Meise Botanic Garden - OUR SCIENTISTS

Christine Cocquyt, PhD
Senior research scientist phycology

Department: Research


CONTACT : Christine Cocquyt +32 2 260 09 40

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Christine Cocquyt

My research focuses primarily on the investigation of freshwater diatoms and phytoplankton in tropical Africa and falls within the realms of biodiversity, ecology and paleoecology. Based on morphological characteristics, diatom species richness is explored and first steps are undertaken to use these organisms for water quality monitoring in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Phytoplankton and diatom investigations are undertaken in East African lakes not only as part of the study of the dynamics in the water column of these lakes but also to contribute to a better understanding of climate change. One of my main objectives is to transfer my knowledge to local researchers in tropical Africa.


I focus on the taxonomy of the diatoms, and in particular on Bacillariophycidae and with special interest on the Surirellales, represented by many endemic species in the East African Great Lakes, especially in Lake Tanganyika. Species diversity is poorly documented in tropical Africa and almost absent in DR Congo. I aim to further study and describe this diversity based on morphological characteristics from new and historic collections.


Diatoms are only a part of the phytoplankton community in lakes. Through the study of the phytoplankton as part of multi-proxy projects, we try to help to better understand the present day tropical African lake ecosystems. This is essential to interpret diatom assemblages as stored in lake sediment and to better understand past dynamics in the water column and adaptations to climate change.


  • PhD, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, 1997
  • Licentiate/MSc, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, 1977


  • De Wildemann price for tropical botany, Royal Belgian Society of Botany, 2012

Employment history

  • Senior researcher, Meise Botanic Garden, Belgium, 2006 - ongoing
  • Senior researcher, Ghent University, Belgium, 1997 - 2006
  • Senior research scientist, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Belgium, 2000
  • Research scientist, Ghent University, Belgium, 1991 - 1996
  • Teaching assistant, Ghent University, Belgium, 1991 – 1997
  • Residence in Burundi, 1979 – 1990
  • Researcher, Ghent University, Belgium, 1978 – 1979



  • PAMEXEA Patterns and mechanisms of climate extremes in East Africa. BELSPO Brain-be project BR/121/A2/PAMEXEA (01-10-2013 – 30-06-2019)

  • FORETS: EU-funded CIFOR project supporting people and forests in the DR Congo; part Water quality based on diatoms (2017-2018)

  • VLIR-UOS project: Apport de la biodiversité à la formation et la sécurité alimentaire dans le bassin nord- est du Congo (Kisangani, R.D. Congo) (2011-2020)

  • DeepCHALLA two glacial-interglacial cycles (ca. 250,000 years) of climate and ecosystem dynamics on the East African equator; ICDP project (International Continental Scientific Drilling Program) (2016-2017)

  • COBAFISH From carbon to fishes – BELSPO project SD/AR/05A (15-12-2010 – 31-03-2016)

  • CHOLTIC Cholera outbreaks at Lake Tanganyika induced by climate change? BELSPO project SD/AR/04A (15-12-2010 – 31-03-2015)

  • CLANIMAE (Climatic and Anthropogenic Impacts on African Ecosystems) financed by the Belgian Science Policy in the framework of the Scientific Support Plan for a Sustainable Development Policy III. (2007-2010)

  • Pilot project on the digitization of African micro-algae types and typical specimens: the diatom family Surirellaceae, financed by the Andrew Mellon Foundation.(2006-2007)

  • Ounianga, Tchad (2005-2006) financed by Deutsche Forschungs-Gemeinschaft and Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek-Vlaanderen.

  • CLIMLAKE (Climate variability as recorded in Lake Tanganyika) project EC02, financed by the Belgian Science Policy in the framework of the Scientific Support Plan for a Sustainable Development Policy (SPSD) II .(2001-2005)

  • ENSO (Recent Enso and Palaeo-Enso of the last 1000 Years in Lake Tanganyika) project GC/DD/10 financed by the Belgian Science Policy in the framework of the Scientific Support Plan for a Sustainable Development Policy (SPSD) I (1997-2000)

  • Holocene palaeoclimate reconstruction using lake sediment cores - O.O.A. 12050790 on desertification. Participant of PAGES (PAst Global changES) of the IGBP (International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme). (1991-1994)

  • Ecological mapping of Belgium. (BTK 91 3 2431 - Ministry of Public Health and Environment, Belgium. (1978-1979).

Professional activities

  • Regular Member, Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences, 2019- ongoing

  • Associate Member, Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences, 2018- 2019

  • Treasurer Assistant, International Society for Diatom Research, 1997 - ongoing

  • Member of Council, Nederlands-Vlaamse Kring van Diatomisten, 1994 - 2010

  • Editor, Diatomededelingen, 2005 – 2011

  • Editor, Scripta Botanica Belgica 45, 2009

  • Teaching: courses on Phycology, Université de Kisangani, DR Congo (VLIR-UOS project), 2011 – ongoing

  • Teaching: course Diatom Diversity in Ancient Lakes, United Nations University training course on Biodiversity, Ghent, 1998 - 2002

  • Member of scientific committee conference, Speciation in Ancient Lakes 7, Windsor, Canada, 2015

  • Symposium organizer, 37ème Colloque de l’Association des Diatomistes de Langue Française, Meise, 2018

  • Symposium organizer, Symposium in honour of H. Van Heurck, Meise, 2009

  • Annual/Bi-annual meeting organizer, Nederlands Vlaamse Kring van Diatomisten, Gent - Mont-Rigi – Gent - Meise, 1993, 2001, 2003, 2006


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