For best experience please turn on javascript and use a modern browser!
You are using a browser that is no longer supported by Microsoft. Please upgrade your browser. The site may not present itself correctly if you continue browsing.
During the annual Dutch ‘ribbon shower’ preceding King Willem-Alexander's birthday, emeritus professor Rolf Bak of the University of Amsterdam was appointed Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau. Bak received the royal award in his hometown of Texel for his major contribution to research into coral reefs.
Mayor Mark Pol of Texel congratulates Rolf Bak with his apointment to Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau. Photo: Foto Gerard Timmerman / Texelse Courant

During the traditional ribbon shower, people who have made a special or exceptional contribution to society are rewarded in the name of the king. From the report on Bak's award (in full, Em. Prof. Dr. Rolf Pieter Martin Bak): 'Mr Bak is the founder of experimental-ecological research into coral reefs and the longest-running research into coral reefs in the world. This makes Mr Bak someone who has worked for the benefit of society for a long time or has encouraged others and someone who has carried out work that has a special value for society.'


Bak's career started in Curaçao. From 1970 to 1984, when this island was part of the Netherlands Antilles, Bak pioneered research into local coral reefs and laid the foundation for quantitative coral science expertise within the Netherlands. As a marine biologist, he became deputy director of Carmabi, which is still the local center for coral reef science. In 1989 he was awarded the Colá Debrot Prize by the government of Curaçao for his important contribution to local natural knowledge.


In 1985, Bak switched to a job as senior researcher at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ). Here he contributed to the development of the field of quantitative marine microbial ecological science and began to apply these techniques to the ecology of tropical coral reefs. His commitment to the development of coral reef science as a research field for NIOZ has contributed to the development of NIOZ as a center of expertise in this field to this day.


In 1989, Bak was appointed professor of Tropical Marine Biology at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). He continued to work for both the UvA and NIOZ until his retirement in 2007. At the UvA Bak worked as a lecturer and supervisor, and inspired a whole generation of Dutch and foreign scientists. He helped establish tropical marine biology as the university's specialty area. He also taught and supervised students in the ecology of marine organisms at the universities of Newcastle, Warwick, Exeter, Marseille, Bremen, Puerto Rico, Miami, Wageningen, Utrecht and Groningen.


Before his retirement, Bak published more than 100 scientific articles on corals as an author or co-author. After his emirate in 2008, he continued his scientific work and together with colleagues published an additional 21 peer-reviewed scientific articles. He has also continued to assist, advise and mentor colleagues and students from around the world in coral science.

The University of Amsterdam warmly congratulates Bak on this highly honourable achievement.