contributes to the symbiotic effects on plants and then how to actually use this practically in the field to make agriculture more efficient in developing countries.

In addition to my research interests, I am committed to furthering the career development of our doctoral students. I am currently the director of two inter-university doctoral programs; one in Ecology and Evolution and the other in Population Genomics.

Curriculum Vitae

Born on May 2nd, 1964, Great Britain. 

Current Employment:
Full Professor for Evolutionary Biology, University of Lausanne. 

Academic Qualifications:

1982 - 1985
Bachelor of Science, Botany (with honours, upper 2nd class). University of Nottingham, UK.

1985 - 1987
Master of Philosophy (Biology). University of Nottingham, UK.

1988 - 1990
Doctor of Philosophy (Biology). University of York, UK.

Oct 1996
Habilitation at the University of Basel in the Faculty of Mathematics and NaturalSciences.

Work Experience

Appointed ad-hoc member of the Swiss National Science Foundation Research Council, Division 3: Biology & Medicine

2009 -
Elected onto the Scientific Exexcutive Board for SystemsX: Swiss Initiative in Systems Biology

2009 -
Head of ProDoc Population genomics between Basel, Bern, Fribourg and Lausanne.

2008 -
UNIL representative on the “comité de pilotage” for a doctoral program in transferable skills for the Western Swiss Universities

2008 - 2009
Elected by CRUS as representative for UNIL on the ProDoc Commission

2006 –
Head of the CUSO Doctoral Program in Ecology & Evolution for 5 Swiss universities (Bern, Fribourg, Geneva, Lausanne & Neuchâtel)

2007 – 2011
Swiss representative for COST action 870 on mycorrhizas and agriculture

2000 – 2004
Swiss National Science Foundation Professorial Fellow University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

1993 - 2000
Oberassistant (equivalent of lecturer), University of Basel, Switzerland.

1991 - 1992
Postdoctoral Research Associate. The Pennsylvania State University, USA.

1990 - 1991
Visiting Research Fellow. Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) Dijon, France.

1985 - 1987
Environmental Consultant. James Davies and Partners, Nottingham, UK. 1987 Research Assistant. University of Nottingham, UK.

Research Grants as Principal Investigator

Ecological and evolutionary consequences of resource acquisition strategies in parasitic angiosperms and their effects on plant communities (Swiss NSF, No. 3100-46684.96). CHF 180'152.- (1996-1999)

Ecology and evolution in a mutualistic environment. (Swiss NSF, No. 3100-50’481.97). CHF 300’000.- (1997-2000)

Swiss NSF "Professorial Fellowship". Ecology and Evolution in a mutualistic environment. (No.: 631-058108.99). CHF 1'226'599.- (2000-2004)

From evolutionary genetics to population genomics of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. (Swiss NSF, No. 31003A-105790). CHF 540'000.- (2004-2008).

Characterizing the bacterial community and it’s role in the underground symbiotic fungal highway. Faculty of Biology and Medicine, University of Lausanne. Interdisciplinary research grant. CHF 184’600.- (2006-2008).

Bonus of Excellence: From evolutionary genetics to population genomics of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. (Swiss National Foundation, BOE 310000-121601). CHF 200'000.- (2008-2009).

Evolutionary genetics of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and its effects on the mycorrhizal symbiosis. (Swiss NSF No. 31003A-127371). CHF 724’831.- (2009-2012).

Cassava for food security and sustainability in Colombia: Biotechnological application of mycorrhizal fungi. (Swiss NSF IZ70Z0-131311/1). CHF 331’232.- (2010-2013).

Non-research grant awards
SNSF ProDoc Training Module in Population Genomics. Main applicant. CHF 483’286.-

Doctoral school grant from the Conference of West-Swiss Universities (CUSO). CHF 225’000.- (2006-2009). After the initial 3 year phase, this program now has a guaranteed yearly budget of approx. 100’000.- CHF

SNSF R’Equip funding 316030-117442 - Genome structure, function, and regulation. Ultra high throughput sequencing machine. Co-applicant with N. Hernandez, S. Antonarakis, D. Trono. CHF 436’204.-

Professional Affiliations and Services

Steering Committee member for JGI (DoE, USA) sequencing project on the mycorrhizal fungus Glomus intraradices.

Director of the Doctoral Program in Population Genomics for 4 Swiss universities (Basel, Bern, Fribourg & Lausanne)

Director of the Doctoral Program in Ecology & Evolution for 5 Swiss universities (Bern, Fribourg, Geneva, Lausanne & Neuchâtel)

Swiss representative for COST action 870 on mycorrhizas and agriculture

Organizer of working group on Population Biology for COST 838: Managing arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi for improving soil quality and plant health in agriculture.

International advisor for Schwerpunktprogramm “Molecular basis of the Mycorrhizal Symbiosis” for the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Germany.

Editorial board of Journal of Ecology (September 1997-December 2005).

Editorial board of Canadian Journal of Botany (August 1999-December 2003).

Reviewer for Nature, Science, PNAS, Evolution, Nature Genetics, Nature Microbiology Reviews, Journal of Applied Ecology, Trends in Plant Science, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Molecular Ecology, Global Change Biology, Canadian Journal of Forest Research, Ecography , Experientia , Journal of Ecology, Plant & Soil, Mycological Research, Mycorrhiza , Oecologia, New Phytologist, Ecology Letters, Current Biology

Book reviewer for The New Phytologist.

Member of the British Ecological Society.

Director on the board of the Nottinhgamshire Trust for Nature Conservation Ltd. (1986-1988).

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Phd thesis

Publications (9)



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