Coral Reef Ecology (6 ECTS)

Semester: 1st or 2nd


Coordinators: Aschwin Engelen (, Pedro Frade ( and Ester Serrão (

At the end of Coral Reef Ecology, students will be able to:

  • identify common coral, seaweeds and sponge species to understand community composition (and changes therein) on Caribbean reefs
  • quantify the abundance of aforementioned organisms using standard surveying techniques
  • determine the physiological state of corals and algae underwater using specialized equipment (PAM fluorometer)
  • perform scientific tasks using SCUBA
  • formulate a hypothesis based on literature, design and execute a research project to test this hypothesis and present the results in an oral presentatio
  • have obtained skills in experimental design, data analyses and presenting research plans and results.
  • explain the value of coral reefs in providing ecosystem services to human societies and describe the threats that anthropogenic impacts impose on reefs and their capacity to deliver these services.


  • PADI openwater certified
  • Students should have a Divers Alert Network (DAN) Silver insurance (about € 80)

Note: this course is optional and has costs for students (plane ticket, accommodation at the marine station and an amount to be defined for other costs, including rental vehicles for commuting, laboratory space and bottle rental for 2 daily dives per student to carry out work on coral reefs). The total costs will be 1650 €. Please refer to a flyer for further details.


10 h of lectures + 70 h of fieldwork + 88 h of independent work.

The course entirely takes place on Curaçao and includes lectures, fieldwork, and experiments.


As the registration for any elective is mandatory, please wait for an email by the MSc Coordinating Team requesting the names of the electives that you plan to choose for your 2nd year, 1st semester.


Students in groups of two will have to prepare a detailed research plan, which will have to present at the end of the course. They will participate in an ID survey and will be evaluated by an ID exam and the presentation of the research plan. The minimum passing grade for each component will be 9 out of 20.



  1. Day 1 — buoyancy control dive and skill practicing
  2. Day 2-4 — coral, seaweed and sponge ID, ID exam
  3. Day 5-6 — species interactions on coral reefs
  4. Day 7 — coral reef surveys
  5. Day 8-11 — mini research project
  6. Day 12 — project presentation