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Ecologist Michiel Veldhuis is the Discoverer of the 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.

C.J. Kok Public Award

For the annual C.J. Kok Public Award, each of the eight institutes nominates one researcher that has made a remarkable discovery that year, hence the popular name ‘Discoverer of the Year’ for the winner of the award. The prize is awarded after a public vote. Internal votes, so votes from colleagues from the own institute, are weighted to correct for institute size. The C.J. Kok Public Award consists of 2,500 euros.

Other Faculty awards

In addition to the public award, there are three other Faculty awards. Last week, Renske Donkers received the Young Star Award for her bachelor’s thesis on modelling droplet formation. Her results are important for very precise printers and drug delivery in the body. 

Statistician Anja Rüten-Budde wrote the best dissertation of 2020 according to the jury and won the C.J. Kok Jury Award. Her PhD thesis resulted in an app that helps patients with soft tissue sarcoma and their doctors to make well-considered choices about the treatment. 

Finally, no less than three lecturers were awarded the title Teacher of the Year: Jörg Meyer, Thomas Nagler and Alexander van Oudenhoven. Students of our Faculty also wanted to thank all lecturers for their great efforts in times of corona, something they did with the video below:

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