• Linnaeusborg, 5172.0580

  • Nijenborgh7, Gebouw 5172, ruimte 0562

    9747 AG Groningen


Personal profile

Research interests

I am interested in the processes that shape the world around us, particularly the biological diversity, and on developing theoretical models and methods to infer these processes from observational data. I am fascinated by biology, resulting in a broad range of collaborations on, for example, population consequences of bovine tuberculosis in African buffalo, aggregation behavior in fruit flies, the visual system in cichlids and its role in phenotypic plasticity, the evolutionary potential of spider mites to adapt to new host plants in the presence of sister species, the diversification of microbes in a chemostat, the interactions of annual plants with perennial potential nurse species in an arid landscape, and population genetics of whales.


Understanding the world around is, is what drives a scientist, and I am no exception. I was first fascinated by the physical world around us, and asking philosophical questions. But I was also concerned with our treatment of the world around us. Armed with three MSc degrees (physics, philosophy of science and environmental science) and a year of experience as a lecturer in enviromental modelling I set out to find a PhD position to deepen my scientific skills. I found one at Wageningen University (with Hans Heesterbeek and Johan Grasman) on metapopalation management which I studied from a theoretical perspective, building mostly stochastic models of interconnected populations. Stochastic models allowed me to construct a statistically sound inference framework; I was attracted by likelihood-based methods such as maximum likelihood and Bayesian approaches, because they find solid foundations in probability theory, despite their shortcomings. From metapopulations I moved into metacommunities in my postdoctoral years at Wageningen University and the University of Groningen (with Han Olff), and became interested in speciation, macroevolution and diversification. I extensively studied the neutral theory of biodiversity which I still regard as a very useful null model for understanding patterns of biodiversity, on which - particularly in collaboration with Bart Haegeman and David Alonso - I wrote many papers. In 2007 I obtained a VIDI grant that allowed me to start my own group as assistant professorat the University of Groningen. In 2012 I was promoted to associate professor at the University of Groningen on a field that I called Theoretical and Evolutionary Community Ecology, dealing with understanding community diversity from a theoretical and evolutionary perspective. I became fascinated by molecular phylogenies and how much (or how little) they inform us about the processes that shaped them over millions of years. In particular I studied the diversity dependence of diversification and the protracted nature of speciation. Around 2014 I moved into Island Biogeography and together with Luis Valente and Ally Phillimore established the modelling framework DAISIE (Dynamical Assembly of Island biota through Speciation Immigration and Extinction) which allowed us to infer the rates of island community assembly from molecular phylogenies and knowledge of endemicity status. We studied whether island biota are in equilibrium, built a framework to test whether iconic island radiations are exceptional or not, tested for the impact of human-induced extinctions, and broadened the scope of island biogeography to include speciation and how it is influenced by area and isolation. In 2014 I was awarded a VICI grant that facilitated research on this topic through many PhD students. The VICI grant also provided an opportunity to start experimental and field studies, with spider mites, microbes and microsnails. In 2017 I was promoted to full professor. I became increasingly involved in the management of our institute GELIFES, and became scientific director in January 2021.


BSc courses

  • Community Ecology Research: coordination, introductory lectures, practical, supervision of research projects
  • Evolutionary Processes: lectures and computer practicals on speciation and diversification
  • Bachelor thesis: supervision
  • First-year symposium: supervision

MSc courses

  • Behavior Ecology and Evolution: lectures and computer practical on stochastic models in ecology and evolution
  • Mathematics in the Life Sciences: lectures and computer practicals
  • Biological Modelling and Model Analysis: lectures and computer practicals
  • Current Themes: supervision. Topic that varies per year. Currently: models and empirical data
  • Colloquium: supervision
  • Master essay: supervision
  • Research project: supervison

Other interests

Outside of science I spend my time making music. I compose songs and sing and play guitar, bass or piano together with other amazing musicians.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

Education/Academic qualification

Metapopulation Ecology, PhD, Wageningen University

Award Date: 26-Mar-2002

Philosophy of Science, MSc (cum laude), University of Utrecht

Award Date: 31-Aug-1999

Environmental Science, MSc (cum laude), University of Nijmegen, Nijmegen

Award Date: 29-Jan-1997

Foundations of Physics, MSc (cum laude), University of Utrecht

Award Date: 22-Jan-1996

External positions

Editor Ecology Letters

27-Feb-2009 → …


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