Issue 3, July 2018


Souvenirs from the kick-off
About 70 people gathered for the first meeting of ILEE at the Business & Learning Centre this 11th of June. A wonderful occasion to listen to 8 exciting talks on the research topics, contemplate at 20 fascinating posters and contribute to one of the 2 workshops. Enjoy a short video of our first meeting, have a (first or) second look at the presentations, posters, summaries of the workshops etc. on the website:
Thank you all for your input and presence to make this event an excell
ent start for our institute!
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ILEE at the service of the wallon administration
The invasive Louisiana crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) can cause massive environmental damage through burrowing activities, its feeding habits and also out-compete native crayfish species. It has recently appeared in Wallonia, as proven through genetical analyses (environmental DNA) by the team of Karin Van Doninck and Jonathan Marescaux (URBE, Biology). Attempts to eradicate the species will be carried out this year.
ILEE members in the current Omalius journal
Natacha Acuit (History) talks about AgriLabel and the history of local products. If you had the chance to listen to Isabelle Parmentier at the kick-off, you already learned about the different labels for agricultural products linked to a geographical area and tradition.
More info on page 6
Florence de Longueville (Geography) describes a new project concerning climate change and human migration in Burkina Faso: Look at page 9

The first Belgian Geopark recognised by UNESCO
Vincent Hallet (Geology) was part of the research team that contributed to the creation of the Geopark Famenne-Ardenne (as mentioned at the kick-off!). UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas of international geological significance. Their objective is a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development. Read more


Save the date!!

ILEE invites its members to leave for the Vallée de la Molignée:
Take a ride on the draisine with a few stops for geological and historical demonstrations on the natural heritage, drink a fresh beer at the Maredsous Abbey and have lots of fun at the paintball battle!

Tuesday, 4th of September 2018
Further information will follow!

New arrivals

Nothobranchius furzeri, the turquoise killifish

has just arrived in the Laboratory of Evolutionary and Adaptive Physiology LEAP (Fréderic Silvéstre, URBE). This species lives in freshwater ponds of south east Africa. Among vertebrates, it has the shortest lifespan (about 10 weeks) but shows all the processes of aging. It is thus an excellent model species for Antoine Wittorski, who will investigate the role of epigenetic mechanisms in adaptation to the environment for his PhD thesis.


DIVERCE - Frederik De Laender

Ecosystems are increasingly exposed to multiple drivers of environmental change. If, how does intraspecific variability modulate the response of biodiversity (community composition) and ecosystem function to theses changes? Usually, existing theory does not account for potential environmental change effects on intraspecific variability and on interactions between competing individuals.
DIVERCE will empirically test this question with micro-organisms (phytoplankton, ciliates, and fungi) responding to two drivers of environmental change (temperature and pesticide pollution). Further, the mechanistic basis of the empirical results is investigated, focusing on the role of environmental change effects on per-capita interactions. In the end, DIVERCE will contribute to theory building, ecological forecasting, and environmental decision making.
More info

Missions & Conferences

Karine Van Doninck (URBE) will talk at the SMBE 2018 (Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution) in Japan in July and will combine the conference with a field trip to Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan, northeast of Kyoto to obtain more samples of one of the study species of her lab: the Asian Corbicula clam - a mussel that has become invasive in European freshwaters.
In August, she will give a talk at the ESEB 2018 (European Society for Evolutionary Biology) in Montpellier, France.

Alessandra Carion (URBE) enjoyed a PhD training on genome sequencing (Genome et transcriptome : approches NGS) at the Natural History Musem of Paris. The training combined theoretical and practical elements, working with LINUX, analysing sequencing data, estimating their quality, effectuating assemblages and annotations. 4 days of training is too short to become an expert in the field but offers a good global overview on techniques, computer languages and data processing.

Have a look at the catalogue of PhD training, there are diverse opportunities (technical, thematical for all disciplines, in English and French) for free!!!
More info also here:

Antoine Wittorski and Jessica Ody (URBE) presented a poster at the Nothobranchius symposium at the Max Planck Institute in Cologne. This species is the new killifish model species to study aging processes in vertebrates. (see also new arrivals!)
Frédéric Silvestre, Julie Hetru and Angèle Markey (URBE) went to the Ecobim conference on ecotoxicology in Bordeaux. Julie gave a talk about her Msc thesis and presented the lab's model species, the mangrove rivulus, as a new model in ecotoxicology. Angèle took part in a broad public seminar with high school students.
Géraldine Van Aubel and Pierre Van Cutsem (URBV) presented their work on how to stimulate potatoes' immunity to fight against blight agents with a poster at the Plant Biology Europe in Copenhague (also displayed at the kick-off). See also their publication below.
METAMORPHOSE (Méthodes Expérimentales et Théoriques; Atomes, MOlécules et SupRamolécules PHOtons, Spectres et Electrons) F.R.S.-FNRS is a doctoral school concerning chemistry, physics and engineering (applied sciences). For its annual scientific meeting, two physics’ PhD students (team: Muriel Lepère) had been selected to give a talk.
Sylvain Leonis explained how high resolution molecular spectroscopy can be used to study hot gases as the combustion fumes. In particular, he showed a home-made high temperature absorption cell design – an original and powerful tool study pollution!
Loïc Trompet presented his studies on methane in the mars atmosphere to understand the physical and chemical processes that might be an evidence for life on mars!

 Patrick Kestemont (URBE) talked at the International Symposium on Fish Nutrition and Feeding (ISFNF) in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria about feeding and nutrition of the freshwater species pikeperch, especially during early life stages. His PhD student Thi Mai Nguyen showed a study on the benefits of β–glucan and different dietary lipid sources on growth, immune response, fatty acid profile and gene expression in the common carp. Najlae El Kertaoui presented a poster on the effects of dietary values for Ca and P in fish feeds on pikeperch larval development and performance. 

New Publications

Evolution, Adaptation and Biodiversity

DNA methylation in adults and during development of the self-
fertilizing mangrove rivulus

This article depicts the DNA methylation profile of the mangrove rivulus (Kryptolebias marmoratus), in adult fish and during embryogenesis. It also characterizes the main enzymes involved in this process. The results presented open the door to a new hypothesis on how a fish with low genetic diversity could use epigenetic mechanisms to adapt to its environment. A long and deep DNA methylation reprogramming is detected during development, which could be involved in such adaptation mechanisms. More generally, the study gives clues about the role of epigenetic variability in evolution.

Involved researchers from ILEE: A. Fellous, A.-S. Voisin, F. Silvestre

Living in cities impacts on body size 
Cities are urban heat islands characterized by increased temperatures that result in increased metabolic costs and are expected to drive shifts to smaller body sizes. The authors investigated ten animal taxonomic groups and show that the majority of urban communities consist of smaller species. At the same time, urban habitats are extremely fragmented and poorly connected, which favours mobile, i.e. often large species. Thus, three taxa display a shift to larger species along the urbanization gradients. This means that the general trend towards smaller-sized species is overruled by filtering for larger species when better mobility is more important. The two effects (urban-heat-island and habitat fragmentation) are thus associated with contrasting community-level shifts in body size. Since body size determines the structure and dynamics of ecological networks, such shifts may affect urban ecosystem function.

Involved researchers from ILEE: N. Debortoli, K. Van Doninck

Pollution and Environmental Toxicology

Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning under environmental stress

Understanding how biodiversity (B) affects ecosystem functioning (EF) is essential for assessing the consequences of ongoing biodiversity changes. Environmental conditions impact on these BEF relationships. With the help of a community model stemming form game‐theory, it is shown that along environmental stress gradients, the response of BEF interactions is unimodal. Depending on how stress affects species interactions, the ecological mechanisms underlying this response may vary. A global dataset of 44 experiments that cross biodiversity with environmental conditions was then analysed. The analysis confirms that at intermediate levels of environmental stress, the effect of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning tends to be greater. Results suggest that increases in stress from ongoing global environmental changes may amplify the consequences of biodiversity changes.

Involved researchers from ILEE: F. De Laender

Chemical stress effects marine food webs

Human activities and stressors increasingly impact the functioning of marine food webs, but are seldom included in ecological study designs. Further, diet quality is rarely highlighted in food web studies in a stress context, as opposed to diet quantity. This article measures the effects of metal and pesticide stress (copper and atrazine) on a benthic intertidal diatom community and how this impacts on biomass (diet quantity) and lipid (diet quality) production. Pesticides changed the community structure (selective effects) of diatoms to lipid-poor species, reducing diatom diet quality by up to 75%. Further, at high copper concentrations, diatoms lost 40% of their lipids (context‐dependent effect). These changes in diet quality led to consequences for the copepod grazers feeding on diatoms, even at stress levels where no changes in diatom lipid content had been detected.

Involved researchers from ILEE: F. De Laender

Natural Resources Characterization and Management

Where do the “Lorraine limestones” from the Saint-Paul Cathedral of Liège come from?

Some architectural specific elements of the Saint-Paul Cathedral in Liège (Belgium) are made from ochre building stones, so-called “Lorraine limestones” (13th-15th century). However, within a radius of 200km, no such rocks can be found. This multi-analytical approach applied petrography, Rare Earth Elements geochemistry and studied archives and archeological material to characterize the stones used in the church and to compare them with ochre limestones outcropping in the north-east of the Paris Basin. The results make it highly probable that a very restricted geographical area near the ancient port of Donchery (Ardennes, France) including Dom-le-Mesnil and Hannogne ancient quarries of Bajocian limestones (Middle Jurassic) are the potential origin location for the stones used in the Saint-Paul Cathedral.
Look on your map how far these stones had been transported at that time!
Involved researchers from ILEE: M. Piavaux, J. Yans

Sustainable Plant And Animal Production

Possible alternatives to control blight disease in potatoes

Potato late blight (caused by Phytophthora infestans), the most important potato disease worldwide, requires massive amounts of fungicides. Stimulating the plant’s innate immunity opens ways to new biological plant protection tools such as elicitor molecules. This study shows that especially one elicitor oligosaccharide - FytoSol, a new composition still under development by the spin-off FytoFend - was efficient in controlling the diversion of late blight. It could become part of an integrated pest management strategy allowing for reduction of fungicide use and related environmental impact in potato fields.

Involved researchers from ILEE: G. van Aubel, P. Van Cutsem

Carolin Mayer
Scientific Manager -

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