I am a marine biologist, working as a post-doctoral researcher in the working group of Jasper de Goeij at the department of Freshwater and Marine Ecology. In our research group we investigate the role of sponges as key ecosystem engineers of shallow- and deep-sea reef ecosystems and aim to develop sponges as animal models. Besides conducting research, my main tasks include the coordination of field and lab activities, as well as the supervision and guidance of Ph.D., M.Sc. and B.Sc. students in our research group.
The aim of this ERC project awarded to Jasper de Goeij is to systematically establish a novel reef food web framework including:
Corals and algae, releasing DOM “fuel” to run the engine
Sponges, the “engine”, taking up DOM and converting energy and nutrients stored in it into particulate detritus
Detrivores, which feed on the sponge detritus and serve as food for higher trophic levels, the “driven communities”
In this project we evaluate (1) how the morphology of sponges and their associated microbes contribute to the processing of DOM, (2) which roles sponge cells themselves and associated microbes play in the DOM uptake. These physiological tasks are complimented by (3) assessing carbon and nitrogen fluxes from fuelling communities, through sponges, to the driven communities.
As part of this multi-lateral EU project SponGES, our team aims to assess carbon fluxes and transfer through deep-sea sponges, and to test the existence of a sponge loop pathway on deep-sea sponge grounds.
By combining in situ and ex situ incubations using natural food and isotopically labelled food sources we will quantify carbon and oxygen fluxes of different deep-sea sponge species and trace the carbon and nitrogen from dissolved and particulate food sources, through sponges, sponge detritus, and ultimately detrivores, that feed on sponge detritus.
Our results will contribute to develop an integrated ecosystem-based approach to preserve and sustainably use deep-sea sponge grounds within the SponGES project.