Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Royal Netherlands
Institute for Sea Research


From the Dutch Zoological Society to an NWO national centre of expertise

The history of NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research dates back to the founding of the Zoological Station in 1876. Today we are the second largest of the NWO national centres of expertise.

Dutch Zoological Society

Coordinated research on animal life at sea in the Netherlands began in 1876 with the founding of the Zoological Station under the umbrella of the Dutch Zoological Society (Nederlandse Dierkundige Vereniging, NDV).

NDV owned a dismountable building referred to as ‘de Keet’ (‘the Barracks’), which was used as a field station until 1890. Generally no more than five people were at work here, including the first directors who would carry out their research unsalaried.

In 1877 the building was stationed in the city of Vlissingen. From here, a schooner departed for a first scientific expedition to the English coast and Helgoland during which the five crew members collected marine animals with a trawl-net.

In 1890 a much larger permanent building was opened in the harbour of Den Helder.

From 1931 onwards, the Dutch government financially supported the Zoological Station, which significantly strengthened its ties with the biological faculties of Dutch universities by organising student courses. The economic crisis, however, set a limit to the expansion with additional staff.

After World War II, the workforce expanded with temporary researchers, financed by ZWO, the forerunner of NWO.

In 1957, director Dr. Jan Verweij proposed to broaden the Station’s scope from biology to the four pillars of oceanography: biology, chemistry, physics and geology. His proposal was instantly approved.

Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

In 1960 the Zoological Station was renamed the Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (Nederlands Instituut voor Onderzoek der Zee, NIOZ) and a year later the first issue of the Netherlands Journal for Sea Research was released.

The institute expanded and soon proved too small to accommodate some 100 employees. Besides, the potential for intake of clean sea water in Den Helder was too limited.

In 1969 NIOZ moved to the 'provisorium', a temporary housing in the polder of 't Horntje on the Wadden Sea island of Texel, until the new building in the same location was opened in 1977.

In 1972, RV Aurelia was brought into service, allowing NIOZ scientists to expand their research territory to include the entire North Sea. Ocean cruises were also undertaken using hired ships.

In 1984 and 1985, NIOZ management and scientists helped organise and undertake the Indonesian-Dutch Snellius-II Expedition in Indonesian seas. The expedition used the RV Tyro, which was owned by the Netherlands Council for Sea Research (NRZ).

Since 1990, NIOZ is part of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

In 1991, our current flagship RV Pelagia was brought into service, replacing RV Aurelia for North Sea voyages and later RV Tyro as well for ocean voyages.

In 1993, the entire organic biogeochemistry group from Delft University of Technology, led by our later director prof. Jan de Leeuw, was transferred to NIOZ.

The institute became ‘Royal’ on its 125th birthday in 2001.

NIOZ Texel & Yerseke

In 2012 NIOZ merged with the Centre for Estuarine Marine Ecology (NIOO-CEME), located in the town of Yerseke in the Eastern Scheldt area. The institute now has two locations: on Texel and in Yerseke – or NIOZ TX and YE for short.

In 2015 the NIOZ harbour on Texel was reopened after extensive renovation, with a new name: Seaport Texel. It is the home port for our research vessels, as well as being accessible to the public.

Today NIOZ, with four newly formed science departments, is the second largest of NWO’s national centres of expertise.

Watch the video clip about our 145 year history for a quick overview