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The research groups - Biosphere

Universiteit Gent (UG)
Protistology and Aquatic Ecology

Promotor: Prof. Dr. Vyverman Wim


The research group for Protistology and Aquatic Ecology studies the diversity, taxonomy and biogeography of protists (single-celled micro-organisms with a nucleus), their role in planktonic (free floating) and benthic (attached) freshwater and marine ecosystem functioning, and their application to reconstruct past climate and environmental change.
Genetic approaches complement well-established morphological-taxonomic and biogeographical studies of selected taxa and morphologically uniform functional groups, and are applied to the study the biodiversity of protists.
The group manages an extensive live collection of alpine and Antarctic micro-algae (chlorophytes, xanthophytes and diatoms), ciliates and amoebae. This culture collection is increasingly being used for experimental, molecular, and life cycle studies.
Limnological and oceanographical research involves field and laboratory experiments at both the community and species level, and comprises both fundamental (e.g. studies on feeding selectivity of estuarine benthic ciliates) and more applied research (e.g. food-web dynamics and lake restoration).
Palaeoecological investigations using fossil remains of diatoms and photosynthetic pigments in lake sediments contribute to the understanding of climate changes at medium to short time-scales and to the reconstruction of anthropogenically induced environmental change. The group conducts (palaeo-)ecological research in freshwater and marine environments in tropical, temperate and high-latitude systems. In Antarctica, our research is focused on the reconstruction of past changes in ice sheet thickness, sea-ice extent, ultraviolet radiation, lake productivity, and changes in the moisture balance of coastal Antarctic lakes.


Main field of activity in polar regions

Our polar research is currently mainly focused on the study of the present and past diversity, taxonomy and biogeography of Antarctic single-celled micro-organisms, and their application to reconstruct past climate and environmental change.

List of projects

Research Group Team

Publication list

Hodgson, D.A., P.E. Noon, W. Vyverman, C.L. Bryant, D.B. Gore, P. Appleby, M. Gilmour, E. Verleyen, K. Sabbe, V.J. Jones, J.C. Ellis-Evans & P.B. Wood (2001) Were the Larsemann Hills Ice-Free Through the Last Glacial Maximum? Antarctic Science, 13: 440-454.

Hodgson, D.A., W. Vyverman & K. Sabbe (2001) Limnology and Biology of Saline Lakes in the Rauer Islands, Eastern Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 13: 255-270.


Verleyen Elie (2004) A paleolimnological reconstruction of the Late Quaternary environmental history of the Larsemann Hills, East Antarctica (Paleolimnologische reconstructie van de Laat Kwartaire omgevingsgeschiedenis van de Larsemann Hills, Oost-Antarctica). PhD thesis, Ghent University, 243 p.

Peer reviewed papers

Hodgson, D.A., W. Vyverman, E. Verleyen, K. Sabbe, P.R. Leavitt, A. Taton, A.H. Squier & B.J. Keely (2004) Environmental Factors Influencing the Pigment Composition of in Situ Benthic Microbial Communities in East Antarctic Lakes. Aquatic Microbial Ecology, 37: 247-263.

Hodgson, D.A., E. Verleyen, K. Sabbe, A.H. Squier, B.J. Keely, M.J. Leng, K.M. Saunders & W. Vyverman (2005) Late Quaternary Climate-Driven Environmental Change in the Larsemann Hills, East Antarctica, Multi-Proxy Evidence From a Lake Sediment Core. Quaternary Research, 64: 83-99.

Sabbe, K., D.A. Hodgson, E. Verleyen, A. Taton, A. Wilmotte, K. Vanhoutte & W. Vyverman (2004) Salinity, Depth and the Structure and Composition of Microbial Mats in Continental Antarctic Lakes. Freshwater Biology, 49: 296-319.

Sabbe, K., E. Verleyen, D.A. Hodgson, K. Vanhoutte & W. Vyverman (2003) Benthic Diatom Flora of Freshwater and Saline Lakes in the Larsemann Hills and Rauer Islands, East Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 15: 227-248.

Verleyen, E., D.A. Hodgson, P.R. Leavitt, K. Sabbe & W. Vyverman (2004) Quantifying Habitat-Specific Diatom Production: a Critical Assessment Using Morphological and Biogeochemical Markers in Antarctic Marine and Lake Sediments. Limnology and Oceanography, 49: 1528-1539.

Verleyen, E., D.A. Hodgson, G.A. Milne, K. Sabbe & W. Vyverman (2005) Relative Sea-Level History From the Lambert Glacier Region, East Antarctica, and Its Relation to Deglaciation and Holocene Glacier Readvance. Quaternary Research, 63: 45-52.

Verleyen, E., D.A. Hodgson, K. Sabbe, K. Vanhoutte & W. Vyverman (2004) Coastal Oceanographic Conditions in the Prydz Bay Region (East Antarctica) During the Holocene Recorded in an Isolation Basin. Holocene, 14: 246-257.

Verleyen, E., D.A. Hodgson, K. Sabbe & W. Vyverman (2005) Late Holocene Changes in Ultraviolet Radiation Penetration Recorded in an East Antarctic Lake. Journal of Paleolimnology, 34: 191-202.

Verleyen, E., D.A. Hodgson, K. Sabbe & W. Vyverman (2004) Late Quaternary Deglaciation and Climate History of the Larsemann Hills (East Antarctica). Journal of Quaternary Science, 19: 361-375.

Verleyen, E., D.A. Hodgson, W. Vyverman, D. Roberts, A. Mcminn, K. Vanhoutte & K. Sabbe (2003) Modelling Diatom Responses to Climate Induced Fluctuations in the Moisture Balance in Continental Antarctic Lakes. Journal of Paleolimnology, 30: 195-215.

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