Niels van der Windt

Photograph of Niels van der Windt

My research focuses on the symbiosis between sponges and microbes and their potential for natural product discovery as part of the European MARBLES project. Sponges and their symbiotic microbes are well known for their natural product producing capabilities. By studying the diversity of these microbes in sponges from different ecosystems such as the deep sea and coral reefs, we can identify promising ecosystems to sustainably harvest novel compounds from marine ecosystems and thus direct the search for natural products.


Sponges, Marine Biodiversity, Molecular Biology, Microbial Communities, Genomics, Ecology, Taxonomy, Natural Products


My interest lies in sponges and their complex interactions with microbes and the environment. Using an integrative approach I study functional microbial diversity within sponges and biosynthetic gene cluster diversity.

Early on in my studies I got very interested in marine biology, particularly sponges. I got fascinated by their simplistic body plan, but very complex interactions with the environment and their importance for ecosystem functioning. During several studies I worked on sponge taxonomy, ecology and genetics. 

For my PhD project I use an integrative approach by coupling metabarcoding, metagenomics and metatranscriptomics to investigate functional microbial diversity within sponges and biosynthetic gene cluster diversity. By doing so, I aim to identify the most promising ecosystems for natural product discovery in sponges. 

Foto spons
Foto spons


My research focusses on:

  • Biodiversity of marine sponges and their symbionts
  • Investigating microbial communities in sponges on a global scale
  • Linking microbial communities to biosynthetic gene cluster diversity
  • Assessing the impact of environmental conditions on the microbial community composition and gene expression
Sponge microbial communities

Sponge microbial communities

Identifying the role and composition of Bacteria and other microbes in sponge host to gain a better understanding of the coral reef ecosystems and the role of Bacteria therein.
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researcher at sea

Marine biodiversity

Our seas and oceans are changing rapidly: increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations cause warming, acidification, and deoxyxenation at rates higher than in the previous millions of years. These global challenges interact with regional and local processes…
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Aplysina fistularis sponge

MARBLES Useful molecules from the sea

The MARBLES Project aims to develop new methods for the sustainable collection and use of biological resources from marine environments and assess their commercial potential. Together we will harness the unexplored potential of marine microorganisms as…
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  • van der Windt, N., van der Ent, E., Ambo-Rappe, R., & de Voogd, N. J. (2020). Presence and Genetic Identity of Symbiodiniaceae in the Bioeroding Sponge Genera Cliona and Spheciospongia (Clionaidae) in the Spermonde Archipelago (SW Sulawesi), Indonesia. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 8.

All publications

In the

  • In 2018 our group went on fieldwork in the Spermonde Archipelago, Indonesia. This video was made to show our work in the field.
Foto onderwater