Environmental and Evolutionary Microbiology
The key motivation of our group is to understand microbial activities in the environment at a fundamental level, to understand how microbial communities are influenced by human activities and how we can apply microbial processes for improving the quality of our living environment.
Read more on the van der Meer lab webpage.
One of our major interests is to study how bacteria evolve and adapt to use organic pollutants as novel growth substrates. Bacteria with new degradation capabilities are often selected in polluted environments and have accumulated small (mutations) and large genetic changes (transpositions, recombinations, horizontally transferred elements). Current projects in this topic study the specificities and modes of action of the self-transmissable genomic islands ICEclc in Pseudomonas knackmussii B13 and Pseudomonas putida.
Whole cell bacterial bioreporters are bacteria specifically engineered to react to the presence of chemical signals with the production of an easily quantifiable marker protein.They can be used as simple alternative measuring methods for environmental pollutants or toxicity. Current projects focus on integrating bioreporter strains in microfluidics platforms, on mutagenizing sensory proteins in order to achieve new effector recognition capabilities, on developing multisensor platforms, and on field-testing of biosensors.
Furthermore we would like to understand the relation between environmental conditions, pollutant effects and microbial activity. Current projects focus on toxic effects of pollutants on aquatic microbial communities, and on the effects of decreasing water availability on pollutant degradation. In the MicroScapesX project we focus on design and engineering of synthetic microbial communities.