Full professorship for prof. dr. van WelzenPosted on 02-05-2018 by Peter van Welzen / Fabiën Bruine de Bruin
1th of May 2018 -The extraordinary professorship of Peter van Welzen at Leiden University has been converted after 10 years into a full professorship for one day a week at the Institute of Biology Leiden for a zero appointment (unpaid). The chair was originally set up by the Treub Maatschappij (society to promote research in the tropics), with the help of a donation from the Ornstein family and therefore is called the Ornstein chair. The Treub Maatschappij will continue to support the regular chair.
Peter van Welzen’s expertise is the biogeography of tropical plants. As a PhD student he worked on the Sapindaceae (among others known from the lychee and the maple). He answers questions such as: where do plants exist in the tropics? What is their distribution? Do patterns exist? And how can we explain this ecologically and historically? A good example are the plants (and many animals) that exist in South America and Australia. They are strongly related to each other, but their distribution can not be explained by dispersion via Africa. Although recent studies showed that most groups spread by using a land bridge between South America, Antarctica and Australia in a warmer period of Earth history.
Prof. dr van Welzen feels honored, but remains sober under the new title.
He has always had a passion for plants. As a teenager, he collected plants and made his first herbarium. That passion still drives him nowadays. Especially the search for patterns of distribution makes his heart beat faster. "Every time different factors play a role." He is looking forward to his research of the coming years. For example, the research in North and Northeast Thailand. "Our climate is often very decisive for preventing plants. We use climate models to make predictions about the future and with the plots in Thailand we will test these every tree years. "