I obtained my PhD at the Laboratory of Plant Systematics (KU Leuven, Belgium) in 2005, after which I have spent four postdoc years in the same lab and one postdoc year at the National Herbarium of the Netherlands (NHN, Leiden University). In 2010, I was appointed as assistant professor (tenure tracker) at the NHN, and moved to Naturalis Biodiversity Center (Leiden, The Netherlands) as permanent researcher in 2014, where I was promoted as senior researcher in 2018.
During my PhD period (2000-2005), I studied evolutionary and ecological signals in the wood anatomy of Ericales, an order of flowering plants. My postdoc internship in the Sperry lab taught me how to perform water flow measurements in stems, which enabled me to functionally interpret wood anatomical observations with respect to drought. Another line of research that has always fascinated me as an evolutionary biologist is to understand why plants became woody during their evolutionary history and what are the genes that have induced wood formation in all these independently lineages. For an overview of my publications, see here.
My current research relevant to Plant.ID relates to my wood anatomical background. Together with my colleague prof. Fons Verbeek (Leiden University and promotor of ESR15) and dr. Barbara Gravendeel (Naturalis) we co-supervise ESR15. This 4y-PhD project aims to identify wood samples of ebony that are processed in music instruments based on wood anatomy combined with computer vision and chemical profiling using DART TOF MS. We hope to identify the woods of the Malagasy species (CITES protected) with woods from outside Madagascar (not protected), which would provide opportunities to develop a semi-automated tool that can help custom officers to detect illegally traded ebony woods, which can hopefully be expanded to other woods in the future. That is why our project is also linked to the Wildlife Justice Commission (Sarah Stoner) and to ESR12 on illegal logging of African trees.