Soil Biodiversity in the European Commission Headquarters

Gerlinde B. De Deyn

Associate Professor at Wageningen University


As a European and Belgian citizen, I have seen the Berlaymont building in Brussels many times before in person and on TV or in newspapers when European issues were being addressed. I have always associated the building with politics and a beehive of translators to enable multi-language meetings.

Last week, however, my association to the Berlaymount building drastically changed.  I visited the building for the first time and not alone… with me I brought thousands of springtails, millions of nematodes and at least as many bacteria along with a microscope to reveal their existence! I had not brought them along to show the security people, who attempted to ensure the little critters are not harmful and found just the contrary.  Instead, I brought my little associates to show the 15,000 people that came to visit the EU open doors day in Brussels, 17th of May 214.  On this day EU institutions open their doors to the public, so they can join in celebrations and learn more about European Union events and activities.


I participated in the EU open day as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow, taking part in the stand of Research and Innovation by the European Commission.  On show: roots with/without nodules, nematodes, springtails and mycorrhizal fungi.

My previous EU outreach activity, the EU Researchers’ Night in 2013 (you may remember my blog proved to be a good preparation for this event. Of course, I could not do without the European Atlas of Soil Biodiversity AND the French version, L'Atlas Européen de la Biodiversité des Sols. Thank you, JRC Ispra for sending multiple copies of both straight to EC Brussels, which we distributed to very interested people. For all those who do not yet have a copy in English or French and would like one check out these links:


The European Atlas of Soil Biodiversity, my buddy at the outreach activities! Thank you to all who contributed.

For all those who are currently writing their contribution to the Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas: keep going.  It is well worth it and already quite a few people are looking forward to its appearance. I could of course not mention the Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas when talking about on-going projects!

I had little time to explore the other stands given the overwhelming number of visitors to the research stands, but I was able to get a sense of what the other fellows are working on as we were setting up our stands.  Some of the other work featured that day included: the collection of wave and wind energy, e-nose (detection and quantification of air pollution), and 3D-printing of food, … No insect tasting this time as far as I could see. When thinking about cross linkages between disciplines I can see potential applications of the 3D-printing and e-nose technology also in our field of soil ecology.