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Mohd Zacaery bin Khalik

Zac bin Khalik - Endless forms


Email: zac.binkhalik@naturalis.nl
Phone: 071-751 9600
Room number: Leiden, Darwinhouse
“If you are in a war, go forward and don't look back.”

Personal description

I never thought that I will be this far in education. When I was in a secondary school, all I ever wanted is a job to pay all the bills. I considered myself lucky because I had a chance to do my bachelor degree and master degree, and to be a bit more specific both of these degree are major in chemistry. After a few years, I was thinking, why don't I go for PhD? Then I decided to apply for a PhD position in Naturalis Biodiversity Center and Leiden University. I got an offer letter in May 2015 and started my first PhD year in September 2015. 

Now I am doing my PhD study under the supervision of Menno Schilthuizen and Martin Haase in the field of evolutionary biology. At the beginning, I was like a baby who wanted to explore everything but knows nothing about what is going on. But as I grew older in the system and with many supportive friends and colleagues, I manage to improve myself from time to time. It was a good start for me on my journey to become a biologist. This is something that I never dreamed of when I was a kid, but now I am sure it is worth achieving.


I am originally from Malaysia and currently I have a position at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) as a lecturer and researcher. Before I got the position, I started my career in science as a tutor back in 2008 after I graduated from my bachelor degree. I joined many fieldworks with researchers to collect various wildlife in the fields (e.g. amphibian, reptiles, small mammals, birds and etc). With minumum background in biology, I started to think that it is important to save the wildlife as they contribute a lot in ensuring the stability of the ecosystems. Therefore, in 2010 I decided to do my master degree, and after I got the degree, I started to join the mammalian research team in UNIMAS to learn more about how important these wildlife are in the ecosystems. We studied basically the distribution, systematics and taxonomy of bats. From there I learned many new things about evolutionary biology, and I know that this is the beginning of my career as a research scientist. As the time flies by, I keep getting more questions in my mind without any good explanation (perhaps I need to read more and more). Then I started to think to do my PhD study in evolutionary biology to get the answers that I am looking for. I started my PhD study in September 2015, and I already plan that after I successfully ontained my PhD, I will serve my country as a lecturer and researcher in UNIMAS. I want to equip myself with knowledge as much as possible and in the future I would like to create and manage my own lab, try to answer specific questions related to evolutionary biology and most importantly to disseminate new knowledge to the science. 


Educational background

  • PhD Student (Evolutionary Biology), Naturalis Biodiversity center, 2015 – present
  • MSc. (Forensic Science), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, 2012
  • BSc. (Resource Chemistry), Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, 2008



  • PhD Student (Evolutionary Biology), Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Sept 2015 – present
  • Lecturer, UNIMAS, Feb 2012 – Present (Study Leave)
  • Program Coordinator, Department of Zoology, UNIMAS, Jan 2013 – Jan 2014
  • Tutor, 2008 – 2012


Grants and Awards:

  • Travelling Grant Award from Unitas Malacologica – To attend World Congress of Malacology 2016 in Penang. (Funded: €800 for travelling from Netherlands to Malaysia)
  • KNAW Fonds Ecologie Award – Dynamic evolutionary patterns in land snails of the genus Georissa. (Funded: € 5060; for fieldwork in Western Sarawak March-April 2016)
  • SLAI Award 2015 – Doctorate Scholarship, Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia.
  • Principal Investigator: UNIMAS SGS 01(S130)/1024/2013(14). Comparison of Heavy metals accumulation in bats and birds as bio-indicator of selected habitats in Sarawak. (Funded: MYR10,000; Sept 2013-Aug 2014)
  • Co-researcher: UNIMAS FRGS/1/2013/ST03/01/. Thermal physiology of tarsiers and threeshrews in Samarahan and Kuching Division, Sarawak. (Funded: MYR70,000; June 2013-May 2014)
  • SLAB Award 2010 – Master Degree Scholarship, Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia.


Research interest

In general I am interested in evolutionary biology on how organism changed their characters to become something new or something that would sustain themselve in the rapid changing environmental condition. For that would like to explain, explore and understand the evolutionary process of the living organism, and I chosed gastropod as the model organism.

In my PhD project, I will focus on the evolutionary patterns of shelled organisms (Gastropoda: Hydrocenidae) to reveal and interpret the divergence in three character systems (i-iii). To be able to correlate (i) shell shape changes in phylogeny with shifts in environment, I will also undertake the study of (ii) microhabitat niche evolution. This will make me able to reconstruct the evolutionary history of shell shape in the organism of interest through time. Finally, the patterns of character evolution in a set of traits with a direct interface with the environment (i.e., the shell) will be contrasted with a second set of morphological characters for which such a link does not exist, namely, the genitalia (iii). Thus, this study aims to answer several questions related to physical and biological characters that occur within the genus Georissa (Gastropoda: Hydrocenidae), which are:

  • How do shell traits evolve in this genus?
  • How do niche traits evolve in this genus?
  • How do genital traits evolve in this genus?
  • What correlations exist among the evolutionary pathways of these three sets of traits?


gastropods, character evolution, georissa, malaysian borneo

Current research topics

Shell, genital, and niche evolution of the Georissa (Gastropoda: Hydrocenidae) species of Malaysian Borneo


Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Netherlands

University of Leiden, Netherlands

University of Greifswald, Germany

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Malaysia

Supervision PhDs


My PhD Promotor: Prof Dr Menno Schilthuizen (Naturalis Biodiversity Center & Leiden University)


My PhD Co-promoter: Dr Martin Haase (University of Greifswald)



Available student projects



Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Khalik M.Z., Hendriks K., Vermeulen J.J., Schilthuizen M. 2018. A molecular and conchological dissection of the “scaly” Georissa of Malaysian Borneo (Gastropoda, Neritimorpha, Hydrocenidae). ZooKeys 773: 1-55.
Go to website (DOI)


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Miller J.A., Riemsdijk I. van, Khalik M.Z., Scager D.J., Schilthuizen M. 2017. Comment on Falade et al. (2016) DNA-barcoding of Clarias gariepinus, Coptedon zilii and Sarotherodon melanotheron from Southwestern Nigeria. F1000Research -
Go to website (URI)