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My group consists of both undergraduate and graduate students who come from a wide range of countries and backgrounds. Together, we conduct diverse research projects to address current challenges in coral reef biology. We aim to advance our understanding of how corals are impacted by climate and environmental change, and what mechanisms increase coral stress tolerance in a future ocean.

People: About Me

Verena Schoepf

Assistant Professor

MacGillavry Fellow and Vidi Laureate

I am a marine biologist at the University of Amsterdam investigating how climate and environmental change impact tropical coral reefs, the “rainforests of the sea”. I have published more than 40 papers in leading peer-reviewed scientific journals, including Nature and Science, and have won several awards such as the WA Young Tall Poppy Science Award. As a Superstar of STEM and TEDx Speaker, I am passionate about science communication and promoting women in STEM, and my career and research on “super corals” were featured in the documentary series “Women and Oceans”.

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Rene van der Zande

Postdoctoral Researcher

I am a marine ecologist in the group of Dr. Verena Schoepf at the University of Amsterdam. My research focuses on the effects of multiple stressors on coral health, and aims to improve our understanding of how changing environmental conditions interact in shaping coral reefs presently as well as in the future. To achieve this, I mostly use a combination of manipulative laboratory and aquarium experiments, coupled with long-term monitoring and experiments in the field. The process of finding out more and more about the intricate and fascinating mechanisms of evolution and adaptation in nature fuels my passion for the natural world, and I hope to inspire others to develop the same.

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Sarah Solomon

PhD Candidate

I am a nature enthusiast and marine biologist with a passion for tropical eco-physiology. I am a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam under supervision of Dr. Verena Schoepf, and my research goals involve characterizing how tropical coral reefs will acclimatize to future ocean conditions and understanding the mechanisms that underlie coral resilience in extreme or marginal habitats. I’m inspired by the beauty and complexity of organismal diversity and I aspire to communicate our exciting scientific findings in creative ways to a broad audience.

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Kelly Wong Johnson

PhD Candidate

I completed my MS in Biology at California State University, Northridge where my research focused on the capacity for corals and octocorals to occupy space on rubble-dominated reefs in the United States Virgin Islands and French Polynesia. Continuing my interest for coral ecophysiology on Caribbean reefs, I am currently a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam under the supervision of Dr. Verena Schoepf. My current research goals are to explore how the environmental variability of particular reefs in Curaçao and Panama, which are characterized by sub-optimal conditions as compared to surrounding reefs, promotes or reduces the physiological performance and stress-tolerance of corals from those reefs. I am impassioned to be a student, diver, and researcher within a large scientific community working towards better understanding how corals will persist when confronted with persistent global climate change.

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Matteo Bravo

MSc Project: Coral calcification across environmentally distinct sites in the Colombian Caribbean

I have always felt deeply connected to the sea, and if I close my eyes and try to imagine the most breathtaking places I have ever seen, the view of a colorful carpet of corals overcrowds my thoughts. In 2019 I had the chance to work on a coral restoration project in the reefs of the Maldives and since then, my life cannot be untangled from the ones of corals. For my second Master’s research project, I am now investigating how calcification rates of five coral species differ across environmentally distinct locations in the Colombian Caribbean.

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Riccardo Mazza

MSc project: Adaptability to extreme environmental conditions and coral heat tolerance in inland bays of Curaçao

My curiosity about nature has driven me since I was a child to understand the mechanisms that govern the environment and ecosystems and it has grown into a true passion. My academic journey brings to touch various aspects of biology, with a particular emphasis on ecology, which is my main field of interest. Currently, I'm “diving” into my second master's project focused on understanding coral ability to adapt to extreme and/or marginal environmental conditions under the supervision of Sarah Solomon and Dr Verena Schoepf. By conducting a reciprocal transplant experiment between the inland bay and a fringing reef, I aim to gain insights into corals' capacity to acclimate to the ever-changing abiotic ocean conditions influenced by climate change.

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Defne Sahin

PhD Project: Environmental and ecological drivers of distribution and performance of high latitude corals

I have a BSc degree in Chemistry and a MSc degree in Environmental Sciences which I both completed in Istanbul, Turkey, where I'm originally from. Despite coming from a different background, I have always been passionate about marine conservation and corals. This led me to pursue a PhD at the University of Western Australia under the supervision of Dr Thomas Wernberg (collaboration with Dr Verena Schoepf). My PhD project aims to explore the poleward expansion of corals, the implications this might have on other species and the potential of high-latitude reefs to serve as a coral refuge under future ocean conditions.

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Former Postdocs, PhD and MSc Students

People: CV


Emily Croasdale

MSc Thesis "Twenty years on: Population structures of common Caribbean coral species differ between a marginal and extreme habitat and a benign
reef environment"


Chris Lippens

MSc Thesis "Assessing the physiological adaptations and acclimatization potential of two scleractinian coral species in a an extreme and marginal inland bay of Curaçao"

Daily supervisor: Sarah Solomon

MSc, 2022

Laura Misker

Thesis "Quantifying the protein content of three Scleractinian coral species occurring in Curaçao’s extreme/marginal inland bays"

Daily supervisor: Sarah Solomon

MSc, 2022

Wout van der Heide

Thesis "Calcification and photosynthetic responses of reef-building corals to ocean acidification". Now a PhD student at Cornell University

MSc, 2021

Chiara de Jong

Thesis "Assessment of the abiotic environmental variability and water quality of Curaçao’s inland bays"

MSc, 2021

Iris van Os

Thesis "Coral eco-physiology in the marginal and extreme inland bays of Curaçao during the warm wet season"

Postdoc 2020/21

Maitê G. Bucher

NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow; joint supervision with Dr Karl Castillo, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

MSc, 2020

Elias Speelman

Thesis "Differential long-term recovery from mass bleaching across strong environmental gradients in an extreme macrotidal reef environment"

MSc, 2020

Guadalupe Sepúlveda

Thesis "Environmental variability of inland bays in Curaçao and ecophysiology of two reef building coral species". Now a PhD student at Stockholm University

PhD, 2018

Claire Ross

Thesis “Coral calcification mechanisms and the use of corals as paleo-thermometers”. Co-supervision with Prof Malcolm McCulloch (primary supervisor), Dr Jim Falter and Dr Thomas DeCarlo. Now a Research Scientist at the Western Australia Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions

MSc, 2018

Maria Jung

Thesis “Symbiont dynamics and energy reserves in Kimberley corals during and after a natural bleaching event”. Visiting student from the University of Bremen, Germany. Now a PhD candidate at the University of Western Australia

MSc, 2018

Cyrielle Rigal

Thesis “Physiological differences between heat-resistant intertidal and heat-susceptible subtidal Kimberley corals”. Visiting student from the University of South Brittany, France

MSc, 2017

Andrew Warnes

Thesis “Interactive effects of light and temperature on coral biogeochemistry”. Co-supervision with Dr Chris Cornwall and Dr Steeve Comeau. Now a Laboratory Coordinator at the Australian Institute of Marine Science

MSc, 2017

Steven Carrion

Thesis “Heat tolerance and acclimatisation capacity of Kimberley corals”. Visiting student from the University of Edinburgh, UK. Now a Marine Specialist Consultant at the World Bank

MSc, 2016

Morane Le Nohaïc

Thesis “Impacts of the global coral bleaching event of 2015/16 on coral reefs in Western Australia”. Visiting student from the University of La Rochelle, France. Now a PhD candidate at the University of Brisbane

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