Ecologist Michiel Veldhuis is Discoverer of Year 2020

Michiel Veldhuis received the most public votes for the C.J. Kok Public Award and may therefore call himself Discoverer of the Year. Veldhuis researches how climate change affects savannah ecosystems in Africa and how we can protect them.

In the voting, Veldhuis managed to stay ahead of seven other nominees. Chemist Elliot Mock came in second and physicist Stefania Ketzetzi finished third. Besides votes from colleagues, Veldhuis also received many votes from outside his institute. In total, 1570 people voted for one of the nominees.

Lions and prey animals

The ecologist discovered that lions limit their prey, such as zebra and gnu, in their options for adapting to global warming. Normally, the herbivores could opt for grazing during the cooler nights. But if they live in an area with lions – which are also mainly active during the cool nights – they are forced to forage for food at hotter times of the day. With his discovery, Veldhuis demonstrated that climate change affects not only individual species but also the relationships between species.

About Michiel Veldhuis

Since his Biology Master’s in Groningen, Michiel Veldhuis (1985) has dedicated his research to African wildlife. His interest may stem from his birthplace in Zambia, where he lived for the first two years of his life and which he revisited when he was fifteen years old. After finishing his PhD in Groningen on South African ecosystems, he carried out postdoc projects in Groningen and Princeton (US) on human-nature interactions in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in Tanzania and Kenya. He came to Leiden in 2019, to continue his research as assistant professor of Environmental Ecology. In 2020, he received a KNAW Early Career Award.

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