Belgium is my home. I work at the University of Antwerp and when I am hiding from the cold and darkness of the Arctic winter, I spend all my working days behind the computer in my own little office there.
As a little bit of an extra to my PhD-research, I performed a small experiment on the field site of the campus, which brightened up the working days in the office. I made several gaps in a grassland vegetation and closely monitored microclimatic variation in temperature and other abiotic factors. This will be linked to growth and survival of gap invaders in winter and summer on different locations within the gaps. The experiment grew out to a big (recycled) greenhouse set-up with experimental drought in the summer of 2015, while we kept monitoring all abiotic conditions from the first row with iButtons, a thermal camera and soil moisture and light intensity sensors. We had some scary moments due to some crazy windy thunderstorms and burning heat waves, but in the end neither the rain or the sun did ruin our work and the beautiful summer weather actually improved the extreme conditions.
Local climate extremes also spark new research ideas. It is also here that I fulfil my teaching duties and collaborate with colleagues from the lab. Together, we work for example on litter composition in European forests, but also on species’ and environmental traits that promote invasion.
Even though Belgium has some strange sides (like – almost – going to the global climate conference in Paris without a climate agreement), it is a nice country too, so I occasionally post something about its beauty. I have a fondness for the animals at the ZOO (also here and here, and here for the incredible China special), the Belgian coastline, the city of Antwerp (with its awesome port, and where fifteen minutes is already amazing), Ghent and Brussels, the scattered war memorials and castle parks, and all the remaining natural beauty. The campus of the University itself is a beautiful green park, with horses, foals and birds everywhere (really everywhere). I like to provide the birds (and squirrels!) some food over winter time.
Nature itself gets more beautiful with every day you spend with it, as you slowly start to learn all the details about where to look. And those who go out every season, learn to appreciate every single one of them. Belgium’s spring flora in the understory is worth everybody’s admiration, especially in the world famous Hallerbos, but the trees itself are not less impressive, as are young ferns. Winter itself can be spring-like as well, and of course, there is a beautiful summer every now and then.
I also use Belgium to experiment a little bit with my camera. I for example used my own saxophone, my little kitchen garden and a sleeping cat as study objects.
And then there is the place where I live, with the most amazing support team one could imagine, cheering for every successful step in my PhD.
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