Naam JC Douma

OmschrijvingUniversitair docent
OrganisatieDepartement Plantenwetenschappen
OrganisatieeenheidCentre for Crop Systems Analysis
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Dr. Bob (J.C.) Douma is assistant professor bij de Centre for Crop Systems Analysis van  Wageningen Universiteit. He bestudeerd de ecologie van planten in de context van plagen en ziekten. Hij gebruikt geavanceerde (statitische) modelleer technieken om deze interactie te ontrafelen.

Plant ecologie in de context van ziekten en plagen

Twee dingen motiveren mij bij mijn onderzoek: landbouw verduurzamen door te onderzoeken hoe we fundamentele ecologische inzichten naar de praktijk kunnen vertalen en begrijpen hoe planten groeien en bloeien in een omgeving waar ze geplaagd worden door insecten en pathogenen.

In mijn onderzoek heb ik drie aandachtsgebieden: 

1) het begrijpen en voorspellen van exotische planten plagen. Waar zullen nieuwe plagen zich vestigen en hoe gaan ze zich verspreiden, en wat kan je er tegen doen? Ik ben onder andere betrokken bij het Europese H2020 project HOMED (

2) het begrijpen van de interactie van planten met buren en plagen. Hoe blijven planten competitief terwijl ze toch goed verdedigd zijn? Welke rol speelt communicatie tussen planten door middel van licht en geurstoffen in deze context?  

3) het ontwikkelen en introduceren van nieuwe methoden en technieken tbv de eerste twee onderzoekslijnen. 

Zie mijn engelse pagina voor uitgebreidere informatie. 


Sociale media
  Bob Douma op Linkedin




I have three research lines that are described below in more detail:

First, to understand plants' responses in an enviroment when challenged by neigbouring plants and pests and diseases. I want to unravel these processes and relationships through the application of models, field and greenhouse experiments and analysis of large datasets.

Here a couple of examples of the work I did in this context:

  • Ratios of red to far-red light are used by the plant as indicator of upcoming shade. A lowered R:FR ratio leads to shoot elongation and makes the plant more competitive in dense stands. Interestingly, lowered R:FR also downregulates plant defence. Why? In this paper we explored through 3D plant modelling the benefit of reducing defence in response to R:FR.
  • Plant subjected to insect herbivory emit a blend of volatile organic compounds. The natural enemies of these herbivores (e.g. parasitoids) can use this blend to locate their host. However, they appear to use only a small number of compounds to locate their host. In this study, we model the emission of these compounds and their fate in the canopy. We show that the physico-chemical characteristics of volatile organic compounds determine for a large part whether they can serve as reliable indicators of herbivory.


Secondly, I am interested in the introduction, establishment and spread of alien plant pests. Through increasing trade and travel, alien plant pests and pathogens arrive at unprecedented rates. For risk managers, it is important to know when where new species will arrive. The models that I have developed in this context are used by the European Food and Safety Authority for risk assessment (see e.g. here and here). I am co-leading a modelling work package of a European Horizon Research program, HOMED on invasive plant pests and pathogens.


Finally, I love the application of models and novel statistical tools to answer intruiging ecological questions. Historically, statistics has focussed on univariate analysis, while multivariate techniques are less well developed. Those techniques out there, such a ordination techniques (PCA, RDA), hammer down the multivariate structure to a number of dimensions that we can visualize. I am interested in stastistical techniques that deal with the multivariate of the data, withouth collapsing this multidimensionality.

  • For example, here I have described with Dr. James Weedon (VU University Amsterdam) the use of Dirichlet regression to deal with proportions partitioned over multiple categories, such as %leaf,%stem,%root biomass.
  • With Prof. Bill Shipley (University of Sherbrooke, Canada) I work on causal inference techniques (structural equation modelling). See examples here.


I am involved in the following courses:

  1. Ecological Modelling and Data Analysis in R (CSA-50306).

    This course prepares the student for a future of lifelong learning. For this course, we use a reverse format where students present and discuss theory, and apply the concepts in case studies. Every two years we choose a new book about modelling or statistical modelling. For example, we discussed "Ecological models and Data in R  by Bolker, Mixed effects model and extensions in Ecology with R - by Zuur, and A practical guide to Ecological modelling by Soetaert and Herman. The teachers guide the students through the process of getting acquainted with new statistical techniques and a new programming language. Students are expected to participate actively in class discussion and each student should give a presentation on the theory from the book. The book comes with ecological data sets that will be analyzed during practicals and discussed thereafter. Students will carry out two projects to apply and demonstrate acquired knowledge, skills and insight. The project outcomes are presented orally, and R codes are shared.

  2. Poulation and Systems Ecology (CSA-20806).
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