RIBES research theme II: Physical Conditions: understanding responses and adaptation mechanism to stressors

The world is facing unprecedented global challenges that are leading to a loss of species diversity and affecting the sustainability of natural and agricultural systems worldwide. These challenges include drastic changes in physical conditions (drought, flooding, temperature). To ensure food security and safety there is an urgent need for the development of climate-resilient crops and animals. Incorporating in-depth insights from plant and animal ecophysiology may reduce the need for excessive use of energy, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, protein-rich diets, or synthetic fertilizers. Theme II will strengthen our longstanding interdisciplinary and collaborative research with the aim of expanding our knowledge of plant and animal developmental and adaptive responses to various environmental stressors.

Crops and climate changes

In the next years, we will focus on improving crop stress tolerance to extreme climate events by exploiting systems biology with the aim of pushing our understanding of plant cell physiology to the systems level. Such an understanding has the potential to yield completely new insights on the adaptation of plants to extreme climate events. A complementary array of state-of-the-art live- cell imaging and single-cell analysis techniques will be employed to develop innovative single-cell experimental systems and analytical methods. Furthermore, the latest biotechnology techniques, including CRISPR/Cas9, will be employed to construct appropriate geno- and phenotypes that are more tolerant to various types of stress. The combined expertise at RIBES enables translational research that will bring new developmental insights to the crop level. This aligns with the recent agreement between Radboud University and University Maastricht to collaborate more intensively in the area of (plant) biotechnology on the Venlo campus. The institute’s fully licensed GMO greenhouse facilities are indispensable for realizing these goals through state-of- the-art experiments.

Aquatic life

A second line in Theme II is the stress response in aquatic animals. Aquatic ecosystems provide important services, including clean water and food. Changes in climatological conditions (higher temperatures, altered precipitation patterns) and human pollution (eutrophication) are reducing water quality, leading to stress, reduced fitness, and declining populations of aquatic animals. As more than 99% of all animals are ectotherms, understanding the mechanisms underpinning thermal responses is paramount. Thus, in the next 5 years we want to expand our joint research efforts in this area by investigating the thermal responses of selected aquatic animals. We recently developed a new model system of triploid zebrafish that allows constraints on oxygen demand supply to be elucidated at the level of individual cells. Experimental work on selected organisms using RIBES' state-of-the-art fish facilities will be combined with large-scale analyses of field data and data compiled from the literature to investigate general patterns in thermal responses across a large diversity of species.

Line drawing of a fish, a plant, and a microbe, around a lightning bolt


In 2024, the coordinators of theme II are Robert Jansen, Juriaan Metz, and Victoria Mironova. You can contact them if you have any questions, ideas, or suggestions about the topics in theme II. 

The coordinators are responsible for (internal) events and communication about theme II, such as through the internal Teams channel. 

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Brightlands campus Venlo, foto Wim Vriezen

Radboud University and Maastricht University fund research into crop biotechnology and engineering

Over the next four years, four young researchers can start research into crop biotechnology and engineering, thanks to the collaboration between Radboud and Maastricht University. The researchers will work at the Brightlands Campus Greenport, Venlo.


Contact one of the theme coordinators (Robert Jansen, Juriaan Metz, and Victoria Mironova) or the RIBES office for more information about this theme.