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Experimental evolution of microbial eco-systems in traditional Zambian fermented products (ZamFerm)
Start date: Dec 1, 2013, End date: Nov 30, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"The goal this research project is to test evolutionary hypotheses on ecosystem evolution using traditional fermented products as natural yet manipulatable model systems. Specifically, I will establish what factors affect eco-system evolutionary dynamics, test hypotheses on the repeatability of eco-system evolution and test predictions from the long-standing ""competitive exclusion"" hypothesis. Ever since Darwin, the process of evolution has intensively been studied, initially through comparative methods reconstructing past evolution and more recently through manipulative long-term laboratory experiments. This project greatly advances beyond the current state of the art by expanding experimental evolution into the complexity of entire eco-systems outside the laboratory, addressing fundamental questions in evolutionary biology using both classical comparative methods as well as approaches from laboratory experimental evolution.This research is truly unique and highly innovative since it provides the natural manipulatable experimental systems that are currently almost entirely lacking to directly test evolutionary hypotheses, while the importance of evolutionary processes in shaping eco-systems is widely recognized. This project will have a highly significant impact on my future research career since it allows me to establish this research as a long term research program. I will receive highly valuable and excellent quality training from experienced researchers in Zambia providing me the knowledge and skills how to produce fermented products, how to perform field work in a developing country with local people, research ethics, numerous sociological research skills and how to implement this research in Wageningen. Further impact will be the establishment of long term mutually beneficial collaborations between Wageningen and Zambia and various important outreach activities."

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