Sanne Ruyts

Fascinated by nature and biodiversity, I was bound to study biology and get involved in several ecological projects and research activities. My life as an ecologist started with a Bsc project on evolutionary ecology of three-spined sticklebacks at KULeuven in Belgium and has evolved to include many different species and ecosystems in different countries. For my PhD at the Forest & Nature Lab at Ghent University, Belgium, I studied the effect of different forest types and mammal and bird community compositions on disease risk. During this time, I co-founded Wild Naliboki, a non-profit organization supporting large carnivore research and conservation in Belarus, and recently contributed to the publication of a book on the ecology of Eurasian lynx. After my PhD, I started working as a research fellow at Ghent University College on a multidisciplinary project investigating the health benefits of biodiversity in urban contexts.

My research interests are focused on evolutionary ecology, biodiversity & conservation, wildlife ecology and community dynamics. To enhance my competence in population and landscape genetics, I assisted in the development of the ‘Bilberry Bear’ project which investigates the effect of directed endozoochory by brown bears on the genetic variation of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) and the subsequent ecosystem functioning and services of both bear and bilberry. For this project, I work together with Joost Raeymaekers and Sam Steyaert (Nord University, Norway) and Shane Frank (University of South-Eastern Norway, Bø, Norway) in the framework of a STSM of the G-BIKE programme (COST Action CA18134). I use genomic resources to develop molecular markers for the study of genetic variation of natural populations of bilberry and perform population genetic analyses.