Bjorn Robroek

Bjorn Robroek
I think that you can only learn ecology by doing. Being outside; observing and experimenting!
Bjorn Robroek
Conservation and Restoration Ecology
Current role
Associate Professor

Bjorn Robroek is an associate professor at Radboud University.

Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Bjorn Robroek and I am an ecologist at the Radboud Institute for Biological and Environmental Sciences. I teach or have taught in many courses in the BSc – e.g. Ecology (yr 1), Systems Ecology (yr 3) – and the MSc Conservation and Restoration Ecology programme – e.g. Management of Ecosystems, Field course Alpine Ecology. I am also a member of the Educational Programme Committee and the BSc Ecology track coordinator. 

I have been teaching since I was a PhD student (2003-2007) and have continued doing so throughout my career. As of now, I have over 20 years of teaching experience in a wide international context (I worked in Switzerland, Sweden, and the UK before coming to Radboud University).

Why did you choose to study/work in this field? What makes this field so interesting?

Ecological systems are great to work in. Not only is it fascinating to try to understand how ecosystems work and how their functioning is affected by climate and environmental change, but it is also of utmost importance to enhance our knowledge of if and how we can use ecosystems in our fight against climate change. I firmly believe that (semi-)natural ecosystems are our best allies in that fight. Ah yes, and as an ecologist, your office is often outside. Not bad at all, I would say!

What do you like best about being a lecturer?

I like the interaction with students; it keeps me young. I love it when I see students grow into becoming experts and young professionals. I often feel proud when I see students proceed and think that I perhaps played a small role in their academic and professional endeavours.

What are you currently doing your own research on?

With my team – Carrie Thomas, Yvet Telgenkamp, and Rosa Boone – I am trying to grasp the role of biodiversity and that of plant-microbe interactions on the resistance and resilience of ecosystems to climate change. We just came back from our field site in Southern Sweden where we run a long-term experiment that aims to understand the role of plants on biotic and abiotic processes in the peat soil. Every year, we bring BSc and MSc students to this site where they can experiment themselves.

What advice do you have for students making their study choice?

The first is to believe in yourself; you do not need to be the smartest person in the world to achieve your goals. With a good portion of enthusiasm, you can go a long way. Second, follow your own path. Third, talk to lecturers and make them part of your choices. Very often they want the best for you as well.

What does your work in practice bring to your academic work, and vice versa?

My work as a researcher and my role as a teacher are very mixed. I think that you can only learn ecology by doing. Being outside; observing and experimenting! I do that in my job as a researcher, but I also use this in my teaching.

What is the best part of being a lecturer?

I love to engage with students and get inspired; so many students have great ideas. I do not tend to think of a hierarchy at the university and tell my students that the only reason I am teaching is because I have more experience. To me, that feels liberating!