Rene van der Zande

Dr. Rene van der Zande

Dr. Rene van der Zande
Coral Reef Ecologist
CARMABI Foundation
Piscaderabaai z/n
Willemstad, Curacao
P.O. 2090

Education and degrees:

PhD: Coral Reef Ecosystems Lab, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

MSc: Environmental Biology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands

BSc: Biology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands

General research interests:
Coral physiology, life history strategies, acclimation and adaptation, physiological trade-offs, coral reef ecology, biomineralization

Research interests on Curaçao:

During my Ph.D. I was testing the hypothesis if the current increase in benthic algae stimulates sponge bioerosion on Caribbean reefs via enhanced dissolved organic carbon (DOC) production. Funded by the European Project FORCE (Future of Reefs in a Changing Environment) I spent more than 2 years on Curaçao and Bonaire conducting lab and field experiments to answer the following research questions: (1) Do algae release more DOC than corals, (2) how do nutrients and light availability affect the DOC release of benthic primary producers, (3) are excavating sponges feeding on DOC, and (4) does increased availability of DOC stimulate bioerosion rates of excavating sponges.

Being born and raised on Curacao, I have always had strong ties with the sea, and gradually got really interested in coral reef research. During my PhD research I focused mainly on different aspects of physiology and metabolism of symbiotic corals. I am particularly interested in how the functioning of the coral host, algae symbiont, or holobiont as a whole, are affected by differential inputs from the external environment, including under (acute) stress. In a time characterized by environmental change (e.g. global warming, eutrophication) and widespread coral reef degradation, we still have only limited answers to important questions, such as: How can cellular processes in the coral be maximized? What are the trade-offs involved? What is the potential for acclimation?

At present, my research focuses on the physiology of corals at mesophotic (i.e. deep, >40m) depths. Due to the large depth at which these corals grow, they receive only a fraction of the sunlight that shallow-water corals receive. As a result, mesophotic corals have significantly different physiology and life history strategies. Using manipulative experiments and stable isotopes we plan to look further into the processes that enable mesophotic corals to thrive at these depths.

Recent publications relevant to Curaçao:

  • Mueller B, van der Zande RM, van Leent PJM, Meesters EH, Vermeij MJA, van Duyl FC (2014). Effect of light availability on dissolved organic carbon release by Caribbean reef algae and corals. Bulletin of Marine Science (3): 875-893