Van de Waal Group: Phytoplankton Ecology

Van de Waal Group: Phytoplankton Ecology

Aquatic Ecology

We aim to understand the cellular processes that drive phytoplankton population dynamics, community interactions, and bloom toxicity

What we do

We investigate the impacts of combined global change stressors on phytoplankton growth and biomass build-up, their biological stoichiometry and its linkage to the regulation of a wide range of traits. Among traits, we specifically work on carbon and nutrient acquisition strategies, how these are influenced by CO2 and temperature, and how this affects the allocation of elements to various traits, including toxins. We use these fundamental mechanisms to understand the dynamics in natural systems.

Our group applies a variety of approaches, including eco-physiological experiments with single clones for understanding cellular processes, chemostat  experiments to test competitive interactions between genotypes and species, microcosm and mesocosm experiments to study natural plankton community dynamcis under global change stressors, and field studies to test for relationships between environmental conditions and the structure and functioning of phytoplankton communities.

Ongoing projects

  • Understanding bloom toxicity: Establish the drivers of bloom toxicity and the impacts of global change, scalcing from cellular toxins, to contribution of toxic genotypes and the overall biomass of toxic cyanobacteria species.
  • Adaptation to combined stessors: Understand adaptive evolution of diatoms towards warming combined and phosphorus limitation.
  • Early warning of cyanobacterial blooms: Short-term forcasting of cyanobacterial bloom risk using data from buoys mounted with high frequency sensors combined with meteorological measurements.
  • Long-term monitoring: Understand spatial and temporal dynamics in the relationships between phytoplankton diversity, cyanobacteiral blooms and the abiotic environment.

How we work

As a group, we stand for a friendly, open, respectful, creative and fun working environment where everyone should feel welcome, safe, and supported. We hope to achieve this by open and respectful communication, frequent interactive meetings, and social activities. 

Want to know more?

If you want to collaborate, wish to know more about possibilities for internships and/or if you are interested in joining our group as a PhD student or post-doc, don't hesitate to contact us!