The department of Freshwater & Marine Ecology aims to increase our understanding of the biodiversity and dynamics of freshwater and marine ecosystems from the level of molecules and genes to entire ecosystems. Our aim is to unravel how aquatic ecosystems function in all their complexity, and how they change due to natural processes and human activities. The focus lies on the interactions between aquatic organisms and their abiotic environment, including their role in biogeochemical cycles and the temporal and spatial dynamics that emerge from these interactions.
The department advocates a mechanistic bottom-up approach. Inputs from environmental chemistry and physics as well as the molecular biology and physiology of the organisms are considered essential to obtain a sound understanding of the interactions between organisms and their environment. Our research focusses on both benthic (coral reefs, aquatic sediments) and pelagic ecosystems (plankton), with a strong emphasis on those organisms that play a key role in primary production and biogeochemical cycles (i.e., bacteria, phytoplankton, benthic invertebrates, pteropods, corals, sponges). To unravel interactions between organisms and their environment we make use of mathematical models, omics techniques, state-of-the-art analytical instrumentation, laboratory experiments and field studies.