Universiteit Leiden

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Fien Demuynck

PhD candidate

J.M. Demuynck
+31 71 527 5045

I am passionate about aquatic ecology, conservation and evolution, behavioural biology and global change. During my PhD, I am investigating the density and diversity of pelagic fish in and around offshore windfarms in the North Sea, more specifically related to the underwater acoustic conditions. This data will also be integrated with data on distribution of harbour porpoises around offshore windfarms. I will additionally be working on a project related to science communication in the final year of my PhD.

More information about Fien Demuynck


The majority of my PhD is imbedded in the interdisciplinary project APELAFICO: Acoustic ecology of PELAgic FIsh Communities, a study into the effects of construction and operation of wind farms. 

Offshore windfarms are extending worldwide and generate sound in the construction as well as the exploitation phase. However, knowledge gaps remain about the effects of these acoustic conditions on pelagic fish communities as well as the interaction with their main predator, the harbour porpoise. Both pelagic fish and harbour porpoise largely depend on underwater sound for their behaviour. The effects of the acoustic conditions of offshore windfarms may be complex and are not necessarily either negative or positive. Bottom-mounted echosounders, hydrophones and C-pods will be used to collect data on the presence of pelagic fish and harbour porpoise in and around offshore windfarm clusters in the North Sea at the Dutch-Belgian border. 

Additionally, the use of acoustic deterrent devices, in which sound is used to deter marine animals away from possible harmful exposure to extreme sounds (such as the pile-driving events of a windfarm), will be tested and improved. 

To look for acoustic stimuli that have the most response triggering potential in pelagic fish, we will use wild caught pelagic fish in basin studies at Stichting Zeeschelp (Kamperland, Zeeland). 

Wild caught young herring and sprat in a basin at Stichting Zeeschelp; underwater view during feeding

During my PhD, I am supervised by associate professor dr. H.W. Slabbekoorn (IBL) and prof. dr. C.J. ten Cate (IBL). I work within the international consortium associated with the APELAFICO project and in close collaboration with dr. J. Hubert (IBL). I collaborate with dr. Lise Docksaeter Silve (IMR) for the basin work at Stichting de Zeeschelp, dr. Elisabeth Debusschere (VLIZ) for the work at sea and dr. Benoit Berges (WMR) for processing echosounder data. I will additionally work with dr. Ionica Smeets (IBL) on a Science Communication research project. 


I obtained a master of Biology at KULeuven and followed the track of Ecology, Conservation and Evolution. For my master thesis, I studied life history traits and competition along an altitudinal gradient in three Scottish damselfly species, for which I went on an Erasmus Traineeship to Aberdeen University. 

After receiving my master degree in 2019, I worked as experimental manager in the stress physiology research group StressChron at Ghent University. I worked on the freshwater fish species common carp (Cyprinus carpio). 

In March 2021, I started my PhD on the acoustic ecology of pelagic fish and harbour porpoise in the North Sea at Leiden University. 


There are opportunities for BSc or MSc projects within or aligned to my research project. Feel free to contact me for more information.

PhD candidate

  • Science
  • Instituut Biologie Leiden
  • IBL Animal Sciences

Work address

Sylviusweg 72
2333 BE Leiden
Room number 7.4.15


  • No relevant ancillary activities
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