Silke Van den Wyngaert

Silke Van den Wyngaert
Silke Van den Wyngaert

Contact: email

My research interests are broadly focused on interactions between organisms and the impact on ecosystems such interactions may have. From my bachelor studies on, I started to focus on aquatic ecology and interactions between microbial aquatic organisms. During my master thesis I studied competitive interactions between freshwater heterotrophic bacteria and the toxic cyanobacteria Planktothrix rubescens in Lake Zürich. During my PhD I got fascinated by a more “evil” kind of interaction, namely fungal parasitism on a diatom. For my first postdoc project I went to Uruguay to study zooplankton parasites in subtropical temporary ponds. Stimulated by my strong interest in aquatic parasitic fungi, I moved to Germany with an IGB fellowship award in the group of Prof. Hans-Peter Grossart and picked up my research on the ecology and evolution of fungal parasites of phytoplankton.
In 2017 I obtained my own research grant of the German science foundation to investigate the diversity and ecophysiology of parasitic chytrid fungi associated with phytoplankton blooms in aquatic ecosystems. Recently I obtained a postdoc fellowship at WCL and continue my research on zoosporic parasites with the aim to evaluate to what extent zoosporic parasites drive phytoplankton bloom dynamics and to which consumers they are linked within the food web.
Parasites are an integral part of the ecosystem and they can greatly add to our knowledge on ecosystem functioning. The more information we obtain about processes that shape ecosystems the better we can conserve them. In my research I try to integrate evolution and ecology since it is the feedback between both processes that drive ecosystem dynamics.  I combine multiple approaches such as field studies, experiments and simulation models.

Theoretical expertise: limnology, aquatic microbial ecology, population genetics, ecology and evolution of host-parasite interactions, Chytrid taxonomy.

Practical expertise: field sampling techniques, isolation and cultivation of aquatic fungi and phytoplankton, experimentation with phytoplankton-chytrid model systems, experimental design and statistical analysis, light and fluorescence microscopy, flow cytometry, molecular methods; CARD-FISH (fluorescence In situ hybridization), microsatellite markers, molecular diversity and phylogenetics (1st, 2nd and 3rd generation sequencing methods), agent based modeling.

List of Publications

PDF-download-icon Klawonn, I., S. Van den Wyngaert, M. H. Iversen, T. J. W. Walles, C. M. Flintrop, C. Cisternas-Novoa, J. C. Nejstgaard, M. Kagami, and H.-P. Grossart. 2023. Fungal parasitism on diatoms alters formation and bio–physical properties of sinking aggregates. Communications Biology 6:1–14.

PDF-download-icon Silke Van Den Wyngaert, Martin J Kainz, Robert Ptacnik, Mucilage protects the planktonic desmid Staurodesmus sp. against parasite attack by a chytrid fungus, Journal of Plankton Research, 2022;, fbac071,

PDF-download-icon Ilicic D, Woodhouse J, Karsten U, Zimmermann J, Wichard T, Quartino ML, Campana GL, Livenets A, Van den Wyngaert S and Grossart H-P (2022) Antarctic Glacial Meltwater Impacts the Diversity of Fungal Parasites Associated With Benthic Diatoms in Shallow Coastal Zones. Front. Microbiol. 13:805694. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2022.805694

PDF-download-icon Van den Wyngaert, S., Ganzert, L., Seto, K., Rojas-Jimenez, K., Agha R., Berger SA., Woodhouse J., Padisak J., Wurzbacher C., Kagami M., Grossart H-P. Seasonality of parasitic and saprotrophic zoosporic fungi: linking sequence data to ecological traits. ISME J (2022).

PDF-download-icon Klawonn I, Dunker S, Kagami M, Grossart H-P, Van den Wyngaert S. Intercomparison of Two Fluorescent Dyes to Visualize Parasitic Fungi (Chytridiomycota) on Phytoplankton. Microb Ecol (2021).

PDF-download-icon Klawonn I., Van den Wyngaert S., Parada A-E., Arandia-Gorostidi N., Whitehouse M-J., Grossart H-P, Dekas A-E. (2021). Characterizing the “fungal shunt”: Parasitic fungi on diatoms affect carbon flow and bacterial communities in aquatic microbial food webs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 118(23).

PDF-download-icon Beng K., Wolinska J., Funke, E., Van den Wyngaert S., Gsell A., & Monaghan M. (2021). Temporal dynamics of freshwater planktonic parasites inferred using a DNA metabarcoding time-series. Parasitology. 1-10. doi:10.1017/S0031182021001293

PDF-download-icon Yoneya K, Miki T., Van den Wyngaert S., Grossart H-P., Kagami M. (2021). Non-random patterns of chytrid infections on phytoplankton host cells: mathematical and chemical ecology approaches. Aquatic Microbial Ecology. 87:1–15.

Van den Wyngaert S. & Kagami M. (in press) Fungi and chytrids. In: Encyclopedia of Inland Waters 2nd Edition Rasconi S., Ptacnik R., Dannera S., Van den Wyngaert S., Rohrlack T., Pileckya M. and Kainz M.J. (2020) Parasitic chytrids upgrade and convey primary produced carbon during inedible algae proliferation. Protist.

PDF-download-icon Sánchez Barranco, V., Van der Meer, M.T.J., Kagami, M., Van den Wyngaert, S., Van de Waal, D.B., Van Donk, E., Gsell, A.S. (2020) Trophic position, elemental ratios and nitrogen transfer in a planktonic host–parasite–consumer food chain including a fungal parasite. Oecologia.

PDF-download-icon Seto, K., Van den Wyngaert, S., Degawa, Y. & Kagami, M. (2020). Taxonomic revision of the genus Zygorhizidium: Zygorhizidiales and Zygophlyctidales ord. nov. (Chytridiomycetes, Chytridiomycota). Fungal Systematics and Evolution, 5, 17-38.

Wurzbacher, C., Kreiling, A.-K., Svantesson, S., Van den Wyngaert, S., Larsson, E., Heeger, F. et al. (2020). Fungal communities in groundwater springs along the volcanic zone of Iceland. Inland Waters, 1-10. Taube, R., Fabian, J., Van den Wyngaert, S., Agha, R., Baschien, C., Gerphagnon, M. et al. (2019). Potentials and limitations of quantification of fungi in freshwater environments based on PLFA profiles. Fungal Ecology, 41, 256-268.

Grossart H.-P., Van den Wyngaert S., Kagami M., Wurzbacher C., Cunliffe M., and Rojas-Jimenez K. (2019). Fungi in aquatic ecosystems. Nature Reviews Microbiology. 10.1038/s41579-019-0175-8.

PDF-download-icon Wurzbacher, C., Larsson, E., Bengtsson‐Palme, J., Van den Wyngaert, S., Svantesson, S., Kristiansson, E., Kagami, M. and Nilsson, R. H. (2018), Introducing ribosomal tandem repeat barcoding for fungi. Molecular Ecology Resources. doi:10.1111/1755-0998.12944

PDF-download-icon Van den Wyngaert, S., Rojas-Jimenez, K., Seto, K., Kagami, M. & Grossart, H.-P. (2018). Diversity and Hidden Host Specificity of Chytrids Infecting Colonial Volvocacean Algae. Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology. doi:10.1111/jeu.12632

PDF-download-icon Nilsson, R. H., A. F. S. Taylor, R. I. Adams, C. Baschien, J. Bengtsson-Palme, P. Cangren, C. Coleine, H.-M. Daniel, S. I. Glassman, Y. Hirooka, L. Irinyi, R. Iršėnaitė, Pedro M. Martin-Sanchez, W. Meyer, S.-Y. Oh, Jose P. Sampaio, K. A. Seifert, F. Sklenář, D. Stubbe, S.-O. Suh, R. Summerbell, S. Svantesson, M. Unterseher, Cobus M. Visagie, M. Weiss, J. H. C. Woudenberg, C. Wurzbacher, S. Van den Wyngaert, N. Yilmaz, A. Yurkov, U. Kõljalg, and K. Abarenkov. (2018). Taxonomic annotation of public fungal ITS sequences from the built environment – a report from an April 10–11, 2017 workshop (Aberdeen, UK). MycoKeys 28:65-82.

PDF-download-icon Frenken, T., E. Alacid, S. A. Berger, E. C. Bourne, M. Gerphagnon, H.-P. Grossart, A. S. Gsell, B. W. Ibelings, M. Kagami, F. C. Küpper, P. M. Letcher, A. Loyau, T. Miki, J. C. Nejstgaard, S. Rasconi, A. Reñé, T. Rohrlack, K. Rojas-Jimenez, D. S. Schmeller, B. Scholz, K. Seto, T. Sime-Ngando, A. Sukenik, D. B. Van de Waal, S. Van den Wyngaert, E. Van Donk, J. Wolinska, C. Wurzbacher, and R. Agha. (2017). Integrating chytrid fungal parasites into plankton ecology: research gaps and needs. Environmental Microbiology 19:3802-3822.

PDF-download-icon Silke Van den Wyngaert, Kensuke Seto, Keilor Rojas-Jimenez, Maiko Kagami, Hans-Peter Grossart, A New Parasitic Chytrid,  (Rhizophydiales, Staurastromycetaceae fam. nov.), Infecting the Freshwater Desmid  sp., Protist, Volume 168, Issue 4, 2017, Pages 392-407, ISSN 1434-4610,

PDF-download-icon Van den Wyngaert S., Möst M., Freimann R., Ibelings B.W., Spaak P. (2015) Hidden diversity in the freshwater planktonic diatom Asterionella formosa. Molecular Ecology (2015) 24, 2955–2972. doi: 10.1111/mec.13218

PDF-download-icon Van den Wyngaert S., Vanholsbeeck O., Spaak P. and Ibelings B. W. (2014), Parasite fitness traits under environmental variation: disentangling the roles of a chytrid’s immediate host and external environment. Microb Ecol:1-12. doi:10.1007/s00248-014-0434-1

PDF-download-icon Van den Wyngaert S., Gsell A. S., Spaak P. and Ibelings B. W. (2013), Herbicides in the environment alter infection dynamics in a microbial host–parasite system. Environmental Microbiology. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2012.02874.x

PDF-download-icon Ibelings, B.W., Gsell, A.S., Mooij, W.M., van Donk, E., Van den Wyngaert, S. & Domis, L.N.D. (2011). Chytrid infections and diatom spring blooms: paradoxical effects of climate warming on fungal epidemics in lakes. Freshwat. Biol., 56, 754-766.

PDF-download-icon Van den Wyngaert S, Salcher M.M., Pernthaler J., Zeder M. and Posch T. (2011). Quantitative dominance of seasonally persistent filamentous cyanobacteria (Planktothrix rubescens) in the microbial assemblages of a temperate lake. Limnol. Oceanogr. 56:97-109.

PDF-download-icon  Zeder M., Van den Wyngaert S., Köster O., Felder K.M., Pernthaler J. (2010). Automated quantification and sizing of unbranched filamentous cyanobacteria by model based object oriented image analysis. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 76(5):1615-1622.

Current position

2021 – 2026         Academy research fellow (Principal investigator) at the University of Turku, Finland. Project title: Fungal parasitism along a salinity gradient: an overlooked driver of marine phytoplankton blooms.

Previous positions

2020 – 2021          Postdoc fellow at Wassercluster Lunz (Austria). Project title: Phytoplankton-parasites, the “dark matter” of pelagic ecosystems.

2017 – 2020         DFG research grant (Principal investigator) at IGB, Germany. Project Title: Molecular and ecophysiological diversity of phytoplankton-fungi associations.

2014 – 2017         Postdoc-fellowship (IGB, Germany) “Diversity, ecology and evolution of aquatic chytrids”

2012 – 2014         Postdoc-fellowship (University of Leuven, Belgium and University of the Republic, Uruguay) “The role of parasites in modifying trophic interactions and ecosystem properties on a local and metacommunity scale in freshwater ecosystems”


2008 – 2012          PhD at Eawag (Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science &  Technology, ETH Zürich, Switzerland), department of Aquatic Ecology (supervisors: Dr. Piet Spaak and Dr. Bas Ibelings)

2007 – 2008          Master of Science in Biology – Microbiology (University of Zürich)  Titel of the  master thesis: Spatio-temporal dynamics of Planktothrix rubescens and heterotrophic bacteria in Lake Zurich (supervisor: Dr. Thomas Posch – Limnological station UZH)

2003 – 2007          Bachelor of Science in Biology (University of Zürich)