Dedmer van de Waal named Professor by special appointment of Aquatic Functional Ecology

Dedmer van de Waal in het algenlab van het NIOO
© Perro de Jong / NIOO-KNAW

Dedmer van de Waal named Professor by special appointment of Aquatic Functional Ecology

News

Dedmer van de Waal has been named Professor by special appointment of Aquatic Functional Ecology at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). He will combine his appointment to the new chair with his position as senior researcher in the Aquatic Ecology department at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW).

In his research, Van de Waal connects the different organisational levels within an ecosystem, varying in scale from processes occurring inside cells to interactions between organisms. This is also referred to as ‘functional ecology’, for which Van de Waal will apply and further develop two conceptual frameworks.

Firstly, he is intrigued by what is known as trait-based ecology. "I study the characteristics of organisms, focusing on algae, and explore how those traits determine their success within aquatic ecosystems."

Van de Waal's other area of expertise is ecological stoichiometry. This term, which comes from the study of chemistry, means that the number of elements remains the same before and after a chemical reaction. "This applies to ecological reactions as well. All organisms are made up of elements, and just like in chemistry, the interactions taking place between those elements are subject to a mass balance."

The ecological concepts I deal with in my work can help to transcend boundaries. That might mean a boundary between freshwater and salt water, or between land and water.

Dedmer van de Waal

Effects of changing climate and habitats

Van de Waal's work focuses on global environmental change. "Take, for instance, the effects that greater quantities of CO2 and nutrients such as nitrogen are having on food webs."

One of his areas of study is how these changes are impacting harmful algal blooms in both freshwater and coastal marine systems. "Within these algal species, some individuals are toxic and others are not. The degree of toxicity therefore depends not only on the production of a toxin and the biomass of algae, but also on the population structure."

Another topic Van de Waal deals with in his work is how the relative availability of nitrogen and phosphorus affects the ecology of parasites such as viruses and fungi. "Like all organisms, viruses and fungi need a certain amount of these elements, and we are seeing that parasitic infections are sensitive to changes in their relative levels in the host."

Photo: Perro de Jong / NIOO-KNAW

Over Dedmer van de Waal

Dedmer van de Waal has worked as senior researcher at NIOO since 2013, including two years as acting head of the Aquatic Ecology department. After completing his doctoral research at the UvA, which was conducted in cooperation with NIOO, in 2010, he worked as a post-doc at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany.

Van de Waal received the ISSHA Young Scientist Award in 2016, followed by the ASLO Early Career Award in 2020. In March 2022, Van de Waal was awarded a prestigious ERC Consolidator Grant by the EU. He serves on the editorial boards of several leading scientific journals, and on the executive boards of various organisations that make research on toxic algae available to the public.

The Professorship by special appointment of Aquatic Functional Ecology is new at the UvA's Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED).  As a professor at UvA, Van de Waal will combine the areas of expertise of IBED and NIOO's Aquatic Ecology department, facilitating further collaboration between the two institutes. He will also contribute to education within the Master's track in Freshwater and Marine Biology (Biological Sciences) and supervise PhD candidates and trainees.