Winners of VLIZ Science Awards 2021 announced | Flanders Marine Institute

Flanders Marine Institute

Platform for marine research

VLIZ news

Winners of VLIZ Science Awards 2021 announced

Added on 2022-02-24
Emil De Borger, Merel Van Gorp and Anton Bilsen can call themselves proud winners of respectively the VLIZ North Sea Award, and the two VLIZ Master Thesis Awards. On the online VLIZ Marine Science Day of Wednesday 2 March, these laureates will briefly explain their research and receive their prizes.

Photo: Emil De Borger

The VLIZ North Sea Award

Emil De Borger from Ghent University (MARBIOL) and NIOZ wins the VLIZ North Sea Award 2021. His PhD research on the study of the effects of natural processes and human activities on the biogeochemistry of North Sea sediments impressed the jury.

Biogeochemistry encompasses the biological as well as the chemical and physical processes that shape the cycling of nutrients. In his Phd research Emil de Borger focused on the biogeochemical characterization of sediments in a coastal shelf sea such as the North Sea. He investigated how these processes are influenced by environmental factors, such as sediment characteristics and hydrodynamics, or by the benthic fauna.

At the sea bottom of coastal seas, microbes recycle the dead organic material resulting in nutrients becoming freely available for the marine life in the water column. Intensive human activities at sea alters the state of the sediments and with it their functioning. De Borger developed models of the mineralization processes in the sediment and so makes it possible to improve the impact assessments of human activities, such as beam trawling or the development of wind farms in the North Sea. [Bron: NIOZ nieuws]

Every year the VLIZ North Sea Award is granted to a researcher or a research team active and residing in a country bordering the North Sea. The prize of 1000 euros rewards a recent and original scientific work that studies the structure or functioning of the North Sea, with a special focus on the shallow coastal areas and estuaries of the Southern Bight and the Channel.

The two VLIZ Master Thesis Awards

The first winner of the Master Thesis Award 2021 is Merel Van Gorp (University of Antwerp – FunMorph) with her research into the function of keels in boxfish in passive stabilization during swimming.
Unlike most fish, boxfish are not streamlined at all. Their bodies are surrounded by a box-shaped hard armor. Despite this rigid body, they are experts at maneuvering deftly among the coral reefs they inhabit. How do they manage to swim around stable in the often strong, unpredictable currents present in coral reefs, only by using their fins? During her thesis research, Merel Van Gorp investigated whether the hard edges (or keels) have something to do with it. Or not?

The second Master Thesis Award 2021 goes to Anton Bilsen (KULeuven – LBEG) for his research into the use of metabarcoding in monitoring the presence of non-native species in a North Sea port.
Some invasive species in the North Sea were introduced intentionally, however most hitchhiked unnoticed in ballast water tanks or on flanks of vessels. To intercept these organisms before they can cause ecological or economical damage, regular visual inspections of harbours is needed. In his thesis, Anton Bilsen tested the potential of two metabarcoding techniques for identifying non-indigenous species in the harbor of Ostend. The  metabarcoding led to the discovery of different animals and algae that were not recorded from this area yet (like some small plankton species).  However, the metabarcoding still needs some fine-tuning before it can be used for accurate identification of certain species.

Every year issues two VLIZ Master Theses Awards written at a Flemish university, or written by a Flemish researcher at a non-Flemish institution. These prizes (500 euros each) aim to recognize and reward the work of meritorious young scientists in both fundamental and applied marine research of any discipline.

We did not receive any application in 2021 for the third category of VLIZ awards, the Professional Bachelor Thesis Award.

VLIZ Marine Science Day 2022

The VLIZ science prizes will be awarded on Wednesday 2 March 2022 on the occasion of the VLIZ Marine Science Day 2022. Because corona is still a spanner in the works, we are also going for an online event this year. But one that you should not miss if you want to stay informed about ongoing marine research in Flanders!

Participating in this event is free. You can register at the latest on February 28.

By registering you will be given the opportunity to vote for the poster competition. The day before the event, you will receive an email with additional information, links to the event and poster sessions, and how to vote for your favorite poster.


[Overview] [Login]