Interaction, Ecology and Societies

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The main objective of the department is the study of the interactions and the mediators of the interactions between taxons of different nature (plant-fungi-soil fauna, plant-insects, plant-humans, fungi-humans ...) in parrallel with interaction between taxons of a same nature (fungi communities, humans of distinct sociological profiles,...), in order to understand their role in ecological and evolutionary processes.

The department is structured into four teams particularly focused on i) biocultural interactions, ii) biotic interactions and their mediators, iii) interaction mediators, iv) biotic interaction networks. 

The department is focused on the history and on the ecological and evolutionary consequences of these interactions, but also on their consequences fro humans and humans societies in a changing world. Through its studies the department participates to the 3 pilars of the I-site MUSE "Montpellier University d'Excellence": Feed, Protect, Care.

Scientific themes

  • Floristics (mycology and plants), faunistics and taxonomy

The objective is to develop strong knowhow in species identification for our study taxons and to establish the taxonomy and systematics of these taxa when not available. The taxonomy is integrative including morpholoigcal, molecular and sometimes chemical caracterisation.

This cacracterisation allow to investigate the multi-scale architecture of biodiversity and it generates basic data for the other themes developped within the department.

The theme is driven by the team Natural Substances and Mediation (SubNaMed) and the team Taxonomy and Biogeography of Interactions (TBI). The team Biotic Interactions (IBT) is also participating to the theme (IB).

  • Interactions and biocultural adaptations

The objective is to analyse the diversity of local dynamics of interactions between societies and their biological environment and to understand how their will interact with dynamics at broader scales of society-environment interactions.

The theme will be developped following three sub-themes: i) the interactions between social dynamics and biological dynamics, ii) the diversity of adaptive strategies adopted at local scales by human societies and iii) the interactions between local strategies and procsses at broader spatial, ecological and socio-political scales.

These sub-themes will be developped in six large study subjects:

- agrobiodiversities and landscape domestication: biocultural adaptations from the past ot hte present

- interactions between local knowledge and scientific knowledge

- multi-species ethnography: ontology of huma nature interactions and anthropology of "altérité", notions of human and ecological well-being

- feeding systems: how societies respond to global change

- life and interactions in and with the soils: ethno-classification and local knowledge on soils; importance of interactions and of the role of mycorhizia and the soil fauna

- dialog between sciences and politics: IPBES, CGIAR, FAO, GEF, WB, United Nations

A specificity of hte department is is the analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data in human sciences approaches.

The theme is driven by the team Biocultual Interactions and Adaptations (IAB). The teams SubNaMed (fungal agrobiodiversity, local knowledge-scientific knowledge) and TBI (agrobiodiversity and landscape domestication) are also participating to the theme.

  • Mecanisms involved in the encounter between partners in biotic interactions: origins and consequences.

The encounter between partners is a key moment in biotic interactions. Their persistence over time depens on its succes and the placticity in the processes involved determines their response to global change and their diversification capacity. Our studies aim at describing these mechanisms and at understanding their origins and their consequences, ecological and evolutionary, notably within the framework of reproductive strategies.

The main study models are pollination mutualims and host-parasite interactions, and involve the study of both within and among species interactions. The main study objects are i) signals emitedwithin the context of mediation among individulas (volatile organic compounds, cuticular compounds, visual traits), ii) the perception of theses signals, iii) the manipulation of these signals and iv) the variation of these signals within and among species.

Three approaches are used : i) a functional approach of the proximal factors involved in the emission of signals and their perception, ii) an ecological approach of the direct effects of environmental factions on the synthesis, the emission, and the perception of the signals and iii) an evolutionary approach of the micro and macro evolutioanry processes shaping the mediation between individuals and the consequences of this mediation on the evolution of the interactions.

We use a pluridisciplinary approach based on chemical ecology, behavioural ecology, neurophysiology of arthropods, pollination biology, population genetics, phylogeography, and phylogenetics. The studies involve both fundamental sciences and applied sciences answering questions such as the impact of global change on the encounter between partners involved in biotic interractions, the evaluation and the conservation of biodiversity, human health.

The theme is driven by the team IBT. Team TBI is also participating to the theme.

  • Caracterisation and valorisation of plant and fungal chemio-diversity

Plants and fungi synthesise extremely diverse biologically active molecules. This diversity is asumed to be the result of diversifiying selection due to biotic interactions. Caraterising this chemio-diversity allows to understand its role in biotic interactions and ultimately to understand its evolution. It also allows investigating potential uses in agronomy, nutrition, and human health (expertise, patents, industrial partnerships).

We are developping an extract bank for these organisms, and espacially macromycetesn, to explore their metabolic potential in interaction biology, human health and agronomy.

We use a large array of techniques to caracterise the biochemical and biological diversity of the extracts: i) histolocalisation (microscopy, microspectrofluorimetry), ii) purification of active natural substances (chromatographies CCM, CLHP, CG-SM, Flas ; bioguided fractioning), iii) structural analyses (RMN, SM) and iv) dosage of molecules of interest (secondary metabolites, amino acids, volatile organic compounds…).

We use and develop our screening capacity for a large array of biologicla activities, within the department for basic activities (antibacterial, antioxydant, antiinflamatory, antimitotic,...) and in collaboration for activites technically of financially of more difficult access (neuroprotection, neuromodulation, antiviral activity…).

The theme is driven by the team SubNaMed and the team TBI.

  • Understanding the structure of biotic interaction networks, and their spatial and temporal dynamics

Species exist within communities and interaction networks which are determinant both for species evolution as for the functional ecology of species or for fluxes of energy and matter. We describe, using the benefits of next generation sequencing, the variation in interaction networks under natural and controlled conditions. This descriptions aims at understanding the ecological determinants and the evolutionary processes responsible for spatial patterns and the temporal dynamics of communities.

Our studies are mainly focussed on the poorly known soil and liter communities (mites, insects, oligochetes, filamentous fungy), in habitats that are strongly affected by human activity, past or current (for a set of models ranging from oldgrowth forests -mediterranean and tropical, to pooltry farming). They will also involve lepidopteran communities and micro-hymnopteran communities associated with figs.

We will develop a pluridisciplinary approach based on ecology, taxonomy and community phylogeny, life-history traits , phylogenies and metabarcoding.

The theme is driven by team TBI with the participation of Team IBT.