SENSE e-News

The SENSE Research School publishes a regular electronic newsletter. This newsletter can also be found online at the SENSE website via

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SENSE as a bridge to society
SENSE is a research school with a mission, and part of its mission is to connect science and policy to support sustainable solutions to environmental problems.

In October this lead to the first SENSE Science Market, focusing at the Biobased Economy. Many SENSE researchers presented their research and discussed with policy makers. You can read more about it in this e-News.

You will also find a short report of Dolf de Groot, who has dedicated his research efforts to the issue of Ecosystem Services for about 20 year. He tells about the emerging interest in this topic from science as well as society and invites you to join in.

Visualising Environmental Research - request for help
Regulary the SENSE office is looking for pictures to visualise our field of research. For instance for poster announcements or for our website. Obviously you, being a SENSE researcher, are the one who has the best pictures to show what is going on in Dutch environmental research. Therefore we would like to ask you if you would share some of your pictures with the SENSE office so we can make a picture database for future use. If you are willing to contribute, please contact Marjolijn Dannenburg of the SENSE office:


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SENSE General

Towards a Biobased Economy - Report of the SENSE Science Market

On 25 October 2012, 60 people gathered at the Leiden University Campus in Den Haag to discuss opportunities and pitfalls of a biobased economy, a future society that will run completely on renewable, biological resources. With a focus on SENSE PhD students, participants included SENSE scientists, employees from Dutch ministries and NGOs.

In the opening plenary, Andre Faaij (Utrecht University) presented the latest developments in biobased research. Global models show that efficient land use will be crucial for the feasibility of a biobased economy. Improvements in agricultural management have huge potentials (e.g. restoration of degraded land), but they are difficult to implement.

Karin Weustink (programme direction Biobased, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation ‘’ELI’’) presented the Biobased Topsector Programme of the Dutch government. Transitions towards biobased demand close cooperation in the ‘’golden triangle’’, between business, government and science. ELI facilitates development of business cases for e.g. green chemistry. She acknowledged that up to know most contracts are with large companies.

Huub Rijnaarts (SENSE and Wageningen University) focused on shortcomings of the ELI approach. Relative improvements are not sufficient, the ultimate goal of biobased must be a completely circular economy. This demands an active role of government. In line with EU initiatives, involvement of Small and Medium sized Enterprises SMEs and NGOs must get priority.

In parallel sessions, co-organized by SENSE Research Clusters, SENSE researchers presented papers on biotechnology, governance, transition research and ecosystem services (for abstracts see SENSE website).

A few interesting conclusions of the presentation were:
- It is difficult to develop solid guidelines for sustainable biorefinery processing;
- Too often, social impacts on subsistence farming are not included in biobased policies;
- Social science offers promising methods to involve civil society in biobased discussions;
- Ecosystem services enable to quantify crucial aspects of land and water management in a biobased economy.

In the closing plenary, chair Gert Spaargaren (Wageningen University) provoked discussions on the hottest topics of the day. It was generally agreed that a real biobased economy can only be a circular economy, based on circular technologies. This goes beyond present linear biotechnologies or the cradle-to-cradle approach.  Dutch techno-economic oriented Topsector policies have several deficits. Because of its multi-disciplinary knowledge, the SENSE Research School has much to offer to repair these deficits. Finally, governments must play an active role in the transition towards an effective, socially acceptable biobased economy.

> Find the abstracts

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Ecosystem Services: from science to practice

Graph Ecosystem Services

The concept of "ecosystem services" was developed in the late 1970s but is recently attracting increased attention. Actually, the thinking about human dependence on nature goes back to Plato (400 BC) but until the mid-1990’s it was a very small community of mainly enlightened economists (eg Herman Daly (USA), David Pearce (UK) and, in the Netherlands, Roefie Hueting), and a few ‘heretic’ ecologist, including myself, trying to dis-entangle and quantify the many benefits and economic values of nature. These early writers were being looked at quite 'suspicious' in the beginning, both by ecologists and by mainstream economist: valuing nature in economic terms was not done because it was supposed to be un-ethical or impossible.

After the release of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (in 2005, and the TEEB-study on the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (in 2010, ) this niche-existence changed dramatically (see figure). The concept of Ecosystem Services has now become mainstream, not only in science but also in the policy-arena. illustrated by the creation of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services ( in 2011. One of the general messages of the TEEB study was that the loss of ecosystem services is costing us between 2-3 trillion $/year in damage and repair-costs. As a result of this notion the EU member states recently agreed to conduct National Ecosystem Services assessments by 2020 with the development of National ES maps by 2014 as a first step.

To stimulate the process of linking science with practice, my department was instrumental in the creation of the Ecosystem Services partnership in 2008 ( ESP is a global platform for exchange of experience and discussion and is growing very rapidly. In 2012, ESP launched a special Journal called ‘Ecosystem Services: science, policy and practice’ ( and the first Issue was published a few weeks ago.

If you want to know more about this emerging and exciting field of inter-disciplinary science you are very welcome to join the partnership and share your experiences and ideas.

Dolf de Groot, Environmental Systems Analysis Group, Wageningen University,

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First issue new journal Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services, associated with the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) , is an international, interdisciplinary journal that deals with the science, policy and practice of Ecosystem Services in the following disciplines: ecology and economics, institutions, planning and decision making, economic sectors such as agriculture, forestry and outdoor recreation, and all types of ecosystems.


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Increased consumer involvement in electricity and water networks

A new study by SENSE researcher Bas van Vliet has reviewed the dramatic changes that have taken place over recent decades in ‘network-bound systems’ of electricity grids, water supply and wastewater management. Focusing on case studies in The Netherlands, the study found that consumers are becoming more active participants in the supply of these resources and services.


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Appèl aan de kabinetsformateurs: uit de crisis met een groene economie

In het kader van de Dag van de Duurzaamheid hebben zo’n 50 hoogleraren samen met het bedrijfsleven en maatschappelijke organisaties een appèl gedaan op Mark Rutte en Diederik Samsom voor een snellere transitie naar een duurzame economie en samenleving. Dit initiatief van Jan Rotmans (Erasmus Universiteit) is mede ondertekend vele SENSE hoogleraren. Het stuk verscheen vandaag in het Financieel Dagblad en Jan Rotmans hoopt het morgen persoonlijk aan de kabinetsformateurs te overhandigen.


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Upcoming PhD Graduations

PhD Graduations November 2012

Marjolein Helder
Design criteria for the Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell. Electricity generation with living plants - from lab to application
23 November 2012, 13.30 hrs, Wageningen

Don't forget to announce your own graduation at Or send an email to marjolijn.dannenburg(at)

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Upcoming PhD Courses

SENSE Courses

S292E Evolutionary Dynamics (2.0 ECTS)
11-15 November 2012; Course Lecturers: Dr. Martijn Egas, Dr. Tom van Dooren, Sylvain Gardon, RUG Groningen

S210a Soil Biodiversity and Life: The contribution of soil to sustainability of life (1.5 ECTS)
18-21 November 2012; Course Lecturers: see website

S010B Basic Statistics (1.5 ECTS)
12-20 December 2012; Course Lecturer: Dr. Evert-Jan Bakker (WU)
Link to the course:

A1 Environmental Research in Context (2.0 ECTS)
20-22 March 2013; Course Coordinator: Ad van Dommelen, Vrij Universiteit Amsterdam; registration deadline: 16 Feb 2013

S358E Complex Dynamics in Human-Environment Systems (2.0 ECTS)
15-19 April 2013; Course Coordinators: Prof. Carolien Kroeze (WUR and OU), Serge Stalpers (SENSE), Aritta Suwarno (WUR); registration deadline: 4 Jan 2013

S221 Dynamic Energy Budgets (8.0 ECTS)
15-26 April 2013; Course coordinator: Bas Kooijman (VU); registration deadline: 1 Jan 2013 

S101E Speciation and Bioavailability (2.0 ECTS)
3-7 June 2013; Course Coordinator: Professor Raewyn M. Town

Skills Courses
An updated overview of all skills courses at SENSE universities and institutes is available now at  

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Online courses

N44311: Environmental Problems: Crossing Boundaries between Science, Policy and Society (4.3 ECTS)
e-Learning, Open University
Link to the course (Word file)

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External Courses

The following is a selection of interesting external courses.

Meta Analysis
Date: 14-16 November 2012, Location: Wageningen

Bio-energy Production from Crop Plants and Algae
Date: 21-23 November 2012, Location: Wageningen

Southern African Young Scientists Summer Programme
Date: 1 December 2012 - 28 February 2013, Location: South Africa

Course: Climate change adaptation in agriculture and natural resource management
Date: 28 February - 1 March 2013, Location: Centre for Development Innovation (CDI), Wageningen

Summer Program in Austria for Ph.D. candidates
Date: June, July, August 2013, Location: International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis – IIASA, Vienna, Austria; applications: Oct-Dec 2012

Find PhD Courses, Winter and Summer Schools in Europe at

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SENSE Events

Annual meeting of the Research Cluster NanoSENSE, 8 Nov 2012

Date: November 8, 2012
Location: Atlas room 1-3, Building 104, Droevendaalsesteeg 4, Wageningen
Duration: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

We would like to invite you to the annual meeting of the Research Cluster NanoSENSE (Environmental Analysis, Behavior and Risks of Engineered Nanoparticles, see: titled 'Detection, fate and risks of Engineered nanomaterials'.

The aim of the meeting is to stimulate communication and crosslinks among PhD students (within SENSE but also outside) and other researchers actively working in this field.


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WIMEK symposium "How to improve interdisciplinary research approaches?", 8 Nov 2012

Date: November 8, 2012
Location: GAIA 1+2, Building 101, Droevendaalsesteeg 3, Wageningen
Duration: 1:00 PM to 5:30 PM

“Tackling the main Environmental Issues for the 21st Century: the need to improve inter- and transdisciplinary research approaches”


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Seminar The past as key to the future?, 12 Dec 2012

Date: December 12, 2012
Location: Room C 541, W&N building, Amsterdam
Duration: 9:00 AM to 11:45 AM


Land systems are shaped by interactions between many different biophysical and socio-economic forces that act at various scale levels and that continuously change over time at their own pace. This NWO-funded seminar explores the applicability of historic analysis for land system analysis. Following the seminar Kees Klein Goldewijk will defend his PhD on ‘(Looking) Back to the Future: A reconstruction of historic land use and its application for global change research’.


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Concepts and tools for spatial data visualization, 13 Dec 2012

Date: December 13, 2012
Location: Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), VU University, Amsterdam
Duration: 1:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Within many publications and presentations SENSE PhD students present their data using different techniques, most commonly maps and charts. But what are actually the best ways to communicate your findings? Which visualization technique fits your data best? Which techniques are most appropriate to present your results effectively to various audiences? And which tools and software are available?


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SENSE Symposium: Ecosystems Under Stress, 14 Dec 2012

Date: December 14, 2012
Location: Wageningen University, Atlas building, Room 1 and 2
Duration: 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM

The rapid increase in human population and strong industrial growth experienced in the last century affect ecosystems on a global scale. Direct impacts of expanding anthropogenic activities such as agriculture or industry include forest destruction and habitat fragmentation, water resource depletion, and chemical pollution, which caus¬es severe disturbances of the structure and functioning of aquatic and terrestrial eco¬systems.


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Upcoming events

Overview of upcoming events

4-6 Nov 2012  Conference New Developments in IT & Water, Amsterdam > Read more...

8 Nov 2012  Wortel of Stok? Is communicatie een krachtig genoeg instrument, Utrecht > Read more...

21 Nov 2012  CLIMAQS afsluitende conferentie: “Klimaat- en luchtkwaliteitmodellering voor beleidsondersteuning in Vlaanderen”, Antwepen, Begium > Read more...

21-23 Nov 2012  13th International Scientific Wadden Sea Symposium: An integrated approach to emerging challanges in a World Heritage site, Wadden Academy, Leeuwarden > Read more...

22-23 Nov 2012  Measuring globalization: an international workshop, Maastricht (deadline for participant registration: 31 Oct 2012) > Read more...

28 Nov 2012  7th Workshop Plant-Insect Interactions, Leiden > Read more...

30 Nov 2012  Second IMARES PhD Day "Between production and conservation", Texel > Read more...

4 Dec 2012  1st International Student Conference "The Power of Local Knowledge in Increasing Food Business Competitiveness", Indonesia > Read more...

14 Dec 2012  Symposium Ecosystems under stress: Assessing the impact of chemical and physical disturbances on ecological processes and ecosystem structure, Wageningen (deadline for abstract submission and registration: 19 Nov 2012) > Read more...

17-18 Dec 2012  Congres Climate change and changes in spatial structures in Flanders, Gent - Belgium > Read more...

28-31 Jan 2013  CfP - Earth System Governance Tokyo Conference, Tokyo, Japan > Read more...

11-13 Feb 2013  YES Meeting Interdisciplinary discourse on current environmental challenges, Krakow, Poland (deadline for abstract submission: 30 Oct 2012) > Read more...

25-26 Feb 2013  International Conference: Two Hundred Years of Urban Meteorology, Florence, Italy > Read more...

16-20 Mar 2013  TWAM 2013: International Conference & Workshops: Transboundary water management across borders and interfaces; present and future challenges, Aveiro, Portugal > Read more...

18-20 Mar 2013  European Climate Change Adaptation Conference 2013: Integrating Climate into Action, Hamburg, Germany > Read more...

7-10 Apr 2013  Symposium Biorefinery for Food, Fuel and Materials, Wageningen (deadline abstracts oral presentations: 7 Nov 2012) > Read more...

16-19 Apr 2013  12th International UFZ-Deltares Conference on Groundwater-Soil-Systems and Water Resource Management, Barcelona, Spain > Read more...

22-25 Apr 2013  2nd Sustainable Watershed Management Conference - CALL FOR PAPERS, Turkey > Read more...

24-26 Apr 2013  3rd International Conference on Water Economics, Statistics and Finance, Marbella, Spain > Read more...

24-26 Apr 2013  Conference on Asset management for enhancing energy efficiency in water and wastewater systems, Marbella, Spain > Read more...

2-4 May 2013  International scientific conference "Landscape and Imagination. Towards a new baseline for education in a changing world", Paris, France > Read more...

25-28 June 2013  2nd International Conference Energy & Meteorology - Water & Climate for the Energy Industry - CALL FOR ABSTRACTS, Toulouse, France (deadline for abstract submission: 20 Dec 2012) > Read more...

1-3 July 2013  Fourth International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Emotional Geographies, Groningen > Read more...

28-30 Dec 2013  12th International Asian Urbanization Conference: "Urban Dynamics, Environment and Health: Challenges for the Twenty First Century", Varanasi, India (deadline abstract submission: 30 April 2013) > Read more...

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Calls, funding, grants

Apply now for Marie Curie Career Integration Grants (CIG)

Call for proposals 2013 for Marie Curie Career Integration Grants (CIG) was published on 18 October 2012. Career Integration Grants (CIG) support experienced researchers of any nationality, with at least 4 years’ full-time research experience or a doctoral degree. The grant is a flat-rate contribution towards research costs. These may, for example, include the salary costs of the researcher or other staff employed for the project, travel costs, consumables, patent costs and publication costs. The grant will cover a period of 2 to 4 years.


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IIASA’s Young Scientists Summer Program

IIASA’s annual 3-month Young Scientists Summer Program (YSSP) offers research opportunities to talented young researchers whose interests correspond with IIASA’s ongoing research on issues of global environmental, economic and social change. From June through August accepted participants work within the Institute’s Research Programs under the guidance of IIASA scientific staff.

Katalin Petz (PhD candidate WUR Environmental Systems Analysis Group) participated in the programme last year. She tells:

"This summer 49 motivated and talented young scientists from 24 countries gathered to work on interdisciplinary environmental research as part of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) Young Scientists Summer Programme in Austria. Being one of the participants, I spent a productive and inspiring summer at the newly established Ecosystem Services and Management research program, working on the global-scale modelling of ecosystem services. I collaborated with experienced scientists and integrated datasets and model outputs of IIASA into my PhD research. I recommend the summer program to all PhD students that seek for experience, cooperation and fun in a highly scientific and international environment. The institute is located near Vienna, in the picturesque former summer residence of the Habsburg Empress Elisabeth (“Sissi”). The beautiful palace park, the traditional Austrian lunches and the social events are unforgettable part of the summer experience. The application for next year’s summer programme is open from October until January. For further information please get in touch with the YSSP Coordinator Tanja Huber (huber(at) or visit the website ("


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Bioversity International : Vavilov-Frankel Fellowship Call for 2013

Two fellowships, for up to US$ 20, 000 each, are available for 2013 to carry out research, from 3 to 12 months, on a wide range of biophysical, economic and social themes related to the conservation and use of plant genetic resources in developing countries. The deadline for applications is 11 November 2012.


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10 Research Positions, FEEM, Italy - application deadline: 31 Dec 2012

FEEM, a leading research institute on sustainable development ( aims to recruiting motivated and talented researchers to cover ten open positions within the Climate Change and Sustainable Development Research Programme. The Programme carries out high level research in the following areas: climate change integrated assessment modelling, climate change policy and governance, climate-related innovation and technological change, natural hazards and extreme climate-related events, management of natural resources, sustainability and growth beyond GDP.


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Laboratory Research Analyst (m/f) 1.0 fte, UNESCO-IHE - application deadline: 4 Nov 2012

The UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education offers post-graduate education in Delft, The Netherlands, and carries out research and capacity building projects all over the world. The mission of UNESCO-IHE is to contribute to the education and training of professionals and to build the capacity of sector organizations, knowledge centres and other institutions active in the fields of water, the environment and infrastructure in developing countries and countries in transition.


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