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.


Verena Schoepf

Assistant Professor and MacGillavry Fellow

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 30 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”.


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.


Iris van Os

MSc project: Curaçao’s inland bays: environmental variability and coral eco-physiology

Growing up in the Netherlands, I’ve always been broadly interested in aquatic life. Hence, my decision to enrol the master's Freshwater & Marine Biology at the University of Amsterdam. But it was during my first tropical dive experience, that I truly fell in love with the beauty and majesty of coral reefs. I’m passionate about ocean conservation and learning more about the impact of environmental disturbances on corals. I’m excited to study which biological mechanism potentially increase the stress tolerance of corals growing under highly variable conditions in the inland bays of Curacao. This project allows us to gain more insight into how coral reefs may develop in future ocean conditions.


Chiara de Jong

MSc project: Monitoring pollution in Curaçao’s environmentally extreme inland bays: eco-physiological effects on corals

My name is Chiara and I’m currently enrolled in the Freshwater & Marine Biology Master at the University of Amsterdam. I have always been fascinated by our planet and especially by the mysterious deep blue ocean. I’m interested in the effects of climate change and human impacts on coral reef ecosystems. My current research project under supervision of Dr Verena Schoepf is very exciting because it can give new insight into the mechanisms that facilitate coral survival and success in extreme and marginal environments. Besides doing research, I believe it is important to close the gap between science and society and I’m up for this challenge.


Wout van der Heide

MSc Project: Impacts of ocean acidification on coral calcification and photosynthesis rates

While my interest for the marine world started young, my first dive on a reef ignited my passion for corals. I am excited to be doing a MSc-project under the supervision of Dr. Verena Schoepf, working on the coral reef ecosystem that I have grown so interested in. I am currently studying how ocean acidification (OA) affects the calcification rate and photosynthetic response of corals. Studying to what degree contemporary reef-building corals are able to adapt to future OA scenarios provides the capacity to make more informed conservation choices. Working on projects that have the potential to be both scientifically and practically relevant is something I find particularly motivating.


Laura Misker

MSc project: Lipid class composition and content of three coral species in Curaçao’s inland bays

The ocean is an incredible place where new discoveries are made each day. After I started diving a few years ago I was able to experience the full beauty of it, but also the threats it faces. I am passionate about working towards understanding how organisms, especially benthic organisms such as corals, will cope under future ocean conditions. Currently I am a Freshwater & Marine Biology master student working with Sarah Solomon (PhD candidate) on coral resilience and the underlying mechanisms in marginal environments. This will help improve our understanding how tropical coral reefs will respond under future ocean conditions. Subsequently, I believe this information needs to be communicated towards the broader audience with the goal to improve conservation strategies.

Defne photo.jpg

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.


Lena Faber

BSc project: The effect of ocean acidification on the calcification and photosynthesis rates of Foraminifera

During my bachelor’s in biology, I was greatly drawn to marine biology. I really enjoyed doing fieldwork here on the coasts of The Netherlands, but I would love to explore more of the oceans! For my bachelor’s thesis I was highly motivated to investigate how environmental and climate change influence the oceans and marine life. My current project on the effect of ocean acidification on Foraminifera will give more insight into the response of these important calcifiers to changing ocean conditions.


Former Postdocs, PhD and MSc Students


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