I analyse DNA to understand changing marine ecosystems, ranging from bacteria to sharks.
A recent topic is monitoring of marine animals using (eDNA) meta-barcoding with MinION sequencing. By isolating all DNA from a sample collected by grabs, dregding, or scraping, and amplifying specific DNA barcodes, it is possible to get a picture of the biodiversity of these samples. Even more interesting is isolating the DNA suspended in the water column. The analysis of this environmental DNA (eDNA) is opening up a range of new monitoring opportunities. We are currently testing the benefits and limits of using eDNA in marine monitoring. Coupling eDNA analysis with Nanopore DNA sequencing makes it a rapid and portable technique, which we can fit in a suitcase and deploy anywhere with access to electricity (mains or battery). In 2018, we have run pilot experiments in Burgers Zoo, and were able to identify and get an estimate of the biomass of the sharks and rays in their 3 ocean aquarium. Also on wrecks in the North Sea we have collected eDNA, and identified many species inhabiting these wreck-sites, including cod, mackerel and grey seals.
I studied biology at the University of Groningen (NL), followed by a PhD on heterologous protein production and secretion by Bacillus subtilus at the same university. During a postdoc at the Dove Marine Laboratory, Newcastle University (UK), I studied biofilm formation and dispersal by marine Bacillus species, funded by an EU Marie Curie fellowship. I returned to the Netherlands to work on biofilms of gram-positive pathogens and their interactions with the human and bovine immune systems, at the UMC Utrecht. For part of this work I was awarded the KNAW "Van Leeuwenhoek Award".
In 2014 I switched host organism, and joined Wageningen University to study the interactions of bacterial pathogens with their plant hosts. In 2017, to a marine hosts, and I am currently working at the Marine Animal Ecology group.
I have a passion for marine biology and especially crabs. In 2000 I discovered a new species of crab in the Netherlands, Hemigrapsus penicillatus (now H. takanoi). I am frequently asked to share my knowlegde on crustaceans in national media, and recently got the opportunity to show my enthousism in the TV program "Vroege Vogels".
I enjoy scuba diving, underwater photography and underwater filming. This allows me to explore more and more of the fascinating marine environment.
My current position allows me to align my professional career with my personal interests, giving me possibly the best job in the world!