Curriculum vitae

Nico M. van Straalen
Em. Professor of Animal Ecology
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
De Boelelaan 1085
1081 HV Amsterdam

web address:

Born : 27 November 1951, Berkhout, The Netherlands
Sex : male
Marital Status : married, two children


1965-1970secondary school: gymnasium b,
College Hageveld, Heemstede
1970-1979study Biology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
specializations: biophysics, endocrinology, biomathematics, didactics


1974-1978student-assistant, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
1979-1982PhD student, Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO)
1982-1988lecturer, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
1988-1992senior lecturer, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
1992-2017full professor of Animal Ecology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
2011-2012dean, Amsterdam Graduate School of Life Sciences (0.2 fte)
2015-2017vice dean for education, ad interim dean, Faculty of Science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Side activities

Member of the city council Edam-Volendam, fraction GroenLinks (2010-2023)

Chair of the board of Glasaal Volendam BV, a private enterprise that aims to culture European glass eel (young Anguilla anguilla) in an aquaculture setting (2020-present)

Secretary of Roman Catholic Church St. Nicolaaskerk Edam



(*course leader, #significant contribution (> 30%)

  • courses on Comparative Animal Morphology, Faunistics, Ecology, Population Biology (student-assistant)
  • courses on Ecotoxicology for 3rd year Biology students (1989 – 1993)*
  • summer course on physics for students entering the biology programme (1989 – 1994)*
  • course on General Ecology for 1st year Biology and Medical Biology students (1990 – 1996)#
  • course on Evolutionary Biology for 1st year Biology and Medical Biology students, including zoology and botany practicals (1995 – 2007)*
  • course on Evolution and Diversity of Life for 1st year Biology students (2008 – present)#
  • course on Health and Environment for 1st year students of Biomedical Sciences and Health Science (1997 – 2009)#
  • courses on Human Evolution and Evolutionary Developmental Biology for 1st year students of Biomedical Sciences (2004 – present)*#
  • course on Human Evolution optional for 3rd year Biology and Biomedical Science students (1999 – present)*
  • course on Animal Physiology for 2nd year Biology students (2009 – present)*
  • course on Spatial Ecology and Global Change for MSc Ecology students (2005 – 2014)#
  • advanced PhD course “Principles of Ecological Genomics” (2006, 2009, 2011)
  • honours course on the Origin of Life (2011 – present, biannually)*
  • HOVO course on the Tree of Life (starting 2018)*
  • invited lecturer for international advanced courses on Ecotoxicology, Soil Ecology and Ecogenomics (EERO, PHLO, University of Siena, University of Coimbra, Leira University)
  • invited lecturer for a course on Big History (ISVW, 2015, 2016)
  • course on human evolution for secondary school teachers (internet module, eWISE)
  • courses on various topics for HOVO Amsterdam and HOVO Leiden (2018-present)


  • awarded with the ABC Laboratories/SETAC-Europe Environmental Education Award (1998)
  • best (student-elected) lecturer of faculty (2002)


  • “Leerboek Oectoxicologie (VU Uitgeverij, 1991, 1993), with J.A.C. Verkleij
  • “An Introduction to Ecological Genomics” (Oxford University Press, 2006, 2nd 2012), with D. Roelofs
  • “Evolueren wij nog?” (Amsterdam University Press, 2017), with D. Roelofs
  • “Human Evolution and Development” (Amsterdam University Press, 2019), with D. Roelofs
  • “Encyclopedie van de evolutiebiologie” (Ensie, Nijmegen, 2019)
  • ” Environmental Toxicology” – open online textbook, with C.A.M. van Gestel and others


  • 1979 – 1983: PhD study on comparative demography of Collembola populations (promotor: Prof.dr. E.N.G. Joosse, thesis defence 26 January 1983)
  • 1983 – 1999: research on ecotoxicology, focusing on toxicity, kinetics, mode of action and adaptation in response to heavy metals and PAH in soil invertebrates (springtails, isopods, oribatids)
  • 1999 – 2017: research on molecular stress ecology and ecological genomics, focusing on mechanisms of metal tolerance and induction of genome-wide stress responses in a model species of springtail
  • applied and obtained research funds from various national and international organisations (NWO, VROM, STW, EERO, EU, NATO, WOTRO, BSik)
  • registered EUROTOX toxicologist (Association of European Toxicologists and European Societies of Toxicology)
  • member of the Faculty of 1000 – Biology (2008-2012)

Current research profile

  • I am greatly interested in the evolution of body plans in the animal kingdom, phylogenetic reconstruction of the tree of life, and the origin of life
  • I have a special interest in human evolution (paleontology, human genetic variation and human development).
  • Running book projects:
    • “Evolutie van het menselijk lichaam in 50 korte verhalen”
    • “Encyclopedie van de evolutiebiologie, deel II”
    • “De oorsprong van het leven”
  • I am chair of the board of Glasaal Volendam BV, a private enterprise that aims to culture European glass eel (young Anguilla anguilla) in a closed aquaculture environment. I supervise five biological researchers and contribute to the funding strategy of the company. The company is still in a start-up phase.

Supervision of PhD students

(see separate list)
Co-promotor 2x, Promotor: 75x (up to 2022)

Administration and professional societies

In the university

  • vice-dean for education, faculty of Science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (2015 – 2017)
  • head of department of Animal Ecology (1992 – 2014)
  • director of the Department of Ecology and Ecotoxicology (1992-1998), and the Institute of Ecological Science (1998 – 2001)
  • member of Biology Faculty Council, Vrije Universiteit (1990-1993)
  • director of the interfaculty research institute Amsterdam Centre of Environmental Science (1995 – 2000)
  • director of the BSc and MSc Biology programme at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam (2006 – 2015)


  • board member of the national Research School on Environmental Science (SENSE) (1995 – 2000)
  • general director of the national Research School on Environmental Science (SENSE) (2001 – 2004)
  • member of advisory committees: Netherlands Integrated Soil Research Programme (1990 – 1996), Dutch Research Programme on in situ Sanitation of Soils (1994 – 1997), Stimulation Programme on System-oriented Ecotoxicology (SSEO) (2002 – 2007)
  • member and chair of the advisory Board for the Post-doctoral Education Programme in Toxicology (2005 – 2011)
  • member of the Technical Soil Protection Committee (1988 – 1995)
  • member of the Dutch Health Council (1992 – 2002)
  • member of the registration committee of toxicology for the Netherlands Society of Toxicology (2003 – 2007)
  • member of the scientific advisory board for the Institute of Wetland Research, Radboud University, Nijmegen (2006 – 2008)
  • member of the Advisory board of the Institute of Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), University of Utrecht (2005 – 2009)
  • chair of the peer review committee for the Centre for Environmental Science, Leiden (2006)
  • co-ordinator for the Dutch Ecogenomics consortium (2004 – 2011)
  • chair of the board of the Royal Dutch Zoological Society (2006 – 2012), chair of the BENELUX Congress of Zoology (2007)
  • chair of the NWO programme Ecology Regarding Genetically Modified Organisms (ERGO) (2006 – 2012)
  • member of the Biological Council KNAW (Biologische Raad) (2004 – 2007)
  • member of the Council for Earth and Life Sciences KNAW (2008 – present)
  • chair of the scientific advisory board for the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO – KNAW) (2007 – 2012)
  • chair of the peer review committee for the Institute of Water and Wetland Research (IWWR, Radboud University Nijmegen) (2009)
  • member of the scientific peer review committee for the Institute of Marine Research and Ecosystem Studies (Wageningen IMARES) (2009, 2013)
  • member of the advisory board of Wageningen Marine Research
  • chair of the board of the Netherlands Society for Toxicology (2012 – 2014)
  • chair of the Agricultural Subcommittee of the Commission on Genetic Modification (COGEM) (2012 – present)
  • member of the peer review committee for WIAS research school, Wageningen (2012)
  • chair of the International Advisory Board of WIAS research school, Wageningen (2013 – present)
  • member of the peer review committee for Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden (2014)


  • member of the SETAC-Europe Council (1988-1992), chair of the SETAC-Europe Education Committee (1990-1996)
  • chair of the scientific committee for SETAC-Europe annual meetings (Sheffield, 1991, 350 delegates; Amsterdam, 1997, 700 delegates)
  • member of the Ecotoxicity Advisory Panel of the International Lead Zinc Association, the International Copper Association and the Nickel Producers Environmental Research Association (1997 – 2000)
  • advisor for the programme on Human and Ecological Risk Assessment on ingredients of household cleaning products (2001 -2005)
  • member of the advisory boards of the National Environmental Research Institute, Denmark, the Environment Agency, United Kingdom, and the Institute of Environmental Sciences, Krakow, Poland
  • member of the scientific committee of the SETAC-Europe congress, Barcelona, 3 -7 May, 2015
  • member of the scientific committee of the XVIth IUTOX congress, Maastricht, 2022

Congress lectures

  • Invited for a key-note lecture on an international congress: ~38 times
  • Invited for “outreach” lectures on evolution and ecology on countless occasions; special mention: science lecture at the Lowlands Festival (2012)


  • Member of the editorial board and regular reviewer for the journals Pedobiologia, Applied Soil Ecology and Environment International
  • Occasional reviewer for Environmental Science and Technology, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, Ecotoxicology, Australasian Journal of Ecotoxicology, Environmental Pollution, Water, Air and Soil Pollution, Science of the Total Environment, Chemosphere, Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, Soil Biology and Biochemistry, European Journal of Soil Biology, Journal of Applied Ecology, Journal of Ecology, Functional Ecology, Oikos, Oecologia, Biological Reviews, Journal of Theoretical Biology, Entomologia experimentalis et applicata, Neotropical Entomology, Journal of Insect Physiology, Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Heredity, BMC Molecular Biology, BMC Genomics, Nature Reviews Genetics

Activities with developing countries

  • project officer for the “Biology Faculty Staff Development Programme” (Vrije Universiteit, UKSW, Salatiga, Indonesia) (1990-1996)
  • coordinator of the MSc programme for students from South-East Asia at the Vrije Universiteit (1990-1996)
  • project officer for the Biology part of the MHO-3 programme (Basic Science, Cantho University, Vietnam) (1996-2000)

Other international contacts

  • participated in EU-funded projects with colleagues in Silkeborg (Dr. H. Løkke), Lund (Dr. S. Rundgren), Innsbruck (Dr. R. Dallinger), Monks Wood (Dr. J. Weeks), Coimbra (Dr. J.P. Sousa), Peniche (Dr. M. Lemos)
  • collaborated with the All-Russian Research Institute of Nature Protection (Dr. R.O. Butovsky, Dr. A.D. Pokarzhevskii), supported by EERO, NATO and NWO
  • consultant for FAO-project on side-effects of anti-locust insecticides, Dakar, Senegal (1999)
  • supervision of joint PhD students from Satya Wacana Christian University, Salatiga (Indonesia), Soegijapranata Catholic University Semarang (Indonesia), University of Tanta (Egypt), Jagiellonian University, Krakow (Poland), Yokohoma National University (Japan), Abomey-Calavi University, Cotonou (Benin), University of Rennes (France), University of Coimbra (Portugal), Leira University (Portugal), University of Siena (Italy), Technical University of Istanbul (Turkey).
  • invited opponent for PhD defences on countless occasions


  • English: effective operational profiency (CEF level C1, Oxford Quick Placement Test Result: 88 out of 100)
  • French, German, Indonesian: a little

Five recent key publications

  • Faddeeva-Vakhrusheva, A., Kraaijeveld, K., Derks, M.F.L., Yahya Anvar, S., Agamennone, V., Suring, W., Kampfraath, A.A., Ellers, J., Le Ngoc, G., Van Gestel, C.A.M., Mariën, J., Smit, S., Van Straalen, N.M. & Roelofs, D. (2017) Coping with living in the soil: the genome of the parthenogenetic springtail Folsomia candida. BMC Genomics, 18, 493.
  • Janssens, T.K.S., Del Rio Lopez, R., Mariën, J., Timmermans, M.J.T.N., Montagne-Wajer, M., Van Straalen, N.M. & Roelofs, D. (2008) Comparative population analysis of metallothionein promoter alleles suggests stress-induced microevolution in the field. Environmental Science and Technology, 42, 3873-3878.
  • Suring, W., Meusemann, K., Blanke, A., Mariën, J., Schol, T., Agamennone, V., Faddeeva-Vakhrusheva, A., Berg, M.P., The 1KITE Basal Hexapod Consortium, Brouwer, A., Van Straalen, N.M. & Roelofs, D. (2017) Evolutionary ecology of beta-lactam gene clusters in animals. Molecular Ecology, 26, 3217-3229.
  • Van der Heijden, M.G.A., Bardgett, R.D., & Van Straalen, N.M. (2008) The unseen majority: soil microbes as drivers of plant diversity and productivity in terrestrial ecosystems. Ecology Letters 11, 296-310.
  • Van Straalen, N.M. (2023) Soil Invertebrates. Kaleidoscope of Adaptations, CRC Press. Boca Raton

(complete list of publications, see here)

Areas of special interest

  • Ecological genomics (2nd ed. of textbook published 2012, International PhD course
  • Human evolution (Dutch textbook published 2017, public lectures, debate events)
  • Weekly newspaper column (Noordhollands Dagblad) on various aspects of biology (evolution, toxicology, human behaviour), 2007-2023, continued on my website

Nieuw: Boek over het bodemleven

Bestel nu op

Recente columns

Eerstvolgende lezing

23 oktober 2024
De bodem: biodiversiteit onder het maaiveld

Lezing voor KNNV Alkmaar Den Helder

De bodem is het medium waarop we leven en waarvan onze voedselproductie afhankelijk is. Tegelijkertijd wordt de bodemgezondheid over de hele wereld bedreigd door erosie, verdroging, overdadige afdekking, stikstofdepositie en vervuiling. Er is een internationale beweging gaande onder de kreet: “Red onze bodems!” De Europese Unie heeft eindelijk een Kaderrichtlijn Bodem aangenomen. Maar de bodem krijgt nog niet de bescherming die ze verdient. Onder het maaiveld leeft een complexe wereld van bacteriën, schimmels en kleine kruipende en gravende dieren. Ze maken gangen en tunnels, ze vreten humus en dode planten, ze knabbelen aan plantenwortels en verwerken kadavers en mest. Hun activiteit is essentieel om de bodem gezond te houden en de kringlopen in de natuur te ondersteunen. Bovendien zijn er vele ziekteverwekkers die tijdens een deel van hun leven in de bodem verkeren. Daarom is goed bodembeheer essentieel voor de menselijke gezondheid.

Nico van Straalen