The Sea as a Good Cause awards six Brilliant Marine Research Idea grants | Flanders Marine Institute

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The Sea as a Good Cause awards six Brilliant Marine Research Idea grants

Added on 2022-03-31
The Sea as a Good Cause – VLIZ's charitable activities – annually awards Brilliant Marine Research Idea grants, each worth 5000 euros. In 2022, no fewer than six young scientists with a brilliant idea were awarded the grant. This was possible thanks to the growing number of VLIZ member contributions, donations and sponsorship from enthusiastic companies and marine research enthusiasts.
Brilliant Marine Research Idea grants – or BMRIs for short – aim to inspire and support PhD students and young postdocs to implement a brilliant idea in the context of their marine research. Eligible topics include pollution, the ocean and human health, marine biodiversity, climate change, ocean-related disasters and marine exploration.

These grants are unique in Flanders and distinguish themselves from other funding because of their focus on thinking out-of-the-box. Companies are given the opportunity to sponsor a BMRI grant. As such, the company encourages young marine researchers to fully commit to original research and the company endorses the importance of innovation.

The six laureates of the 2022 BMRI grants were selected from 14 candidatures. There were no candidates this year for the junior postdoc scholarship, and the only proposal for the South scholarship was not sufficient for its award. The remaining grant amount was therefore exceptionally awarded to two additional excellent proposals by PhD students. The laureates will start their BMRI research in March 2022 and report on their research results at the VLIZ Marine Science Day in the spring of 2023.

In what follows, we briefly introduce the laureates (from left to right) and their planned research:
  • Wouter Deleersnyder (UGent & KU Leuven campus Kulak) is working on an improved salinity map, which maps the distribution between fresh and saline groundwater in Flanders. With the help of the BMRI funding, Wouter will measure high-resolution geophysical data, which will allow a more detailed picture of the subsurface. On this basis, he will become more acquainted with the sharpness of the transition between freshwater and saltwater, with which he can calibrate his method in order to arrive at a more detailed salinity map. This scholarship is sponsored by Antea Group.
  • Hisham Shaikh (VLIZ & UGent) focuses on unravelling the diversity and the role of marine viruses in the North Sea. Viruses form a pivotal role in (re-)shaping the community structure and thereby, influencing global biogeochemical cycles. With the help of this grant, he will be able to take his study beyond free viral particles and help understand the understudied bacteria-associated viruses. He will use a dual ‘omics approach (metagenomics and metatranscriptomics) to target DNA and RNA viruses, along with commenting on active viral infections. 
  • Heleen Keirsebelik (UAntwerpen) studies the ecology and impact of the invasive Chinese mitten crab in Belgium. With the BMRI grant, Heleen will test new methods to map the digging behavior of this crab in the challenging conditions of tidal areas, where the crabs cause a lot of damage to the banks. Using state-of-the-art techniques such as structure-from-motion and ground-penetrating radar, she goes after the crabs, and thus makes visible the density and morphology of the underground crab burrowing activities.
  • Marie Sioen (UGent) is researching the toxicity of nanoplastics. She will use the BMRI grant to examine how nanoplastics behave once they reach the marine environment. Marie uses mesocosm experiments to examine how nanoplastics distribute themselves in the longer term over the sediment, the water column and organisms (algae and copepods). For this she will use 2 methods that are still new in nanoplastics research: TD-PTR-MS for the detection and quantification of the plastics in the different compartments, and the STED microscope for the visualization of the plastics within the organisms. Otary sponsors this BMRI scholarship.
  • Ignace Pelckmans (UAntwerpen) investigates how mangroves play a role in protecting densely populated tropical river deltas. Climate change poses an increasing threat to coastal populations due to rising sea levels and the more frequent occurrence of intense climate fluctuations such as El Niño. Thanks to the BMRI grant, Ignace can build 3D models of mangrove trees using a number of state-of-the-art techniques, such as smartphone LiDAR sensors and drones. This will allow him to better estimate how the dense network of mangrove roots can attenuate incoming storm tides and other extreme sea levels. Ignace can count on sponsorship from DEME for this grant.
  • Jesper van Dijk (UAntwerpen) will use the BMRI research grant to better understand the interaction between cable bacteria and other bacteria. The cable bacteria, which form filaments up to 4 cm long and are found, among other places, in the North Sea, make an electrical ecosystem through their unique metabolism and have a major impact on the geochemistry of the sediment. In his BMRI, Jesper wants to investigate what happens when you cut these cable bacteria, and what effect this has on the composition of the microbial community.
Are you a PhD student or a young postdoc and would you also like to compete for a BMRI grant? We launch a new call for proposals in the autumn of 2022. Is your company interested in sponsoring a BMRI scholarship? Please contact our philanthropy department (via

Also interested in this grant? Read more on this webpage:



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