Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

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Inferring marine species distribution history from genetic data


Research interests

Studying the spatial distribution of DNA variation helps us to understand historical and present-day population processes. Signatures that such processes leave can be detected from DNA variability, for example:


sudden population expansion

ongoing migration


and selection. 

In many marine taxa these inferences are complicated by extremely large population sizes. Having large populations means that it takes much longer for detectable signatures to develop in the DNA. Living in recently colonized areas - be it after ice ages or sea level rise or in the case of human-mediated invasions - further complicates matters. Finding ways to make inferences anyway is my main interest.



From 2014: Senior scientist, NIOZ and lecturer Groningen University: genetic connectivity and cryptic species diversity in the sea

2013: Freelance illustrator

2011-2012: Senior scientist, NIOZ and lecturer Groningen University: genetic connectivity and cryptic species diversity in the sea

2008-2010: Postdoctoraal onderzoeker, NIOZ: snapshots through time of adaptive population divergence in the marine bivalve Macoma balthica

2007: Postdoctoral scientist, Tjärnö, Göteborg, Zweden: genomic cline analysis of Macoma balthica

2002-2006: Postdoctoral scientist, University of Amsterdam: evolutionary biology of aquatic plants

1997-2002: PhD student, NIOZ and Groningen University, PhD thesis ‘Spatial arrangement of genetic variation in the marine bivalve Macoma balthica’ (cum laude, top 5%)

1996: Junior researcher mathematical models, Institute for Forestry and Nature Research, Wageningen, the Netherlands: modelling of animals in networks of small populations (in C)


Key publications

Goedknegt, M.A.; Schuster, A.-K.; Buschbaum, C.; Gergs, R.; Jung, A.; Luttikhuizen, P.C.; Van der Meer, J.; Troost, K.; Wegner, K.M.; Thieltges, D.W.(2017). Spillover but no spillback of two invasive parasitic copepods from invasive Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) to native bivalve hosts. Biological Invasions 19(1).

De Bakker, D.M.; Meesters, E.H.W.G.; van Bleijswijk, J.D.L.; Luttikhuizen, P.C.; Breeuwer, H.J.A.J.; Becking, L.E. (2016). Population Genetic Structure, Abundance, and Health Status of Two Dominant BenthicSpecies in the Saba Bank National Park, Caribbean Netherlands: Montastraea cavernosa and Xestospongia muta. PLoS One 11: e0155969.

Van Walraven, L.; Driessen, F.; van Bleijswijk, J.; Bol, A.; Luttikhuizen, P.C.; Coolen, J.; Bos, O.G.; Gittenberger, A.; Schrieken, N.; Langenberg, V.T.; van der Veer, H.W. (2016). Where are the polyps? Molecular identification, distribution and population differentiation of Aurelia aurita jellyfish polyps in the southern North Sea area. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 163: 172.

Feis, M.E.; Thieltges, D.W.; Olsen, J.L.; de Montaudouin, X.; Jensen, K.T.; Bazaïri, H.; Culloty, S.C.; Luttikhuizen, P.C. (2015). The most vagile host as the main determinant of population connectivity in marine macroparasites. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 520: 85-99.

Luttikhuizen, P. C.; J. Drent; K. T. C. A. Peijnenburg; H. W. Van Der Veer; K. Johannesson. 2012. Genetic architecture in a marine hybrid zone: comparing outlier detection and genomic clines analysis in the bivalve Macoma balthica. Molecular Ecology 21:3048-3061.

Please find my complete list of NIOZ-publications at the bottom of this webpage or on ResearcherID. You can download all my publications on ResearchGate.


Professional education

2017: BKO/UTQ (Basiskwalificatie Onderwijs/University Teaching Qualification; pending), Groningen University, the Netherlands

2012/2013: Management Development Training, Leeuwendaal Instituut, the Netherlands

2010: Media training, NWO, the Netherlands

2005: Education and Communication, BSc minor, University of Amsterdam

2003: PhD Mathematics and Natural Sciences, University of Groningen (cum laude, top 5%)

2001: Statistical Genetics, North Carolina State University, USA

1998: Marine Population Genetics, Friday Harbor Laboratories, USA

1990 - 1996: BSc & MSc Biology, Wageningen University, the Netherlands


Awards and Prizes

2016-2018: Reef effects of structures in the North Sea: Islands or connections? (RECON), collaboration with Wageningen Marine Research, INSITE Oil & Gas UK

2013-2015: Seaweed Hatchery, collaboration between NIOZ and Hortimare BV, European Fisheries Fund 'Investment in Sustainable Fisheries'

2012-2017: Effects of invasive species on native predator-prey and pathogen-host webs, collaboration between NIOZ and AWI Sylt, NWO Bilateral Wadden Sea Programme

2007-2010: MEERVOUD personal research grant, NWO

2005: Conservation Genetics exchange grant for six months research at Göteborg University, Sweden, ESF (European Science Foundation)

2003: Best PhD thesis of 2003, Functional Ecology Graduate School, the Netherlands 2003 PhD defense awarded cum laude (top 5%)





Teaching and supervision

Currently I coordinate and teach in the Marine MSc program at the University of Groningen. In the past, I have taught various courses at the BSc and MSc level, including Ecosystems, Taxonomy of Tropical Plants, Plant Sciences, Fauna of the Netherlands, Evolutionary Genetics, Marine Ecosystems, Marine Conservation,  and Evolutionary Ecology of Marine Organisms. As primary supervisor I have supervised >ten MSc theses and a PhD thesis ('Patterns of distribution, dynamics and genetic variation in the peppery furrow shell Scrobicularia plana' by Sílvia Santos).