Prof. Nicole de Voogd is a senior researcher at Naturalis and Endowed Professor at the University of Leiden. Nicole is a marine biologist and taxonomist, studying the role sponges play in coral reef ecosystems.
Prof. De Voogd has discovered and described more than 80 new species of sponges since 2002. Nicole has a special interest in the sponges’ ability to create substances that may be useful as drugs to treat serious diseases, such as cancer. This is one of the areas of study in which she earned her PhD at the University of Amsterdam in 2005. Some of the questions she hopes to answer include: what biological function do the pharmaceutical substances have, and whether the symbiotic bacteria in the sponges play a role in their production. She would also like to know which local circumstances, such as pollution, may have an influence on the degree to which sponges act as chemical factories.
In previous expeditions with the Curasub, Nicole studied the depth distribution of microbial communities in sponges, in which she also identified which sponges lived at greater depths. In the process, she discovered two potentially new species. During the next expedition to Curaçao, Nicole will once again descend into the unknown world to identify sponge communities and their symbiotic bacteria.