Plain English Summary
Experimental marine biologist professor Klaas Timmermans cannot predict exactly when it will happen, but he is convinced that it will happen one day. Sooner or later, seaweed will also be on the menu in the Netherlands. And perhaps you will eat that seaweed from a bowl that has been produced from seaweed too!
‘Together with my colleagues, I study the biology of seaweed. For example, we are investigating how sexual reproduction takes place in seaweed. Seaweed is a plant, but it does not reproduce like most plants on land with flowers and pollen. Instead, seaweed is more akin to ferns that reproduce through spores. We are investigating in detail under which light and temperature conditions brown seaweeds reproduce best. Thanks to that knowledge, seaweed farms will soon be able to obtain new plants for their production throughout the entire year.’
‘Whereas we provide the fundamental knowledge about the growth and reproduction of seaweed, others – for example, seaweed farmers – will need to put this to practical use. If we want to continue sustainably feeding the growing number of people on earth in the future, then we will really need to search for alternative protein sources. Once the valuable proteins have been extracted from seaweed, a fraction remains that can be used to produce “low-grade” biogas, for example. Finally, the fibres from seaweed can, in theory, be used in a 3D printer to produce a wide range of high-value products, such as bowls for the seaweed salad.’Read more +
• Senior scientist ecophysiology of seaweeds, head of Department Estuarine and Delta Systems (EDS) at NIOZ(-Yerseke)
• Lector University of Applied Sciences, Vlissingen
• Honorary Professor University Groningen
Understanding the role of seaweeds in the marine environment, including the possibilities for seaweed biomass as source for sustainable food and energy for the future.
The overarching goal in my research is to arrive at insight in the effects of the biotic and abiotic environment, including changes therein (e.g. global warming, ocean acidification, sea level rise), on physiology, ecology and diversity of marine photo-autotrophes, particularly seaweeds. In recent years, I studied for example nutrient uptake in native North Sea seaweeds and their effects on growth, the possibilities to use seaweeds as producers of high value products (pigments, proteins, polysaccharides), the effects of hydrodynamics on morphology and cellular composition and the optimalisation of biofilters using seaweeds.
Water and particularly salt water have always fascinated me. Having the opportunity to work in the marine environment is like a dream come true. Early in my career as biologist, I came to the conclusion that experimental work is the way forward in (marine) physiology. The organisms with which I work cannot talk. By subjecting them to varying experimental conditions they “tell” me what their condition is, they indicated whether they are functioning optimally or not. Experiments are the constant factor in my work. I started with experimental work with chironomid (midge) larvae in the freshwater (PhD at U. Amsterdam), studying the effects of cadmium, lead, zinc and copper on their physiology and ecology. At NIOZ (post-doc and later as scientist), I investigated the effects of ultra-low iron concentrations on Southern Ocean phytoplankton. During this time, I have spent more than 1 year at sea, from the North Sea via the Atlantic Ocean to Southern Ocean, and I have been to 4 times to Antarctica. Currently my research focus has shifted to seaweeds. I initiated the establishment of the NIOZ seaweed centre an ideal environment for experimental work on seaweeds. Experiments are ranging from nutrient uptake, to CO2 manipulation to experiments in which seaweeds are subjected to different hydrodynamic conditions. In combination with observations (and experiments!) in the field, the information collected gives me insight in the role of biotic and abiotic conditions on the organisms I study.
Currently I am also motivated to teach the younger generations of scientists: from lectures to internships, conveying my enthusiasm and dedication for marine biology and ecophysiology. Teaching that only with proper fundamental knowledge we can start to think about applications. With all current attention and interest for seaweeds, for example on their role in a marine biobased economy, the need for basic fundamental research is obvious. Only with that knowledge we can start to think about their applications, for example in using seaweed biomass as resource for sustainable food and energy for the future.
Klaas R. Timmermans received his Masters degree in Biology (cum laude) at the University of Amsterdam in 1986. From 1986–1991, he did his PhD on the effects of trace metals on Chironomid larvae (University of Amsterdam). In 1991 he defended his PhD-thesis entitled “Trace metal ecotoxicokinetics of chironomids” As of 1991, Klaas Timmermans works as a (senior) scientist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), first within the Department of Marine Chemistry & Geology, from 2008- 2016 in the Department of Biological Oceanography (head of department 2011-2016), and from 2016 onwards in the Department Estuarine and Delta Systems, (head of department), NIOZ-Yerseke.
As of 1 September 2014 Klaas Timmermans is appointed as honorary professor Marine Plant Biomass in the Department of Ocean Ecosystems, with in ESRIG, Energy and Sustainability Research Institute Groningen at Groningen University (Faculty Science and Engineering).