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Esther van der Ent

Esther van der Ent, PhD candidate - Marine Biodiversity


Email: Esther.vanderent@naturalis.nl
Phone: +31 (0)71 7519283
Room number: Vondellaan 55, Leiden


During my master Environmental Biology I became interested in the marine realm. I did an internship at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), where I studied aggressive coral-excavating sponges in Curaçao. Here I became fascinated by sponges, which are important but often overlooked organisms on reefs. At Naturalis I continued this interest, studying aggressive coral-killing cyanobacteriosponges in Indonesia. I worked as a research technician at Naturalis, and participated in the ‘Madibenthos’ expedition of the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (Paris), in Martinique (2016). There I also became enthusiastic about sponge taxonomy, and became a champion for 'sponge-rights', as I continuously had to defend 'my' sponges against stubborn people who would not recognized them as animals!

As a PhD student of dr. Nicole de Voogd, I work within the research project funded by her Vidi grant “Sponges in a changing climate: The impact of global environmental change on the microbial and chemical diversity of sponges”. I study the relationship between sponges and their microbial symbionts, their demography and nutrient dynamics, and assess how this relationship is influenced by our changing environment.


Research interest

I am interested in:

Sponge ecology

Nutrient cycling

Sponge microbial communities

Sponge taxonomy


Current research topics


Dr. Daniel Cleary (University of Aveiro, Portugal)

Dr. Lubos Polerecky (Utrecht University, The Netherlands)

Dr. Yusheng Huang (National Penghu University, Ma-Kung, Taiwan)



Available student projects



van der Ent, E., Hoeksema, B. W., & de Voogd, N. J. (2016). Abundance and genetic variation of the coral-killing cyanobacteriosponge Terpios hoshinota in the Spermonde Archipelago, SW Sulawesi, Indonesia. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom96(02), 453-463.


Mueller, B., de Goeij, J. M., Vermeij, M. J., Mulders, Y., van der Ent, E., Ribes, M., & van Duyl, F. C. (2014). Natural diet of coral-excavating sponges consists mainly of dissolved organic carbon (DOC). PloS one9(2), e90152.