Alwin Hylkema is a researcher/lecturer working at University of Applied Sciences Van Hall Larenstein (VHL) in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. Alwin is involved in Caribbean research since 2009, when he assessed the fish nursery function of Lac Bay, Bonaire, for his MSc Aquaculture and Marine Resource Management. Since then, Alwin worked on coral aquaculture, fish migration and seaweed protein in fish feed before focusing on coral restoration in the Caribbean. Alwin Hylkema is one of the founders of the research group Marine Management and Conservation at VHL and responsible for the research theme Coral reef research. He started his PhD at the Marine Animal Ecology group from Wageningen University in 2017.
Alwin first came to Saba in 2016, when he worked in the AROSSTA (Artificial reefs on Saba and Statia) project. Within this project, he investigated the habitat function of artificial reefs for coral and fish. The project was awarded with the 2nd prize of the RAAK Award in 2018 and the jury especially liked the cooperation with local stakeholders and the strong ties with the education programs at VHL. During the AROSSTA project (2016-2019), Alwin visited Saba twice per year for multiple weeks. In 2019 he made the decision to move to Saba, together with his wife Quirine and his daughter Kiki, and fly back to the Netherlands twice a year to give his lectures.
In 2019, Alwin started a new four-year research project, which aims to restore long-spined sea urchin populations (Diadema antillarum) on the coral reefs around Saba and St. Eustatius. Long-spined sea urchins were the most important herbivores on Caribbean coral reefs before they were wiped out by a disease, in 1983. Nowadays, more than 35 years after the die-off, long spined sea urchins are still very rare. Successful restoration of sea urchin populations could increase the resilience of our coral reefs, because the sea urchins remove algae and create space for juvenile corals. Because this is one of the few things that can be done locally to help the Caribbean coral reefs to recover, Alwin made it his research priority to develop a solution to make this happen.
Join Alwin this October on Saba to be part of this important initiative. Participants will learn the actual step-by-step process of collecting the juvenile sea urchins using larval collectors, out plant them in a protected area and monitor their survival and their effect on the reef.