community ecology | ecological genetics | species interactions | genetic variation | agroecology

Plant-invertebrate-microbe interactions

Zytynska Lab

Dr Sharon E. Zytynska

University of Liverpool

Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour

sharon.zytynska [AT] liverpool.ac.uk

I am broadly interested in how species interactions influence community structure and ecosystem function. My research aims to understand how within-species variation can alter interactions between species, and how these can vary across a changing environment.


I currently study this using a crop plant – invertebrate – microbe system, to understand how interactions between plants and beneficial soil microbes, and aphids and their protective endosymbionts, are modified by interactions with other species and the abiotic environment.

Open positions

No current open positions, but feel free to contact me about potential projects (MSc, MRes, PhD) or postdoc opportunities at Liverpool University.


Selected Research Projects

Plant-invertebrate-microbe interactions

BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship (2019-2024)

My research investigates how we can use beneficial soil bacteria and earthworms to increase plant yield while simultaneously defending against insect pests - essentially using beneficial species interactions to mitigate the loss of yield we see when we reduce chemical pesticide and synthetic fertilizer inputs. Using a combination of greenhouse/field experiments and molecular analyses, I will characterise these interactions from the ‘genome to the field’.


DFG (German Research Foundation) grant (2018-2021)

We study the impact of beneficial plant rhizobacteria on the suppression of aboveground aphid populations across varying abiotic environments (CO2, O3, nutrients) and biotic environments (earthworms).

Aphid secondary bacterial symbionts

British Ecological Society small research grant (2017-2018)

The Jena Experiment small investigation grant (2012)

Aphid secondary bacterial symbionts can have wide ranging effects on the aphid host. We investigate how they can mediate interactions between the aphid and the surrounding plant community.

Tansy metacommunity genetics

DFG grant (2014-2018) PhD: Matthias Senft (TUM), Mary Clancy (HGMU)

We study the metacommunity ecology of a plant-insect system using a combination of molecular and chemical ecology tools. The system involves the tansy plant (Tanacetum vulgare) and two specialised aphid species (Metopeurum fuscoviride and Macrosiphoniella tanacetaria).

Biocontrol of aphids on okra in Cameroon, West Africa

IITA PhD studentship (Akanksha Singh; 2012-2015)

This project is funded by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture. We investigate the role of multitrophic interactions on the biological control of Aphis gossypii on the vegetable crop okra (Abelmoschus esculentus).