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How to find us prof. dr. ir. C. (Chris) Smit

prof. dr. ir. C. Smit

Associate Professor in Ecologie en Natuurbeheer

I am currently (co)supervising 7 PhD students and usually between 5-10 MSc students. All projects deal with the question how natural communities are shaped by interactions with other species (e.g. plants, herbivores, predators) and the abiotic environment. 

The PhD project of Rik Veldhuis ( ) is on the relationship between atmospheric deposition, soil chemistry, mycorrhiza, and the recruitment and vitality of the evergreen shrub juniper (Juniperus communis). Aim of this project is to 1) understand how atmospheric deposition affects the quality, vitality and development of populations of the endangered common juniper, in order to 2) determine which management interventions could best be applied to improve soil chemistry and thus the sustainable recovery of juniper populations.  The project is a collaboration between University of Groningen, B-Ware / University of Nijmegen and Ghent University. 

The PhD project of Megan Korte ( deals with the evolutionary consequences of facilitative plant - plant interactions. Megan's model species is the annual arid grass Brachypodium distachyon which she uses for descriptive and experimental field and greenhouse studies (mostly carried out in southern Spain) and modelling work.

The PhD project of Bjorn Mols ( is about how predators and humans jointly and in isolation create a landscape of fear for ungulates with cascading impacts on the vegetation. Bjorns work entails comparative and experimental field studies in the Bialowieza Primeval Forest in Poland, the Bavarian Forest in Germany, and the Veluwezoom in the Netherlands. 

The PhD project of Lisa Sanchez ( applies a novel interdisciplinary approach of science and art/design communication to landscape (time) scale ecological processes in rewilding projects and trophic cascades (e.g. Bialowieza Primeval Forest as case study). The aim is to improve our scientific understanding of these processes, and at the same time raise interest and accurately help the broadening up towards public understanding and awareness.

The PhD project of Nicolas Velasco (

The PhD project of Isabelle Buyens (

Completed projects: 

The PhD project of Annelies van Ginkel ( is a joint project with the Mammal Research Institute in Poland (Dries Kuijper, where we aim to test the combined impacts of wolves and coarse woody debris on recruitment of various tree species through altered behaviour in red deer (ecology of fear theory). Field work is predominantly performed in the famous undisturbed primeval Bialowieza forest in Poland.  

The PhD project of Qingqing Chen ( focuses at the evolutionary consequences of positive plant-plant interactions, and studies the impacts of facilitation on the phenotypic variation and genotypic population structure of ‘protégé’ plants that are being facilitated by ‘nurse’ plants. This is done in a series of lab and field experiments with different environmental stress levels (drought, salinity) for multiple generations of different varieties and ecotypes of protégé plants, in the presence and absence of nurse species.  

The PhD project of Mathias Dillen ( in cooperation with UGhent (Kris Verheyen) focused on the interplay of biodiversity and environmental stress for ecosystem functioning, notably herbivory on tree saplings. This project was embedded within the larger FORBIO experiment set-up in three forest sites across Belgium ( Mathias got his PhD degree in September 2017.

The Postdoc project of Georgette Lagendijk ( aimed at finding an optimal grazing regime for biodiversity conservation, including various trophic levels (plants, invertebrates, rodents, birds). In a large grazing experiment in the salt marshes of Noord Friesland Buitendijks five different grazing regimes were applied: horse and cattle grazing at two stocking densities each (0.5 animals ha-1, 1 animal ha-1), and a rotational grazing regime (one fallow year followed by 1 cattle ha-1). This project focused at the long term effects of the various grazing regimes on the different trophic levels, with particular attention at the effects of the rotational grazing regime.

The PhD project of Mart Verwijmeren ( in collaboration with Utrecht University (Max Rietkerk) dealt with plant-plant interactions along a gradient of environmental stress (drought) in a grazed, arid ecosytem in the southeast of Spain. Mart combined experimental field studies (enclosure studies with goats and rabbits) and observational field studies of plant co-occurence, with modeling studies, with the aim to understand and prevent future land degradation, and catastrophic shifts, in arid ecosytems. Mart got his PhD degree in December 2016.

The PhD project of Ruth Howison ( dealt with the dynamics of vegetation mosaics in grazed ecosystems, and the complex feedback-loops between large herbivores, plant communities and soil macrofauna. Ruth studied the striking similarity between, and processes behind, the vegetation mosaics at the Dutch salt marshes and those in the savannas of South-Africa. Ruth successfully defended in January 2016.

The PhD project of Jasper Ruifrok 'Herbivore-mediated structural diversty of vegetation' comprised of a large multifactorial field experiment in the Oostvaardersplassen with transplanted tree saplings in stepwise exclosures (excluding horses and cattle, or red deer), as well as descriptive and modelling studies on the impact of large herbivores, and their predators, on dynamics and spatial heterogeneity in vegetation structure in this, and other, grazed ecosystems. Jasper successfully defended his thesis in March 2014. 

Laatst gewijzigd:11 maart 2021 14:00

Contact information

room 05.66