Academy Job Shadow Days report

Marian Figge at NIOO

Marian Figge, a laboratory assistant for the bacteria collection at the Westerdijk Institute, shadowed Emilia Hannula, postdoc in terrestrial ecology at NIOO.

Container garden

Emilia and I had a very full programme on our Job Shadow day. In the morning, I visited NIOO and then Emilia accompanied me to the Westerdijk Institute to see where I work. We first had a cup of coffee and I was then given a guided tour of the various greenhouses and experimental plots. NIOO has a huge garden with different varieties of grass growing in plant containers. The researchers use molecular techniques to study the bacteria and fungi in the soil. Once a month, they take samples to see what’s changed in the interim. Besides plants, the garden also has birdcages so that NIOO researchers can study avian behaviour.


Emilia works mainly with molecular data and she gave me a tour of the lab. She let me see bacteria that are being cultivated in special pots containing methane. That matches my own interests and work, so this was really interesting to see. It was also nice to realise that many bacteria have yet to be discovered, or can’t be cultivated – at least not yet – because we don’t know enough about them.


Many of the research techniques applied at NIOO resemble the techniques that we use at the Westerdijk Institute. But while my institute zeroes in on fungi and bacteria, NIOO does much broader ecological research, mainly concerning the interaction between organisms. I hadn’t expected their research focus to be so broad, but I suppose it's only logical, since NIOO employs about four times as many people as the Westerdijk Institute.

Biodegradable coffee cups

I left with a good impression of Emilia’s work environment and the work she does. It was also nice to see that the building itself is ecologically and environmentally friendly, for example with biodegradable coffee cups and fruit trees in the garden. Even the sanitary waste is recycled, under the motto ‘Poop is gold’! (in Dutch)