Research

I am interested in how organisms interact with their environment and how these interactions influence stability and functions of coastal ecosystems. These ecosystems are frequently found in extremely hostile environments: intense hydrodynamics (currents & waves), highly anoxic, poisonous sediments, and severe fluctuations in salinity. Keystone species of these systems, like for instance seagrasses, salt-marsh plants, or mussels, can often only survive by modifying their environment to their own benefit (e.g., reduction of hydrodynamics, aeration of sediments). This active habitat modification, also called “ecosystem engineering”, typically increases with increasing density of the habitat-modifying organism (the ecosystem engineer). This results in a feedback loop: more organisms lead to better habitat conditions, in turn leading to more organisms again.

In my research, I study these feedback interactions, consequences for the engineering organisms and other species depending on these mechanisms, like for instance crabs, shrimp, fish and birds using these ecosystems as shelter and/or foraging areas. For these studies, I typically use a broad, multidisciplinary approach. I combine field observations and experiments, laboratory experiments, GIS analyses and theoretical computer models.

I did my PhD at the Radboud University of Nijmegen from 2005 to 2009. In this project, I focused on stressors and feedbacks in seagrass ecosystems. Read more about my PhD research.

Some projects I’m currently involved in: