Thanks to Wim, the Wadden Sea is one of the few relatively natural coastal systems in the Netherlands and even in Western Europe.”

    Peter Reijnders
In Mauretania. Photo: Jan vd Kam

Using joint knowledge for management

Wolff had a strong conviction that this joint knowledge should also be used to develop a better management of the Wadden Sea and, as a result, a better protection of the rich coastal areas of the Wadden Sea. He possessed a natural authority and therefore managed to influence the government and to bring researchers and policymakers together. The writing of the subreports intensified the trilateral collaboration between scientists, and the publication of the reference work unequivocally put the Wadden Sea on the international map. Amongst other things, this led to the Wadden Sea receiving the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009. Wolff also considered it important to reach a wider public, for example via his books, such as Op de grens van zout en zoet [At the boundary of saltwater and freshwater] and Oosterschelde [Eastern Scheldt]. This last publication most definitely contributed to the fact that the Eastern Scheldt remains partially open to the tides

How former colleagues see Wim Wolff

Clearly, Wim Wolff made a considerable contribution to Wadden Sea research. We asked various former colleagues for a response to the research vessel being named after him:

“Nothing in the Wadden Sea World Heritage escaped Wim Wolff’s attention: from Danish mudflats to German estuaries to the Marsdiep at Den Helder. His name stands for the tireless exploration of the everchanging life in our tidal waters.”

Karsten Reise - em. Prof. from Kiel University and retired head of Wadden Sea Station Sylt, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Germany
Photo: Wim Wolff as chair of the symposium to mark the retirement of Peter Reijnders in 2009.

“Wim Wolf was a leading light in the international world of mudflats research and management. He was not somebody to shower you with compliments, but his way of thinking and acting did inspire and motivate me to continue doing good research to support a better management and protection of our coastal waters and, above all, the Wadden Sea. Thanks to him, the Wadden Sea is one of the few relatively natural coastal systems in the Netherlands and even in Western Europe.”

em. Prof. Peter J.H. Reijnders - Ecology and Management of Sea Mammals, Wageningen Marine Research
Photo: Wim and Ineke Wolff aboard their own ship Zeewolf. (1999)

“Wim was a pioneer. In the 1980s and 1990s, the idea of bringing together ecologists, economists, social scientists and legal experts to try and resolve the many dilemmas associated with marine resource sustainability was radical and a difficult sell. He was a thoughtful listener, leader and superb networker with a special love for the Wadden Sea.”

Prof. Jeanine L. Olsen, University of Groningen, retired. & Prof. Wytze T. Stam, University of Groningen, retired
Fieldwork. Photo: Ineke Wolff

“Whoever embarks on the RV Wim Wolff will be reminded of the great lessons he taught us: that knowledge and data matter, that these should be the basis of our arguments and that only arguments help to rationally resolve emotional discussions. And once the RV Wim Wolff will ride the waves of the Wadden Sea and Zeeland delta, then this vessel will also emanate the love and concern for the natural world, which so impassioned the person whose name it bears”’

Prof. Peter Herman - Ecological Hydraulic Engineering TU Delft and Deltares
In the mud of Banq d'Arguin, Mauretania.

“Soon after the Dutch government had decided not to drain the Wadden Sea in the mid-1970s, Wim Wolff managed to expand the Workgroup Wadden Sea with all of the leading Wadden Sea researchers from the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. The group ranged from civil engineers, geologists, morphologists and fishery experts to ecologists of various plumage. The results of this collaboration went further than the publication of the reference work Ecology of the Wadden Sea and continued long after this book was released. The collaboration made a significant contribution to the national and international policy for, and management of, the Wadden Sea. It’s great that a new generation of Wadden Sea researchers will now also come across Wim Wolff outside of his publications.”

Dr Norbert Dankers (in succession; Texel location of RIN, IBN, Alterra, Imares, Wageningen Marine Research)
Ecology of the Waddensea

You can read more about Wim Wolff’s work in the In memorials that were published after his death by NIOZ  and WUR.