Our main research theme is Evolutionary Dynamics. We aim to deliver a major contribution to the conceptual development of the theory of evolution. To this end we will develop mathematical and computational tools whenever necessary.
This is usually not a one-to-one relation: in many cases one genotype can generate several phenotypes, depending on the developmental environment. Furthermore, there is often overlap between phenotype distributions generated by different genotypes. There are still many open questions concerning the effect of the non-uniqueness of this mapping on evolution.
Moreover, the recent and rapidly growing results from molecular biology all indicate that we need to adjust our way of thinking about genotype-phenotype relations. A major challenge for theoretical biology is to figure out how these new insights affect predictions concerning evolutionary processes.
This relation determines differential survival and reproduction, and thus, ultimately, fitness. The selection environment encompasses the evolving population itself (or, in the case of co-evolution, several populations), because of inter-individual interactions such as competition, mate choice etc.. Studying this interaction has been (and still is) a long-standing active and productive area of theoretical biology research.
A recent insight is that evolving populations may permanently induce changes in their selection environment, for instance by making hitherto unexploitable resources available. This introduces new complications, and can have far-reaching implications, which we have only just begun to explore.
There is a growing awareness that mutation is not the only process that generates inheritable changes. Examples of epigenetic effects are methylation of genes in reaction to development environment, RNA silencing systems, maternal behaviour, and cultural transmission. It has hardly been examined yet how such processes affect the course of evolution.