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Lisette Mekkes

Lisette Mekkes - PhD candidate, Marine Biodiversity


Email: lisette.mekkes@naturalis.nl
Phone: -
Room number: Vondellaan 55, Leiden

Expedition Plankton Blogs

From the 21st of September till the 6th of November 2017, the plankton team will be on an international research cruise to sample zooplankton across the Atlantic Ocean. Stay tuned about our adventures by following our blogs in Dutch or English.


For as long as I can remember I have had a passion for the ocean and everything that lives within it, and this has motivated me to become a marine biologist. At first, I was interested in the larger marine creatures; diving with sea turtles in the Caribbean, investigating the diet of porpoises and sailing in the stormy November North Sea to count dolphins, whales and birds. Then, when I started my Masters, my interest shifted to considerably smaller organisms. I realized that much more knowledge could be gained from studying the smallest creatures, because they exist in 
larger numbers, have shorter generation times and are one of the first chains in the food web. I remember the first time I looked through a microscope at a pteropod sample. Their amazing shapes, unknown life history, incredible diversity and significance in the marine environment made me realise from that moment on, I wanted to specialize in pteropod research. Despite the cheerful appearance of pteropods, their future might be rather grim because their existence is considered to be threatened by changing ocean chemistry, driven by increasing levels of CO 2 in the atmosphere. Therefore, my research focuses on pteropod growth, calcification and vulnerability to ocean acidification, which not only provide insights into these remarkable organisms, but also demonstrate whether they might have the ability to adapt to changing ocean conditions.


I am a PhD candidate at Naturalis Biodiversity Center and the University of Amsterdam. My project is supervised by Dr. Katja Peijnenburg and Dr. Willem Renema (Naturalis), my promotor is Prof. Jef Huisman (UvA) and my co-promotor is Dr. Geert-Jan Brummer (NIOZ). My background in marine biology research is broad, including studying diet of North Sea porpoises (IMARES, Texel), sea turtles in the Caribbean (Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire) and oysters at biogenic reefs in the Eastern Scheldt (IMARES, Yerseke). I started with a BSc in Applied Biology, 's Hertogenbosch. Last June, I obtained my MSc degree in Limnology and Oceanography, UvA. During my masters I started specializing in pteropod research under supervision of Dr. Katja Peijnenburg and Dr. Willem Renema. I feel very fortunate to have the unique opportunity to continue studying these fascinating swimming snails in the Marine Biodiversity group of Naturalis.


Research interest

During the upcoming four years of my PhD I will focus on growth, calcification, and vulnerability to ocean acidification of shelled pteropods. Since the start of my MSc Limnology and Oceanography, UvA, I got in contact with Katja and Willem, and conducted two research projects on pteropods under their supervision. During the first project, I got the unique opportunity to study Styliola pteropods originating from all oceanic regions, and designed a new 3D morphometric method, using micro-CT techniques, to study calcification in their natural environment. For my last MSc project, we started up a collaborative project with NOAA, Washington. I attended an ocean expedition together with Dr. Nina Bednarsek and Dr. Richard Feely to study pteropods at the US West Coast in May 2016. My current and upcoming work will focus on pteropod calcification, and vulnerability to future ocean conditions, with the use of 3D morphometric techniques, micro-CT scanning, SEM and stable isotope research.


ocean acidification, pteropods, oceanography, 3d morphometrics, calcification, micro-ct

Current research topics

Ocean expedition AMT 27
For now, I am preparing to start the AMT27, an ocean expedition crossing all different climate zones from the north to the south Atlantic in 45 days. I feel very fortunate to be part of the plankton team, consisting of Dr. Katja Peijnenburg and Dr. Debbie Wall-Palmer from Naturalis, and Dr. Erica Goetze from the University of Hawai’i. We’ll start on the 21 st of September in Southampton, and arrive the 5 th of November in the Falkland Islands. During this cruise I will conduct field experiments with pteropods, which will help us to understand more about their responses to past, present and future ocean conditions. To support this research, I received the “Tera van Benthem Juttinge fonds” from the University of Amsterdam.




Available student projects


Manno C., Bednarsek N., Tarling G.A., Peck V.L., Comeau S., Adhikari D., Bakker D., Bauerfeind E., Bergan A.J., Berning M.I., Buitenhuis E.T., Burridge A.K., Chierici M., Flöter S., Fransson A., Gardner J., Howes E.L., Keul N., Kimoto K., Kohnert P., Lawson G.L., Lischka, A.E., Mekkes, L., Oakes R.L., Pebody C., Peijnenburg K.T.C.A., Seifert M., Skinner J., Thibodeau P.S., Wall-Palmer D., Ziveri P. 2017. Shelled pteropods in peril: assessing the vulnerability in a high CO2 ocean. Earth- Science Reviews 169: 132-145.