The laboratory Aquatic Biology carries out fundamental and applied research into aquatic microorganisms. We study host-parasite co-evolution in Daphnia and its microparasites, and currently focus on how this co-evolution is influenced by the environment. We study causes, consequences and remediation of eutrophication and algal blooms. We also explore the potential applications of microalgae for use as biofuels, as animal feed, as a source of poly-unsaturated fatty acids and for waste water treatment.
Our relatively young lab was founded in 2008 by Koenraad Muylaert, Ellen Decaestecker and Imogen Foubert. At present, it houses about 11 PhD students, 3 post-docs and 2 laboratory technicians. The laboratory is situated at KULeuven campus Kulak, a satellite campus of KULeuven university situated in Kortrijk. Our labs are situated in the IRF Life Sciences laboratory facilities.
For more information please contact Koenraad Muylaert.
Eutrophication of aquatic ecosystems
Increased inputs of nitrogen and phosphorus in aquatic ecosystems boost the productivity of microalgae, resulting in eutrophication and algal blooms. We study how phytoplankton biomass, community composition and physiology responds to eutrophication in natural ecosystems and how phytoplankton can be used as an indicator of eutrophication. We also explore mechanisms to control eutrophication and algal blooms in natural ecosystems, e.g. through competition with submerged macrophytes.
Applications of microalgae
In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in the use of microalgae for a various applications. Microalgae are attractive because they can achieve a higher productivity than traditional agricultural crops. Moreover, they produce a biomass that is low in structural polymers such as cellulose and lignin, and rich in proteins, lipids and a range of high-value compounds such as anti-oxidants, natural pigments, poly-unsaturated fatty acids or polysaccharides. Microalgae hold the potential to be used for various applications, ranging from biofuels or animal feed, to pharma- or neutraceuticals. We focus our research on biochemical analysis of microalgal biomass, downstream processing of the biomass and wastewater treatment.
Host-parasite interactions are a key structuring force in ecosystems, driving coevolution. We investigate the evolutionary ecology of Daphnia-parasite interactions with a focus on Red Queen dynamics and environmental dependent effects, both at the phenotypic and at the molecular level. Long-term coevolutionary processes are studied, based on dormant stages, which are conserved in layered pond sediments. We further focus on trade-offs in defences between multiple enemies and investigate how host-parasite dynamics are influenced by changing environments and metacommunity processes.