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The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded Advanced Grants to enable six scientists from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) to conduct groundbreaking, new research. The grant amounts to 2.5 million euros per research project and are awarded on the basis of scientific excellence, both in terms of the scientist and the research proposal.

spotlight

The recipients are: Marlies Glasius, Anita Hardon, Annelies Moors, all three of whom are from the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR), and Has Caswell, Gerard Muijzer and André de Roos, all three of whom will be conducting their research at the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED). It is extremely rare for three Advanced Grants to be awarded within one research institute and the fact that this has happened at two separate UvA institutes is even more rare.

 

In her research project, Glasius will focus on the impact of the globalisation of information and communication, association, and people movements in authoritarian regimes. Hardon’s research deals with the use of chemical and pharmaceutical compounds by young people, from the perspective of the young people themselves. Moors will focus on new forms of Muslim marriages, including unregistered, temporary and visiting (where a couple does not live together) marriages. Caswell will investigate individual stochasticity (randomness) and population heterogeneity in the demography of plants and animals. Muijzer will conduct research on the diversity, physiology and ecological role of sulfur bacteria in soda lakes. Finally, De Roos will focus on the eco-evolutionary dynamics of ontogenetic asymmetry and complex life cycles in his research project. 

About the ERC Advanced Grants

The ERC Advanced Grants stimulate high-quality and ground-breaking research in Europe by making funds available for these projects. The ERC awards grants, in particular, to proposals which:

  • are interdisciplinary in nature;
  • explore ideas in new fields of research;
  • explore ideas in new fields of research.

The ERC Advanced Grants are awarded annually  to researchers who have already established themselves as independent research leaders in their own right.

The recipients

AISSR

Dr Marlies Glasius, associate professor of International Relations - Authoritarianism in a Global Age: 'Controlling Information and Communication, Association and People Movement'

Marlies Glasius focuses her research on how authoritarian regimes are affected by the globalisation of information and communication, association, and people movements, and how these regimes respond. The recent series of uprisings in the Arab world suggests that the nature and the sustainability of contemporary authoritarian regimes are not well understood. Access to ICT and media, the influence of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the increase in the supply and outflow of people have thrown up new challenges for authoritarian in terms of how to control citizens. Glasius will investigate changes in both the nature and the sustainability of authoritarian rule in relation to the erosion of decision-making autonomy at the state level posited by globalisation theorists. 

Prof. Anita Hardon, professor of Health and Social Care  - 'Chemical Youth: What chemicals do for youths in their everyday lives'

Anita Hardon will investigate the use chemical and pharmaceutical drugs by young people.

The everyday lives of contemporary youths are awash with chemicals and pharmaceutical compounds to boost pleasure, moods, sexual performance, vitality, appearance and health. Nevertheless, most studies of chemical use among young people have focused on the abuse of specific recreational drugs and their role within deviant youth sub-cultures. Instead of explaining drug abuse with the purpose of controlling it, this project aims to examine the pervasive use of chemicals from the perspectives of youths themselves. It aims to understand what chemical and pharmaceutical substances, and not only illicit narcotics, ‘do’ for youths. How are chemicals a part of their everyday lives? What role do they play in calming their fears or in achieving their dreams and aspirations?

Prof. Annelies Moors, professor of Socio-scientific study of contemporary Muslim societies - 'Problematizing Muslim Marriages: Ambiguities and Contestations'

The research of Annelies Moors is focused on new forms of Muslim marriages, including unregistered, temporary and visiting (where a couple does not live together) marriages. During the last two decades, in the North as well as in the global South, new forms of Muslim marriages, such as unregistered, visiting, or temporary marriages, have become the target of public debate. State authorities, religious scholars, women’s organisations, (neo-) nationalists, and parents express concern about youngsters, and especially young and not so young women, entering into such marriages. These new, unconventional marriages, or existing forms in new contexts, are often discursively linked to sexual exploitation and religious radicalisation. But how do those involved in these new marriage forms evaluate them? This ethnographic project starts with an investigation of when and how these new marriages have become subject to public debate. The main empirical focus is on new marriage forms as social practices. What kinds of marriage forms and wedding celebration are emerging, who are participating in them, and how are they performed? Particular attention will be paid to the intersections of gender and religion, and whether and how these new marriage forms are authenticated and authorised as Muslim marriages.

The wider question this project addresses is what the economic, political, religious and cultural effects of these new Muslim marriages are. 

IBED

Dr Hal Caswell, senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (USA) and visiting professor IBED - 'Individual stochasticity and population heterogeneity in plant and animal demography'

Hal Caswell will use his ERC Advanced Grant to study individual stochasticity and population heterogeneity in plant and animal demography. Population biologists have long used such traits to develop models that classify individuals on the basis of age, or size, or developmental stage.  However, some forms of heterogeneity are more cryptic. Even among individuals of the same age, size, and stage, there will still exist variation that translates into differences in mortality and reproduction, which are the currency of population dynamics.. However, some forms of heterogeneity are more cryptic. Even among individuals of the same age, size, and stage, there will still exist variation that translates into differences in mortality and reproduction, which are the currency of population dynamics. Caswell will develop and apply a new mathematical theory to analyse the consequences of both kinds of heterogeneity: the observed and the unobserved.

Prof. Gerard Muijzer, professor of Microbial Systems Ecology - 'The Paradox of Sulfur Bacteria in Soda Lakes'

Muijzer will study ‘the paradox of sulfur bacteria in soda lakes’. Soda lakes are extreme environments with a pH between 9-11 and salt concentrations up to saturation level. In spite of these extreme conditions, soda lakes harbor a large diversity of bacteria responsible for cycling of chemical elements. The sulfur cycle, driven by sulfur-oxidizing and sulfate-reducing bacteria, is one of the most active elemental cycles in soda lakes. However, normally extreme environments are characterized by low species diversity. Because live at conditions of high salt concentrations and high alkalinity is very energy consuming, the enormous diversity of sulfur bacteria in soda lakes is a big paradox. The aim of Muijzer’s study is to increase understanding of the diversity, physiology and ecological role of sulfur bacteria in soda lakes, and the molecular mechanism that allows these bacteria to adapt to the extreme conditions.  The project will not only yield important insights in the ecology of sulfur bacteria in soda lakes, but is also important for the application of these bacteria for the removal of harmful sulfur components from waste water, essential to maintain a clean and healthy environment.

Prof. André de Roos, professor of Theoretical Ecology - 'Eco-evolutionary dynamics of community self-organization through ontogenetic asymmetry '

André de Roos will focus his research on the role of individual life cycles within the dynamic of ecological communities. Almost all species grow and develop substantially, but it is only recently that research has given us insight into how this process influences the dynamics of communities. Individuals in different life stages differ in terms of the efficiency with which they can use food sources for growth and reproduction. This competition, which is also referred to as ontogenetic asymmetry can lead to surprising  population dynamics. It can lead, for example, to predators increasing their own food source by changing the age structure of their pray population. Ontogenetic asymmetry appears to be of particular importance for the evolution of complex life cycles,  such as amphibians and insects, because of the separation in different life stages where different food sources are used. Paleontological data suggest that complex life cycles are (have been) very successful ecologically and evolutionarily. However, there is no clear explanation for this apparent success. De Roos will focus on both the ecological and the evolutionary effects of ontogenetic asymmetry. The study aims to obtain more insights in the current functioning of ecological communities on the one hand, and the evolutionary success of complex life cycles on the other.