Department of Virology, Parasitology, and Immunology

The Department of Virology, Parasitology, and Immunology is led by professors Nauwynck, Vercruysse and Cox. The Laboratory of Virology studies, amongst others and in collaboration with the Artemia Reference Center, the virus-host interactions between the white spot syndrome virus and shrimps. Their goal is to find solutions for controlling the disease causing massive mortality in shrimps all over the world. The Laboratory of Immunology studies amongst others the active and passive immunity in dolphins to develop a vaccination against Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae.   

Evolutionary Morphology of Vertebrates

The Research Group Evolutionary Morphology of Vertebrates, led by professor Adriaens, studies the evolutionary morphology of (marine) vertebrates. Marine research topics include the reproduction of the European eel (self-sustaining aquaculture) and phenotypical variation in cranial morphology, the evolution of the feeding system of seahorses and study of its skeleton with possible industrial applications, and application of geometric morphometrics in the early detection of opercular deformities in the intensively reared gilthead sea bream.  

Research Group Morphology

The Research Group Morphology, led by professors Decostere and Van Den Broeck, studies the morphology of vertebrates, including fish, shellfish and marine mammals. Specific research topics include the influence of microorganisms or substances on gill tissue, because gill diseases are a production-limiting factor in aquaculture, and determining if pulse fishing can provide an ecological alternative for trawling. In cooperation with the Artemia Reference Center, the influence of microorganisms with probiotic effects on the development and morphology of the gastrointestinal system of marine larvae is studied.

Laboratory of Aquaculture and Artemia Reference Center

The Laboratory of Aquaculture and Artemia Reference Center, led by professors Sorgeloos and Bossier, has been involved in research on larviculture of fish and shellfish species of aquaculture interest. Initially, most research focused on the brine shrimp Artemia, as a food source for fish and shellfish larvae and in particular on culturing, natural occurrence, production techniques, strain characterisation, and nutritional value. Subsequently, research activities shifted also towards the production and nutritional manipulation of microalgae and rotifers with a main emphasis on lipids and vitamins C and E. Currently, more thorough research on the zootechnical, microbiological and immunological aspects of larviculture is performed.

Marine Biology Research Group

The Marine Biology Research Group, led by professors Vincx, Vanreusel and Moens, has a proven expertise in ecological and systematic research of marine benthic ecosystems worldwide with a focus on the study of patterns and processes of benthic biodiversity (from bacteria, Archaea, nematodes, copepods, polychaetes, bivalves, crustaceans, demersal fish,...). Benthic communities are analysed in relation to environmental changes by means of field sampling or by controlled lab and field experiments. The obtained data allow to quantify the functional responses of benthic organisms to e.g. temperature rises, ocean acidification, eutrophication, food quantity and quality, invasive species, trawling, windmills, coastal defence structures,… Furthermore, the obtained biodiversity patterns and individual responses of species are analysed in the context of ecosystem functioning, with a strong interaction between the biota, the environmental factors (both pelagic phase and seafloor) and the biogeochemical processes. The Marine Biology Research group generated long-term databases on the distribution of benthic communities that are relevant for marine conservation and management. Study sites: world-wide ranging from the intertidal and subtidal areas of the North Sea, intertidal mudflats along the Westerschelde estuary, tropical seagrass beds and mangrove forests, natural CO2 seepage sites to more extreme ecosystems like the deep sea, continental margins and polar regions.