Welcome on my institutional website. My name is Kenneth F. Rijsdijk (1968) and currently assistant professor at the BIOMAC Research Group of IBED University of Amsterdam. My research is focused on the dynamics of abiotic processes that shape the earth's surface and affect biota. I am especially interested how environmental processes affect landscapes and ecosystems. These environmental processes may be natural such as climate change or volcanism but also induced by humans such as effects of mining, over-exploitation and deforestation. Central to my studies is contrasting natural dynamics and human induced dynamics.
In 2005 I was part of a team that discovered an exceptionally rich 4000 yrs old fossil mass grave in Maurtius, a volcanic island in the Indian Ocean. This mass grave contained bones of the dodo and more than 20 other extinct vertebrates. After the discovery with the help of Mauritian partners, I set up an international network the Dodo Research Programme that includes scientific, museum, corporation and NGO stakeholders involving a rich array of disciplines (from history, socio-economy to archaeology, geology, ecology) which existed from 2006-2016. Th discovery led to new research questions and since this discovery I have become fascinated by the role of environmental change and landscape dynamics in affecting and generating island biota and their ecosystems.
I am particularly interested in:
The dodo , an icon of human induced extinction, is also one of the most famous examples of island evolution leading to giantism. Being described firstly by Dutch sailors that landed on Mauritius in 1598 it was seen lastly alive around 1670. Then it disappeared. It was the first species of which modern humans realised that it had become extinct due to human interference ( Strickland and Melville 1848). The discovery of a dodo-massgrave in Mauritius in 1864 by a railway engineer Higgingson and a local expert on natural history Clark arouse a lot of renewed interest in the mysteriously vanished species. Since the discovery the site was excavated for nearly a century, then around the 1940s rocks were dumped on the site and its precise location became forgotten.
In 2005 we discovered at a marsh atthe MareauxSonges aseveral-thousands-year-old fossil layer containing fauna,flora and microfossils, including bonesof the dodo (Raphus cucullatus), representing the remainsof a nearly complete fossil natural ecosystem. It took us a while to realize that we in fact had re-discovered the famous dodo bone site that Clark and Higginson had discovered in 1864. Considering the high sub-fossil concentration and richness in composition including vertebrate bones, invertebrate remains (insects, snails) and flora remains (seeds, tree stems, branches, rootlets, leaves) the up to 0.5 m thick sub-fossil layer, extending for 0.3 km 2 , can be considered a Concentration-Lagerstätten. It contains 50% of the known (extinct) vertebrate species and several dozens of natural and threatened or nearly extinct arboreal species. The dodo-Lagerstätten is situated within sediments that are rich in microfossils providing contextual data and hence provides a high-resolution snapshot insight in a pristine ecosystem, active several thousands year ago.
After the discovery of the dodo massgrave in Mauritius, comprising substantial parts of a fossil ecosystem of the dodo, in 2005 the Dodo Research Programme was established. In collaboration with Mauritian partners Omnicane, Mauritius Museums Council and Dutch partners Naturalis, IBED-UVA and TNO an international network of researchers was founded: the Dodo Research Programme (DRP) which aims to reconstruct the prehuman ecosystem and investigate the reasons of its degradation. Currently the DRP network comprises more than 50 researchers and more than 15 research institutes. The Dodo Research Programme is an internationalresearch initiative that aims to utilise the iconic status of the dodo ( Raphus Cucullatus ), to generate research and public awareness on the vulnerability of island biodiversity. The DRP is an initiative of the Mauritian Museums Council, Naturalis, IBED-UvA and Geological survey of the Netherlands and comprises more than 15 research institutes worldwide.
The DRP has three main aims:
1. Research: to reconstruct the world of the dodo and determine the factors of its demise,
2. Raise public awareness on the importance and vulnerability of island biodiversity,
3. Contribute towards the realisation of a Dodo Museum and UNESCO World Heritage Park including the dodo massgrave.
Because of the richness of the massgrave many scientific disciplines are involved to resolve the research questions. We hopeby understanding the ecosystem of Mauritius to contributetowards conservation and protection of threatened biota against extinction in island settings elsewhere. Our main research questions include:
The dodo-Lagerstätten and identification of natural archives elsewhere, in Mauritius provide unique conditions to reconstruct the prehuman ecosystem that may serve as a baseline for ecological restoration projects. Moreover, the late date of human colonisation of the island in 1638, and the Mauritian historical and archaeological archives, which contain a wealth of data on human activities since colonization, allow for quantitative assessment of human impact in a pristine natural volcanic island ecosystem. It provides a great opportunity for fundamental research on human impact on island ecosystem development, biodiversity changes and the extinction of species.
Public Awareness Biodiversity
The general public is still unfamilar withthe vulnerability and uniqueness of island ecosystems. The DRP aims to raise public awareness by connecting the dodo with threatened island biodiversity. This is realised by museumexhibits, organisation of seminars and partaking in various initiatives involving the general public. So far two exhibits on the dodo have been realised one in Naturalis (Leiden) in cooperation with MTMDand one, realised by the Tropeninstituut, Amsterdam (coordinated by Marijke Besselink), and the Mauritius Museums Council in the NationalHistory Museum ofMauritius inPort Louis, the capital of Mauritius.
The dodo massgrave is unique in its kind. It belongs to one of the most bone rich natural graves in the world, it is so far the youngest of its kind (max. 4000 years old) and it is the only one found on a volcanic island so far. Being unique in the world it merits therefore a World Heritage status. As a UNESCO region it could be combined with other culturally important heritage sites within the Mahebourg region (SE Mauritius), including; Fort Frederik Hendrik (the location of first human settlement of Mauritius), Isles aux Aigrettes (where the original ecosystem is being restored by Mauritian Wildlife), and also it is the bay where Napoleon Bonaparte's fleet was defeated in 1810 and therefore includes a rich and unique marine archaeology.
The 2005 discovery of the dodo mass grave was world news, the news was heralded just before Xmas 2005.
Holden C. 2006. World of the Dodo. Science 311: 155.
Nicolls H. 2006. Digging for dodo. Nature 443, 138-140.
Parker I. 2006. Letter fromMauritius: digging for dodos-hunting an extinct bird. New Yorker Magazine .
Roth S. 2006. Graveyard of the dodos. National Geographic Magazine , August.
Kleeman E. 2006. No# 85. Paleontology. Dodos lostworld resurrected. Special issue Top 100science stories of 2006. Discover Magazine .
Zimmer C. 2006. Newfound Island graveyard may yield clues to dodo life longago. New York Times .
The best drawing of dodos I know! Drawing by Dr Julian P Hume (copyright owned by Hume)
I am certified lecturer in University Teaching and Higher Education (BKO see
Since 2008 I am part of the examiners board of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS).
I am coordinator/ Sr lecturer for:
1st yr Msc Earth Sciences Research Workshop (3 ECTS) (2012-present)
3rd yr Bsc Earth Sciences Bsc Thesis (30 ECTS) (2011 - present)
1st yr Bsc Future Planet Studies Natural Disasters and Future Threats (6 ECTS) (2011 - present)
I am lecturer in:
1st yr Msc Earth Science Vulnerability Assessment of Geo-ecosystems - Master School of Life and Earthsciences (12 ECTS) (2012 - present)
1st yr Bsc Biology Organisms in the environment (6ECTS) (2011 - present)
3rd yr Bsc Future Planet Studies Interdisciplinary Project: Sustainability (6 ECTS) (2011 - present)
3rd yr Bsc Beta Gamma Theme 3 part 2: Practice - Interdiciplinary Research Practical: Sustainability (4 ECTS) (2012 - present)
2nd yr Bsc Beta Gamma Theme 3 part 1: Theory - Interdisciplinary Research Practical: Sustainability (2 ECTS) (2011 - present)
1st yr Bsc Beta Gamma Theme 1: Humans in action : Sustainability (6 ECTS) (2011 - present)
I was principal lecturer in:
1st yr Bsc Earth Science Introduction in Physical Geography (3 ECTS) (2010)
1st yr Bsc Earth Science Geology Module (3 ECTZ) (2006-2010)
2nd yr Bsc Earth Sciences Geomorphological Processes (6/3 ECTS) (2006-2011)
2nd yr Bsc Earth Science Field practical Luxemburg: Geomorphology (12 ECTS) (2009-2013)
2nd yr Bsc Earth Sciences Geological Excursion Luxemburg (2 ECTS) (2006-present)I co-developed the curriculum for the first yr Bsc study Future Planet Studies (2006, 2007)