Fourteenth International Meiofauna Conference

Meiofauna research at Ghent University

The Nematology Research Group focuses on the development, stem cell regeneration, morphology, taxonomy, and ecology in a phylogenetic context. The major research organisms are nematodes, flatworms (Platyhelminthes) and Acoels.

Development: Diversity in embryonic development of different nematode species. We try to reveal evolutionary developmental patterns and the underlying communication mechanisms in the early embryo using a unique 4D microscope system and a UV laser ablation system.

Stem cells and regeneration: Flatworms (Platyhelminthes) and Acoels are known for their extraordinary regeneration capacity. Their unique totipotent stem cell system is studied in detail: the embryonic origin of these stem cells, germ line analysis, stem cell dynamics (activation, migration and differentiation of stem cells), regeneration and aging.

Morphology, taxonomy, phylogeny and ecology of nematodes
: Nematodes are extremely diverse, numerically important and display a key role in each habitat. A specific research question is how free-living nematodes evolve to diverse forms of plant-and animal parasites with complex host-associations. New nematode species are described and the “species complex problem” is tackled using a combination of morphological, morphometrical and molecular data. Extreme Nematology concerns the study of nematodes that survive under extreme conditions (e.g. in ultra deep, > 4 km, mines). Compost nematodes are analyzed as bio-indicators to measure the state and quality of compost.


Educational programmes supported by the Marine Biology Research Group

  • Bachelor/ Master in Biology

The Master of Science programme in Marine and Lacustrine sciences originates from a collaboration between several marine and lacustrine research groups respectively in Biology, Microbiology, Geology, Applied Biological Science, Civil Engineering and Law at Ghent University.
Collaboration in the field of research between several of these research groups has evoked the need for a multidisciplinary educational approach of different marine and lacustrine systems in order to train students to get a more integrated fundamental and applied knowledge of the marine and lacustrine environment in all its aspects (biological, geological, chemical). In addition knowledge of the exploitation of the sea and deep lakes, in terms of engineering, biological resources and the present policies are essential in order to get an integrated view of the relationship between system functioning and socio-economical activities.

Within this masters course collaboration takes place with experts from other renowned institutes and research groups outside Ghent University mainly in the field of chemistry, biogeochemistry, physical oceanography, modelling and fishery.


The Erasmus Mundus Master of Science in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (EMBC) is offered by a University consortium consisting of 6 universities all embedded in Marbef (Ghent University (Belgium), University of Bremen (Germany), University of the Algarve (Portugal), University Pierre et Marie Curie - Paris 006 (France), University of Oviedo (Spain) and University of Klaipèda (Lithuania)).

The study programme is divided in three thematic modules. A first module offers courses about understanding the structure and function of marine biodiversity. The second module focuses on tools for investigating marine biodiversity. The third module is related to conservation and restoration of marine biodiversity.

Student mobility is an integral part of this Master course. Students start in one of the first three Universities (Gent, Bremen or Algarve) for two semesters. For the third semester, students move to one of the group II Universities (Paris, Oviedo or Klaipèda). The research project for the thesis work is performed in one of the partner institutions or other institutes of the MarBEF- NoE.


The Master of Science in Nematology programme includes training and research on the morphology, systematics and biology of plant parasitic, insect parasitic and free-living nematodes. Emphasis is placed on the acquisition of microscopy techniques and accurate identification skills, aided by the availability of a virtually complete taxonomic library. The main purpose is to provide each student with the expertise required for conducting independent research in his or her home country. Major attention is given to crop protection and topics including environmental issues such as soil management (residues, groundwater), use of nematodes as bio-indicators for pollution of e.g. industrialised coastal areas, and development of tropical ecosystems (e.g. mangroves). A third aspect covered in particular is the latest techniques being developed for control of nematode pests, such as genetic manipulation.

The European Master of Science in Nematology (EUMAINE) is one of the Erasmus Mundus Master courses. The EUMAINE programme brings together some of the European leading Universities and Research Institutes active in Nematology and is offered by a network of 8 partners, consisting of 4 consortium partners and 4 supporting or satellite partners. Ghent University is the coordinating university. The aim of the course is to train students to become highly qualified nematologists with multidisciplinary knowledge in the diverse fields of Nematology through mobility to different Universities within Europe and with a well-integrated language and cultural experience.

The programme deals with fundamental as well as applied aspects of Nematology and concerns different groups of nematodes in all possible environments: natural soils, agricultural soils, aquatic sediments of freshwater, brackish or marine habitats, temperate and tropical regions.


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