For best experience please turn on javascript and use a modern browser!
You are using a browser that is no longer supported by Microsoft. Please upgrade your browser. The site may not present itself correctly if you continue browsing.

Dr. B. (Benjamin) Müller

Postdoctoral Researcher
Faculty of Science
Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics
Photographer: Jan van Arkel

  • Profile

    I am a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action (MSCA) fellow in the working group of Jasper de Goeij at the department of Freshwater and Marine Ecology. For the first two years I will be based at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, before coming back for the third year to UvA. Before that I worked as a post-doctoral researcher in Jasper de Goeij's group, where I participated in two research projects, was involved in the coordination of field and lab activities, as well as the supervision and guidance of Ph.D., M.Sc. and B.Sc. students in our research group.

    Research Interests

    • Energy and nutrient cycling through sponge- and microbe-mediated pathways
    • Effect of environmental parameters on dissolved organic matter release mechanisms and consequences for ecosystem functioning
    • DOM dynamics on pristine and phase shifting reefs
    • Role of DOM in coral-algal competitions
    • Bioeroding sponges on phase-shifting reefs

    Past & Current Projects

    DDMS — Differential DOM-cycling through Microbes and Sponges

    The aim of my MSCA global fellowship is to to determine how past-to-future changes in coral reef community composition affect the bio-availability of the produced dissolved organic matter (DOM) and its individual and combined utilization by planktonic microbes and sponges.

    Thereto, I will:

    1. Characterize DOM released by corals, algae, and benthic cyanobacterial mats using various analytical methods and determine a compound-specific uptake and the utilization of this DOM by sponges and bacterioplankton.
    2. Assess uptake and utilization of different DOM-mixtures mimicking historic, current, and future benthic cover.
    3. Investigate potential microbe-sponge interactions.

    For more information see

    For the first two years I will be based at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and conduct fieldwork at the CARMABI research station on Curacao. Additionally, I will receive training at the Marine Science Insitute in Santa Barbara and the Skaggs School for Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in San Diego. For the third year I will then return to the University of Amsterdam.

    SPONGE ENGINE — Fast and efficient sponge engines drive and modulate the food web of reef ecosystems

    The aim of this ERC project awarded to Jasper de Goeij is to systematically establish a novel reef food web framework including:

              Corals and algae, releasing DOM “fuel” to run the engine

              Sponges, the “engine”, taking up DOM and converting energy and nutrients stored in it into particulate detritus

              Detrivores, which feed on the sponge detritus and serve as food for higher trophic levels, the “driven communities”

    Corals and algae release DOM. Sponges take up this “fuel” and convert energy and nutrients stored in it into particulate detritus. Detritivores feed on the detritus, serve as food for higher trophic levels, the “driven communities”, and release inorganic nutrients that are taken up by the fuelling communities.

    In this project we evaluate (1) how the morphology of sponges and their associated microbes contribute to the processing of DOM, (2) which roles sponge cells themselves and associated microbes play in the DOM uptake. These physiological tasks are complimented by (3) assessing carbon and nitrogen fluxes from fuelling communities, through sponges, to the driven communities.



    SponGES — Deep-sea Sponge Grounds Ecosystems of the North Atlantic: an integrated approach towards their preservation and sustainable exploitation

    As part of this multi-lateral EU project SponGES, our team aims to assess carbon fluxes and transfer through deep-sea sponges, and to test the existence of a sponge loop pathway on deep-sea sponge grounds.

    By combining in situ and ex situ incubations using natural food and isotopically labelled food sources we will quantify carbon and oxygen fluxes of different deep-sea sponge species and trace the carbon and nitrogen from dissolved and particulate food sources, through sponges, sponge detritus, and ultimately detrivores, that feed on sponge detritus.

    Our results will contribute to develop an integrated ecosystem-based approach to preserve and sustainably use deep-sea sponge grounds within the SponGES project.

  • Impressions from the field

    Field Trip Curacao_February - March 2017

    Left: M.Sc. student Koen Tomson and B.Sc. student Mainah Folkers bringing cages to the study site. Right: Cages with set ups to determine in situ detritus production by encrusting sponges.
    Koen and Mainah setting up cages and working under water.
    Left: Sponges hanging upside-down over funnels to determine detritus production by encrusting sponges. Right: Three of the investigated sponge species growing next to each other - Chondrilla caribensis (red), Scopalina ruetzleri (orange), and Halisarca caerulea (purple).
    Left: Growth experiment with the encrusting sponge Haliclona vansoesti. Right: Koen and Mainah getting back on the boat after a dive.

    Field work as Researcher at the CARMABI research station on Curacao_April 2015 - December 2016

    Left: Investigating the combined effects of light and nutrient availability in turf algal-coral interactions. Right: Determining community changes in cryptic sponge communities in permanent quadrats.
    In collaboration with Emma George and other researchers of the Rohwer and Wegley-Kelly Lab, San Diego, we investigated the outcome of coral-algal interactions (left) and the role of the over geometry for this outcome.
    Coral spawning of Orbicella faveolata (left) and Diplora strigosa (right) captured with fluorescence photography.
    Left: Outplaning of lab-fertilized coral settlers on artificial substrates with SECORE volunteers Natalia Hurtado and Emily Chappell. Right: Investigating the day and night release of DOM released by turf algae in collaboration with researchers from the Max-Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen, University of Amsterdam, and Rohwer and Wegley-Kelly Lab, San Diego.

    Field work on Curacao and Bonaire during my Ph.D. at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ)_February 2010 - December 2015 

    Taking water samples (left) and measuring light intensity (right) in close proximity to corals and algae on the reef.
    Left: Drilling cores with bioeroding sponges out of coral rock. Middle: Incubation experiment with turf algae growing on plastic bottles. Right: Sealing DOC vials with a bunsen burner in the lab.
    Left: Testing the Vacu SIP device with Jasper de Goeij. Right: Sampling of the in- and out-flowing water of the bioeroding sponge Cliona delitrix with the Vacu SIP device.
  • Videos and media links
  • Publications









    • Mueller, B., de Goeij, J. M., Vermeij, M. J. A., Mulders, Y., van der Ent, E., Ribes, M., & van Duyl, F. C. (2014). Natural Diet of Coral-Excavating Sponges Consists Mainly of Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC). PLoS ONE, 9(2), e90152. [details]
    • Mueller, B., van der Zande, R. M., van Leent, P. J. M., Meesters, E. H., Vermeij, M. J. A., & van Duyl, F. C. (2014). Effect of light availability on dissolved organic carbon release by Caribbean reef algae and corals. Bulletin of Marine Science, 90(3), 875-893. [details]


    • Bos, A. R., Gumanao, G. S., Mueller, B., & Saceda, M. M. (2013). Size at maturation, sex differences, and pair density during the mating season of the Indo-Pacific beach star Archaster typicus (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) in the Philippines. Invertebrate Reproduction & Development, 57(2), 113-119.
    • Bos, A. R., Gumanao, G. S., Mueller, B., & Saceda-Cardoza, M. M. E. (2013). Management of crown-of-thorns sea star (Acanthaster planci L.) outbreaks: Removal success depends on reef topography and timing within the reproduction cycle. Ocean & Coastal Management, 71, 116-122.
    • Meesters, EH., Mueller, B., & Nugues, MM. (2013). Caribbean free-living coral species co-occurring deep off the windward coast of Curaçao. Coral reefs, 32(1), 109.


    • Mueller, B., Bos, A. R., Graf, G., & Gumanao, G. S. (2011). Size-specific locomotion rate and movement pattern of four common Indo-Pacific sea stars (Echinodermata; Asteroidea). Aquatic Biology, 12(2), 157-164.


    • Bos, A. R., Gumanao, G. S., Van Katwijk, M. M., Mueller, B., Saceda, M. M., & Tejada, R. L. P. (2010). Ontogenetic habitat shift, population growth, and burrowing behavior of the Indo-Pacific beach star, Archaster typicus (Echinodermata; Asteroidea). Marine Biology, 158(3), 639-648.


    • George, E. E., Mullinix, J., Meng, F., Bailey, B., Edwards, C., Felts, B., Haas, A., Hartmann, A. C., Mueller, B., Nulton, J., Roach, T. N. F., Salamon, P., Silveira, C. B., Vermeij, M. J. A., Rohwer, F. L., & Luque, A. (2018). Relevance of coral geometry in the outcomes of the coral-algal benthic war. BioRxiv. [details]


    • Mumby, P. J., Flower, J., Chollett, I., Box, S. J., Bozec, Y. M., Fitzsimmons, C., Forster, J., Gill, D., Griffith-Mumby, R., Oxenford, H. A., Peterson, A. M., Stead, S. M., Turner, R. A., Townsley, P., van Beukering, P. J. H., Booker, F., Brocke, H. J., Cabañillas-Terán, N., Canty, S. W. J., ... Williams, S. M. (2014). Towards Reef Resilience and Sustainable Livelihoods: A Handbook for Caribbean Coral Reef Managers. University of Exeter. [details]


    • Müller, B., Brocke, H., Rohwer, F., Dittmar, T., Huisman, J., Vermeij, M. & de Goeij, J. (2022). Nocturnal dissolved organic matter release by turf algae and its role in the microbialization of reefs. DRYAD.


    • Franke, A., Hentschel, U., Hanz, U., Busch, K., Mienis, F., Müller, B., Martyn Roberts, E. & Tore Rapp, H. (2020). Microbial diversity and biogeochemical parameters at Schulz Bank seamount (Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge) measured in summer 2016, 2017 and 2018. PANGAEA.
    • Absalah, S., Müller, B., Kenchington, E., Bart, M., de Kluijver, A., de Goeij, J. M., Hoetjes, S. & Rapp, H. (2020). (Table S1) Sponge biomass and natural isotopic ratios for incubated deep-sea sponge specimens. PANGAEA.
    • Rapp, H., Absalah, S., Hoetjes, S., de Kluijver, A., de Goeij, J. M., Bart, M., Müller, B. & Kenchington, E. (2020). (Table S3) Relative abundance of each phospholipid fatty acid to the total PLFA content of each deep-sea sponge species and substrate. PANGAEA.
    This list of publications is extracted from the UvA-Current Research Information System. Questions? Ask the library or the Pure staff of your faculty / institute. Log in to Pure to edit your publications. Log in to Personal Page Publication Selection tool to manage the visibility of your publications on this list.
  • Ancillary activities
    No ancillary activities