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I am an environmental scientist with an interest in ecosystem interactions and botany. My PhD project is part of the PaNDiv Experiment which is about Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning relationship in grassland ecosystems in the Swiss lowland. I study the role of foliar pathogenic fungi in this ecosystems and how this changes under the influence of nitrogen fertilization. Pathogenic fungi are interesting, because they act as plant consumers, but other than insect herbivores or grazing mammals, they have not been studied very intensively in an ecosystem context. Our first results indicate that plants face a growth-defense trade-off also in plant-fungal pathogen interactions, similar to plant–insect herbivore interactions. We also found negative host plant density dependence of infection levels and a positive effect of plant species diversity on plant health in addition to host plant dilution. What this means for ecosystem functioning is the next point on my bucket list of science.
Project: PaNDiv Experiment