Universiteit Leiden

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Willem Meilink

PhD candidate / contract

W.R.M. Meilink MSc
+31 71 527 4882

The last 5 years I have been teaching biology at Farelcollege in Ridderkerk. During my studies I studied biology in Leiden (Bachelor) and Herpetology in Brussels (Master). In 2020 I obtained the ‘promotiebeurs voor leraren’ grant. I will start my research in the fall of 2021.

More information about Willem Meilink


A balanced lethal system poses an evolutionary enigma, because half of reproductive output is irrevocably lost! We know that the individuals that survive always carry two distinct forms of a particular chromosome. If certain crucial genes are only present on one or the other chromosome form, this would explain why offspring that inherit the same chromosome form from both their parents – 50% according to Mendelian inheritance – are inviable. I focus on the most famous balanced lethal system, observed in Triturus newts, and employ modern genomic techniques to test the hypothesis that candidate genes are present as single copy (i.e. hemizygous).

Brief biography

From early childhood I have been fascinated by amphibians. At an early age I looked for frogs in our garden pond and their lifecycle already fascinated me enormously. Since the age of 7 I have had my pet newt – a Spanish ribbed newt – Godzilla.

My fascination with amphibians prompted me to study biology and it was during my bachelor that I got my first experience with newts in the wild during my fieldwork in France. I performed this fieldwork under the supervision of Annie Zuiderwijk and Pim Arntzen.

During my bachelor I also did an education minor which lead to my teachers degree.

For my master I decided to study herpetology in Brussels, the branch of zoology specializing for amphibians and reptiles. Once more, I performed fieldwork and got some papers out of my studies. For my master thesis I studied the hybridization between the native crested newt (Triturus cristatus) and its Italian congener (T. carnifex) under the supervision of Ben Wielstra. My master thesis was published in Biological Conservation (Meilink et al., 2015), and I presented my results at several herpetological congresses.

I started teaching biology after my studies. This year is my fifth year as a teacher, and I love my work tremendously. However, although my daily life is filled with many beautiful and emotional moments, some of which rarely offered by science, it does lack a certain challenge for the cognitive mind that I notice I miss in my job. That prompted me to write a research proposal that would allow me to once more intertwine teaching and research. I have been honoured with the grant: promotiebeurs voor leraren, which will allow me to perform research. At the University of Leiden and Naturalis I will study one of the biggest evolutionary mysteries, balanced lethal systems, of which the most famous example coincidentally is found in a particular group of newts.


Promotiebeurs voor leraren: Aanvraagronde 2020 I

Key publications

Arntzen, J.W., Abrahams, C., Meilink, W.R.M., Iosif, R., Zuiderwijk, A. Amphibian decline, pond loss and reduced population connectivity under agricultural intensification over a 38 year period. Biodiversity Conservation. 26:1411-1430. 2017.

Meilink, W.R.M., Arntzen, J.W., van Delft, J.J.C.W., Wielstra, B. Genetic pollution of a native threatened crested newt species through hybridization with an invasive congener in the Netherlands. Biological Conservation. 184. 145-153. 2015.

Wielstra B., Duijm E., Lagler P., Lammers Y., Meilink W.R.M., Ziermann J., Arntzen J.W. Tagged amplicon sequencing of transcriptome-based genetic markers for Triturus newts using the Ion Torrent next-generation sequencing platform. Molecular Ecology Resources. 14. 1080-1089. 2014.

PhD candidate / contract

  • Science
  • Instituut Biologie Leiden
  • IBL Animal Sciences

Work address

Sylviusweg 72
2333 BE Leiden
Room number 3.5.17



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