An aggregation of Elk

Phase separation: a new mechanism for ecological patterns

Have you ever wondered what a clump of mussels, a herd of grazers, or a spot of bacteria under the microscope have in common? All these aggregations follow from similar physical movement process, where organisms move a lot when alone, but move less when in aggregation.

We outline this new principle in a paper that just appeared online in Physics of Life Reviews, The paper was a collaboration with first author Quan-Xing Liu (a former PhD student of mine) Max Rietkerk, Peter Herman, John Fryxell, and Theunis Piersma.


Pdf: Link to Liu’s Researchgate.

(Elk photo is from:

Postdoc Vacancy – Modelling pattern formation for restoration of seagrasses

I am looking for a highly motivated Postdoc with a keen interest in the modeling of ecological interactions and the resulting spatial pattern formation in marine ecosystems, to join our work on the restoration of seagrass beds in the Wadden Sea.

For a description of the vacancy, see:“pattern-formation-and-restoration-of-seagrass-beds”-for-the-eu-merces-project.html


Studying seagrass patterns

The H2020 MERCES project has started at June first, 2016. Two years of funding to study seagrass patterns, with the aim to identify the possibility that bivalves such as mussels could help restore seagrass in the Wadden Sea. This is a project together with Tjisse van der Heide from the Radboud University Nijmegen.

Watch this blog! There will be a postdoc vacancy soon.

I love computing!

I participated in the Workshop on Geometric and Graph-based Approaches to Collective Motion in the Dagstuhl conference center in Wadern, Germany. We discussed how to compute the connectance of mussels within patterned mussel beds. It is amazing how these computer guys envision complex calculations when they see a bunch of mussels sitting in a pattern!

Planting Marsh Grass in Clumps Doubles Salt Marsh Recovery Rate

Planting marsh grass in clumps may contribute considerably to the recovery of salt meadows and marshes. This is one of the results of a joint research project by Duke University in the US and the NIOZ Royal Dutch Institute for Sea Research, which was published in the leading scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

See the press release: link to the NIOZ Website.

The publication: Link to PNAS.