Toby Kiers receives Ammodo Science Award 2019

Toby Kiers, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the Faculty of Science of the VU, is one of the winners of the Ammodo Science Award 2019.

01/29/2019 | 1:27 PM

She received the Award for her research on the behavior of fungal networks. Every two years, eight academics are nominated to receive a prize of € 300,000 for fundamental research. The scientist can spend this award at his/her own discretion on a research project that pushes the boundaries of their field. Kiers responded with shock and fervor about the prize. Kiers: "The Ammodo award is a game changer. It allows me to take risks in my research and test new radical ideas”.

Fungal networks
Kiers studies the behavior of underground fungal networks. These networks trade nutrients with plant roots. It is known that the trade between plants and their symbiotic fungi work in a similar way as our own economic markets, namely those offering the best price are rewarded. What isn’t known is what determines specific trade strategies. Why do some fungi hoard resources, while others quickly trade?

Fungal networks can be kilometres long. Kiers: “We want to know how organisms integrate key information across their complex networks to execute trade ‘decisions’ with plants. For every scientist, the ultimate dream is to be given resources to follow their big ideas. This can happen now“. 

Main symbiosis on earth
With this award, Kiers will create synthetic plant-fungal networks and actually track how resources move through networks. Kiers: “We can study how networks behave under different conditions, and ultimately predict when and where resources will be traded. The work will not be easy. We need to combine biophysics, fluid mechanics, network theory and evolution. It will be a huge multi-disciplinary effort, but ultimately we will be able to understand one of the most important symbioses on earth.”

About Ammodo Science Award 
Ammodo and Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen (KNAW) considers fundamental scientific research key for broadening knowledge. For this reason Ammodo and the KNAW have joined forces and in 2015 the Ammodo Science Award was created. The target group of the Ammodo Science Award consists of internationally recognized researchers working in the Netherlands who received their Phds less than fifteen years ago. The Award stimulates fundamental science in the Netherlands in four scientific areas: Biomedical Sciences, Humanities, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences. 

The official Award ceremony is on April 10, 2019.

Photo: Field work 2018 in the Fijian Rainforest