What does the life of a scientist look like? I’ll give you some insights- taking myself as an example.  You’ll find details on this blog, as well as in the form of videos on my vimeo and youtube channels.


Kakum National Park, Ghana

In 2004 I started my undergraduate studies in Biology at Wageningen University (the Netherlands). During my MSc thesis I studied the (co-) evolutionary relationships between a butterfly genus and a plant genus in tropical Africa, for which I explored the Ghanaian National Parks. Not finished exploring, during the last months of my studies I worked for the National Science Quiz, a yearly television show in the Netherlands. This allowed me to express my passion for (science-) communication and develop more artistic skills. Nevertheless, I decided that my passion to better understand the evolutionary processes which are responsible for the enormous diversity of organisms on Earth was more pronounced, and I started my PhD in 2011 at the University of Zurich (Switzerland) on evolutionary ‘radiations’ in flowering plants. Why are there so many species of flowering plants? Where do they come from, who is related to who, and what has triggered some groups to evolve many species, whereas other groups are species-poor? I believe that the ecology of plants, their morphology and physiology and where they (can) grow, has had a major impact on the evolutionary processes of speciation and extinction, leading to ‘explosive’ and ‘adaptive’ species radiations.

On this blog I will try to communicate these ideas, explain concepts and theories that have existed since Darwin’s time, give examples of thoughts and actions in the life of a scientist and show some of the rich and extraordinary species diversity I have encountered during several journeys to other ends of the world. However, investigating processes that MAY have happened in the past and MAY be responsible for the diversity we see today, is scientifically very challenging and also needs a lot of inspiration, creativity and a bit of story-telling…

Renske Onstein


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