Since July 15 2015 the chair group Marine Animal Ecology was established at Wageningen University, of which I am chair. I am very interested in how marine organisms can or cannot adapt to changes in their environment, and what the consequences are for the species interactions within the community they live in. Abiotic changes of the marine environment (like climate change, acidification, eutrophication and physical changes) or biotic changes (such as invasive species or over-extraction of species) may have serious consequences for the population dynamics. To be able to preserve the marine biodiversity and fulfil the demands from society, it is important to understand the performance, distribution and abundance of animals in their interaction with their abiotic and biotic environment. This is the aim of marine animal ecology (MAE). The functioning and resilience of marine species in their ecosystems depends on their specific traits. These traits include (eco)physiological, morphological and behavioural qualities, and determine the ranges of conditions in which an animal can strive or survive, something that may greatly differs between life stages.
My background is in biology (ecology/environmental biology and biochemistry/molecular biology, Leiden University). After working at the Centre for Environmental Studies and Rijkswaterstaat on the subject of modelling of ecosystem effects, I developed the field of ecotoxicology at the National Health Council of the Netherlands, an independent scientific advisory body for government and parliament. There I also contributed to the development of ecological standards for water management. In 1989 I was appointed as assistant professor Ecotoxicology at Wageningen University, where I also did my PhD (on the development of biomarkers for sub lethal effects of persistent organic pollutants in the marine food chain). During 24 years at the toxicology group I performed physiological, biochemical, developmental, toxicological, and field research with marine birds, fish and cell culture. The combination of research at different levels of biological integration enables answering the so-what question of subtle physiological and molecular (biomarker) effects. Through an NWO-ASPASIA grant I became associate professor in 2002, and in 2008 I was appointed as personal professor. From 2006 until 2015 I worked part-time for the Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies (IMARES).
My marine ecotoxicological research focussed on effects on early development, metamorphosis and ecophysiology of fish including eel and sole, and of sea urchins. The ecological consequences of the dispersant application during the Deep Water horizon blow out, resulting in persistent toxic smothering of the deep sea sediments, made me aware of the relationship between deep and shallow ecosystems. It is great to work in the both international as well as interdisciplinary C-IMAGE consortium. High profile marine interdisciplinary research also is performed within the Wageningen UR innovation program TripleP@Sea of which I am the program leader. This program aims at making wise use of marine systems in a way that ecosystem services strengthen instead of hamper each other, while providing conditions for optimal natural ecological development. This can only be achieved by experts from different disciplines collaborating and learning from each other’s approaches.