Professor Rolf Bak receives prestigious ISRS Award for coral research

4 June 2018

The International Society for Reef Science (ISRS) has announced that Professor Rolf Bak has been awarded an Eminence in Research Award in recognition for the exceptional research that he has conducted over the course of his academic career. Until he retired, Rolf Bak was Professor by Special Appointment of Tropical Marine Biology at the UvA.

Rolf Bak has worked on coral reefs worldwide for almost 40 years. His scientific interest is the ecological functioning (growth, mortality, reproduction) of corals and of the animals and plants that live in interaction with corals. Although the majority of the work of Rolf Bak and his colleagues, students and PhD candidates takes place in the former Netherlands Antilles, on the islands of Curaçao and Bonaire in particular, he has undertaken observations and dives the world over.

From 1989, he was a professor at the University of Amsterdam. For many years he led the coral reef programme of the Caribbean Marine Biological Institute on Curaçao. Since 2004, he has worked at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, NIOZ, where his scientific interest broadened through his increasing interest in microorganisms, although he was also head of the tropical coral research group.

coral reef curacao

Coral reef Curacao, c: NIOZ/Doug Finny

Coral research on Curaçao and Bonaire

In 1973, Rolf Bak launched the longest-running monitoring system study into the status of corals on Curaçao and Bonaire. Over the years, there has been a marked decrease in the coral coverage averages. Rolf Bak: 'When I started the research back in 1973, the average coral coverage for the entire island was between 35 and 45 per cent. Over the years, this average has fallen sharply and now stands at 15 per cent, apart from Oostpunt where, over the last 20 years, there has been a slight increase in the coral. The Oostpunt reef is unique because it still has coral coverage of around 45 per cent.’

International Society for Reef Science (ISRS)

Every year, a coral reef researcher is selected for the Eminence in Research Award, which is awarded to a coral reef researcher who has conducted exceptional coral research over a very long period. The award is conferred by ISRS, a scientific organisation comprising of (around 3,000) coral reef biologists and geologists worldwide. The Society aims to promote research around the stress caused to coral reefs by local pollution and global warming of oceans, amongst other things. With the Award, Rolf Bak has also been made a lifelong ISRS Fellow.


Published by  Faculty of Science