You are here

Toby Kiers investigates how cooperation between species evolves and persists. Her research explores the concept of ‘punishment’ and how punishment is used in nature by plants, animals and microbes. Her most recent work focuses on trading in nature and how complex ‘biological markets’ can emerge among plants and their symbiotic fungi. Underground, fungi and plant roots form vast networks of connected individuals, in which sugars from roots are exchanged for nutrients from fungi.  Kiers’ ERC grant aims to understand how cooperation is maintained in these plant-fungal networks. Her lab is developing a quantum-dot technique that allows them to tag and follow phosphorus resources within a fungal network. These florescent nanoparticles emit light of different colors, allowing her to track trade over time and space, and determine how fungi distribute nutrients within their networks. Toby Kiers received her doctoral degree from University of California, Davis in 2005. She has conducted research in Central America, Africa, Japan, Europe and North America, with a strong focus on conservation and global agricultural policy. Kiers is now a University Research Chair and Professor of Mutualistic Interactions at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam.