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The collection Gustave Gilson as a historical reference framework for the Belgian marine fauna: feasibility study

Research project MN/DD2/010 (Research action MN)

Persons :

Description :


The present research project aims at evaluating the suitability of the GILSON collection as a historical reference framework ("zero-point") for the Belgian marine fauna. The collection will be i) taxonomically revised, ii) the quality, quantity and geographical distribution of the samples will be determined and iii) the available information will be incorporated in computer databases and will be mapped. The importance of the collection in the framework of a sustainable management of the North Sea, will be evaluated via case studies. Finally, the possibility for national and international co-operation will be examined.
Development of an annotated bibliography concerning all publications related to GILSON’s marine explorations and collection.

Planned activities

- Compilation of a computer database of the sampling localities: information concerning the sampling methods, localities, in situ environmental parameters and date of sampling of all the GILSON sampling localities will be made available as a computer database.

- Establishment of a historical reference framework: 1898-1913 can be considered as a period just before the North Sea became severely affected by anthropogenic stress factors. Therefore, only GILSON samples collected during this period will be used for the establishment of a historical reference framework. However, more recent GILSON samples, as well as samples from other Belgian collections preserved in the RBINS will be included in the case studies.

- Case studies: the present project will focus on a limited number of representative species from four different groups: fish, crustaceans, molluscs and echinoderms.

- Revision of the collections: determination of the quality and quantity of selected samples (used in the case studies) and their geographical distribution. This information will be combined with the computer database of the localities to establish an integrated computer database called "The Southern North Sea Species Database".

- Further research areas in the framework of a sustainable management of the North Sea: several case-studies will be performed to evaluate the scientific value of the GILSON collection as a historical reference framework such as the suitability of the samples for i) DNA analysis, ii) morphometric and morphological studies, iiiI) geographical and ecological distribution of different species and iv) ecotoxicology studies.


The Department of Invertebrates deals with taxonomic, phylogenetic, zoogeographic and faunistic research on Mollusca, Crustacea, Nematoda, Porifera, Cnidaria and Echinodermata. This research is carried out in Belgium and world-wide. The research team has skills and the necessary infrastructure for marine biological fieldwork, faunistic and phylogenetic studies, collection management, scanning electron microscopy, molecular techniques, statistical data treatment and informatics. The department acts as the National Focal Point for the Convention on Biological Diversity. It created and manages the Belgian Clearing-House mechanism under this convention (

The activities of the MUMM involve marine research, monitoring and data management. Research at MUMM focuses on providing the necessary knowledge and tools for scientific management of the North Sea ecosystem based on mathematical modelling, remote sensing and in situ measurements. MUMM intensively co-operates with other European and non-European oceanographic laboratories and governmental institutions.

Documentation :

De verzameling Gustave Gilson als historisch referentiekader voor de Belgische mariene fauna: een haalbaarheidstudie: samenvatting    Brussel: DWTC, 2002 (SP1061)
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The collection Gustave Gilson as a historical reference framework for the Belgian marine fauna: feasibility study: summary    Brussels: OSTC, 2002 (SP1062)
[To download

La collection Gustave Gilson comme cadre de référence pour la faune marine belge: une étude de faisabilité: résumé    Bruxelles: SSTC, 2002 (SP1063)
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The collection of Gustave Gilson as a reference framework for the Belgian marine fauna : feasability study : final report  Van Loen, Harry - Houziaux, J.S.  Brussels : OSTC, 2002 (SP1090)

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