Documentary ‘Leatherback’

In 2021 I was happy to be involved in the making of a documentary with Artist Mirthe Dokter, together with Rian van den Boom and others.

This unconventional docu shows an intriguing portrait of the leatherback sea turtle, threatened with extinction. In Ghana, artist Mirthe meets ‘Uncle Raf’, the leader of a turtle conservationists team in a small fishing town. Slowly, she gets entangled in the web of all the difficulties that come with protecting this ancient animal. Virtual artists Mirthe records her story in a painted diary, that she shares with a marine ecologist, Marjolijn, from the Netherlands.

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Restoring Bonaire’s seagrasses and mangroves a checkerboard at a time

Seagrass and Mangroves on Bonaire can use a helping hand. Water quality, tourists (trampling), Sargassum tides and more, have caused rapid decline of seagrasses and mangroves. Based on results from an earlier pilot, last week we launched a larger scale seagrass restoration project to help counter this decline. And also set up pilots to test the use of a new method for mangrove restoration alongside other ongoing methods. We used biodegradable mats that need only a little amount of donor material. The structure of these mats stabilize the sediment for the young plants to facilitate settlement, mimicking the natural effect of nature root mats.

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Savannas of the sea: “Pristine seagrass meadows were often heavily grazed”

WUR press release:

Seagrasses are important for our coastal protection, biodiversity and carbon sequestration. But contrary to popular belief, dense, waving seagrass meadows with long foliage are not necessarily more natural. In a new publication in Nature Ecology & Evolution, researchers from Wageningen University & Research and Radboud University argue for a more nuanced picture of natural seagrass meadows being dense vegetation interspersed with areas grazed by sea turtles. This calls for a change in our nature management practices.

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The price turtles pay for your perfect vacation photo

Unregulated feeding of marine wildlife by tour operators impacts the natural behavior & well-being of sea #turtles. So proud that @FeeSmulders paper (w/ @CORE_Science3, Justin Campbell and myself) is now featured in @nytimes (read this here) photo @ShaneGrossPhoto. Also see the video abstract and WUR press release below.

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Can we improve coastal restoration by temporarily imitating nature? Yes we can!

Coastal ecosystems are in rapid decline around the world. Restoring them is very expensive and is often unsuccessful. But together with an international team of researchers we discovered a way of increasing restoration success of salt marshes and seagrass meadows, using biodegradable mats. Our findings are just published in Nature Communications (22 July 2020)

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Students investigating tropical marine ecosystems on Bonaire

This autumn 6 WUR students will spend some months in Bonaire to investigate different aspects tropical coastal ecosystems together with Fee and Luuk. Subjects range from impacts of surfers on sea turtles, to shark-turtle interactions, impact of sargassum on mangroves and corals, and bioturbation and seagrasses. Students also got introduced into the sea turtle monitoring protocols of Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire. And we went out to the reef for an underwater excursion. Great fun.

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