Nature of Life Seminars

About the seminars

The Nature of Life Seminars are organized by the Department of Ecological Science (AEW). We invite exciting international and national speakers, aiming to include both well-known established ecologists and rising young stars. The topics cover a broad ecological spectrum and are of interest not only to all ecologists, but also to most other biologists, environmental scientists and earth scientists.

When and where are the seminars held?

The seminars are held every 2nd Tuesday of the month and always start at 15:45 hrs. The location is usually in the W&N building, entrance and address: De Boelelaan 1085 at the VU University in Amsterdam. Prior to the seminar the speaker will visit the Department of Ecological Sciences. The seminar closes with an informal meeting with drinks and bites and an opportunity to contact the speaker directly. For an abstract of upcoming and previous seminars for this year and earlier, please see below.empty


If you have suggestions about other speakers to invite, do please contact any of the following people:
Jacintha Ellers / Matty Berg / James Weedon / Emily van Egmond / Mima Malčická

Next seminar with Dr. Yann Hautier at 9 May

Yann-HautierDr. Yann. Hautier is Assistant Professor in Ecology and Biodiversity at Utrecht University. He will talk about:

Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in a changing world

Date: 9 May 2017
Time: 15:45 - 17:00
Location: Vrije Universiteit, W&N building, Room t.b.d.


Biodiversity is being reduced in many local ecosystems while also becoming increasingly homogenized across space. With consensus emerging from experiments that the reduction of plant diversity at the local scale decreases the functioning of our ecosystems including food for domestic livestock and the storage of carbon, the key question has become whether such effect is real and important in natural ecosystems. This is especially important as those systems undergo anthropogenic global changes, cover larger spatial scale and sustain many functions simultaneously. In this presentation, I will compare results from experimental manipulation of plant diversity with recent advances in natural grassland ecosystems. I will show that plant diversity, at both local and landscape scales, contributes to the maintenance of multiple ecosystem services provided by natural grasslands. I will also demonstrate that global environmental changes threaten the functioning and stability of grassland ecosystems worldwide.

Nieuw: Component


Previous seminars 2017:

11 April 2017 15:45 - 17:00

Vrije Universiteit, W&N building, Room M655

Prof. dr. Bente Jessen Graae, Dept. of Biology, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway will talk about

Climate impact on Arctic/alpine plant communities

Bente Jessen Graae


Climate impact on Arctic/alpine plant communities

Climate is important for the functioning and distribution of plants and vegetation, and the impact of temperature has been intensively studied for Arctic/alpine plants and vegetation. The climatic niches of plant species are however, not easily described. First, the vast majority of plant populations are found in landscapes with high spatially and temporally microclimatic variation. Secondly, the climatic properties of maximum, minimum and accumulated temperatures during growing season as well as winter temperatures affect different life history processes to various degrees. Thirdly, microclimate interacts with other environmental variation, for instance nutrient content in soils. Fourth, understanding Arctic/alpine vegetation response to climate further requires knowledge of the biotic interactions operating in the system. In this talk, I will review some of our knowledge on climate impact on Arctic/alpine vegetation and discuss challenges we meet when wanting to predict vegetation responses to a warmer climate.


14 March 2017      15:45-17:00
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, W&N building, Room M-655

Dr. Stineke van Houte, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, will speak about:

Ecology and evolution of bacterial adaptive immune systems

Bacteria have a wide range of immune strategies to defend against viruses, including innate immunity by surface modification and adaptive immunity by CRISPR-Cas. In her talk she will discuss ecological factors that can tip the balance in the evolution of these immune strategies and discuss their co-evolutionary implications.



10 January 2017  15.45-17.00 
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, W&N building, Room P663

Dr Jorien VonkDr Jorien Vonk (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Cluster Earth and Climate)

Organic matter fluxes of inland and coastal waters in permafrost regions

Abstract:  Circum-arctic frozen soils contain twice as much organic carbon as is currently present as greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. When permafrost thaws, the soil organic carbon within it becomes available for remobilization and introduction into inland and coastal aquatic systems. Here it can either be degraded, generating greenhouse gases, or be transported and buried in short and long-term reservoirs, attenuating greenhouse gas emissions. Here I present an overview of our current knowledge on riverine and coastal organic carbon fluxes in permafrost regions. I will also discuss the factors that determine the release and degradability of this carbon (i.e. potential greenhouse gas production), and will discuss how we expect this to change in the future.

Upcoming seminars:

13 June 2017         15:45-17:00
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, W&N building, Room tbd

Tjeerd Bouma (plant ecosystem engineers marine systems)

Previous Seminars:

Seminars held earlier in 2017 are shown below. Click on the link for information on seminars held in 2016 and earlier.