Prof. Dr.


Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Faculty of Sciences and Bio-engineering Sciences

Biology Department

Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels

Being very passionate about physical processes and geosystems, Tom studied Physical Geography at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and KULeuven (KUL). During his masters, he conducted research in the field of glaciology, focusing mainly on modeling the routing of basal water under the Antarctic ice sheet (advisor: Prof. Philippe Huybrechts). As a student, he partnered the Ice and Climate Group (VUB) and took part in a glacial monitoring campaign in the Swiss Alps. 

During his PhD (VLIR-UOS grant), Tom focused on the distribution of species and ecosystems along geographic and environmental gradients, with a strong emphasis on the dispersal and community ecology of coastal wetlands (mangroves in particular). Within this context, he conducted fieldwork in Kenya and collaborated with researchers from several institutes such as the Kenya Marine Fisheries and Research Institute (KMFRI, Kenya) and the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ, the Netherlands). During this time, he had the honor to teach international student groups at both bachelor and master level and co-supervise international excursions in ecology and biogeography (to Pas-de-Calais, Andalusia, Catalonia, and Tenerife). In 2014, he got selected to participate in the Visiting Student Researchers Program (JVSRP) Education Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL, Pasadena, California, USA), and was invited to the institute as a voluntary researcher in 2015.

From 2015 onwards, Tom continued his research on coastal wetland and dispersal ecology as a postdoctoral research assistant at the VUB, coordinating several courses and contributing to the internationalisation and PR of the VUB Biology Department. In 2017, he moved to California to work as a postdoctoral research scholar at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and later got employed as a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at JPL. As a member of the Earth Science Division at JPL, he contributes to research on wetlands and land-ocean interactions in coastal zones globally, and helped developing global maps of coastal deltas and estuaries to simulate the Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission observations strategy. In the various projects, we use state-of-the-art numerical models, as well as in situ and remote sensing data. During this time he remained attached to the VUB as a voluntary researcher.

In 2020, Tom returned the Ecology and Biodiversity Group at VUB, where he collaborated with Prof. Ludwig Triest on variaous projects regarding connectivity patterns of coastal wetlands, predominantly in the Western Indian Ocean region. In October 2020, he started as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellow at VUB and focuses on the interaction of mangrove forests and the global climate system, including global range shifts and mangrove-ocean C-fluxes.


  • Triest L., Van der Stocken T., et al. (2021). Expansion of the mangrove species Rhizophora mucronata in the Western Indian Ocean launched contrasting genetic patterns. Scientific Reports 11: 4987.

  • Van der Stocken T., Wee A. S. W., De Ryck D. J. R., Vanschoenwinkel B., Friess D. A., Dahdouh-Guebas F., Simard M., Koedam N. and E. L. Webb (2019). A general framework for propagule dispersal in mangroves. Biological Reviews. doi: 10.1111/bvr.12514.
  • Simard M., Fatoyinbo L., Smetanka C., Rivera-Monroy V. H., Castañeda-Moya E., Thomas N. and T. Van der Stocken (2019). Mangrove canopy height globally related to precipitation, temperature and cyclone frequency. Nature Geoscience 12: 40–45.

  • Van der Stocken T., Carroll D., Menemenlis D., Simard M. and N. Koedam (2019). Global-scale dispersal and connectivity in mangroves. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). 116(3): 915–922.

  • Triest L., Sierens T., Menemenlis D. and T. Van der Stocken (2018). Inferring connectivity range in submerged aquatic populations (Ruppia L.) along European coastal lagoons from genetic imprint and simulated dispersal trajectories. Frontiers in Plant Science 9: art. 801.

  • Van der Stocken T. and D. Menemenlis (2017). Modeling mangrove propagule dispersal trajectories using high-resolution estimates of ocean surface winds and currents. Biotropica 49(4): 472–481.

  • Van der Stocken T., Vanschoenwinkel B., De Ryck D.J.R., Bouma T.J., Dahdouh-Guebas F. and N. Koedam (2015). Interaction between wind and water as a driver of passive dispersal dynamics: implications for potential effective dispersal. PLoS ONE 10(3): e0121593.

  • Van der Stocken T., De Ryck D.J.R., Vanschoenwinkel B., Deboelpaep E., Bouma T.J., Dahdouh-Guebas F. and N. Koedam (2015). Impact of landscape structure on propagule dispersal in mangrove forests. Marine Ecology Progress Series 524: 95–106.

  • Van der Stocken T., De Ryck D., Balke T., Bouma T. J., Dahdouh-Guebas F. and N. Koedam (2013). The role of wind in hydrochorous mangrove propagule dispersal. Biogeosciences 10: 895–925.

A full list of publications can be found on my ResearchGate profile

  • Mangroves – seen from space and taller than you might think! Nature4Climate, 2019.
  • New Satellite-based maps of mangrove heights. NASA News Global Climate Change, 27 Feb 2019.
  • Map of mangrove height reveals carbon-rich coastal forests. Inside Science, 22 Feb 2019.
  • Bos op wereldreis. EOS Wetenschap, Editie 3, 2019, p. 11.
  • Hoge bomen vangen veel CO2. Knack, 6 Feb 2019.
  • VUB en NASA brengen verspreiding mangroves in kaart. MO Magazine, 6 Feb 2019.
  • Studie van VUB en NASA: zaden van mangroven kunnen oceanen oversteken. VRT Nieuws, 2 Feb 2019.
  • VUB study is first to map global dispersal and connectivity patterns in mangroves. VUB Press, 1 Feb 2019.
  • VUB studie brengt voor het eerst verspreidingspatronen van mangrovebossen in kaart. VUB Today, 1 Feb 2019.
  • Mangrove global oceanic dispersal and connectivity patterns uncovered. VUB Today, 21 Jan 2019.
  • Archipiélagos como Galápagos, clave para los manglares del planeta. SciDev.Net, 15 Jan 2019.
  • Comment et où voyagent les mangroves. Daily Science, 14 Jan 2019.
  • Mangroves planten zich voort op het ritme van de oceaan. De Morgen, 2 Jan 2019.
  • Mangroves kunnen de oceaan niet zomaar oversteken. NRC Handelsblad, 1 Jan 2019.
  • Where the tallest mangroves are. Nature Geoscience, 20 Dec 2018, by Daniel Friess.
  • How to bridge the gap between science and society. Henri Magazine 9, Autumn 2017, p. 22-24.
  • Wetenschap is ook... het toeval omarmen. Henri Magazine 8, Summer 2017.
  • Het water aan de lippen. Knack, 25 Jan 2017, p. 80.
  • Van mangroven tot de NASA: de roadmovie van Tom Van der Stocken. VLIR-UOS 2015, Annual Report, p. 12-14.
  • Ook wind beïnvloedt route zeevarende organismen. EOS online, 18 Jun 2015.
  • Zeilende zaadjes. Knack, 24 Jun 2015, p. 81.
  • 6-Annual I. Vanderschueren Price 2020 for Basic, Natural and Applied Sciences - awarded by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
  • Postdoctoral Scholarship at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology (Caltech/JPL)  (May 2018 - Oct. 2019)
  • Postdoctoral Scholarship at Caltech, California Institute of Technology (Caltech)  (Oct. 2017 - May 2018)
  • Best Postdoc Oral Presentation Award, VLIZ Marine Science Day, Flanders Marine Research Institute (Mar. 2017)
  • JPL Visiting Student Researchers Program Fellowship, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology (Caltech/JPL)  (Sep.-Oct. 2015)
  • Best Student Oral Presentation Award (2nd), Society for Tropical Ecology, ETH Zürich (Apr. 2015)
  • Student Travel Grant Award. Doctoral School of Natural Sciences and (Bioscience) Engineering (NSE), Belgium (2015).
  • Student Travel Grant Award. Society for Experimental Biology (SEB), Company of Biologists (CoB) Travel Fund, UK (2015).
  • JPL Visiting Student Researchers Program Fellowship, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology (Caltech/JPL)  (Mar. 2014)
  • Student Travel Grant Award. Doctoral School of Natural Sciences and (Bioscience) Engineering (NSE), Belgium (2014).
  • Student Travel Grant Award. Society for Experimental Biology (SEB), Company of Biologists (CoB) Travel Fund, UK (2013).
  • Best Student Oral Presentation Award (2nd), VLIZ Marine Science Day, Flanders Marine Research Institute (Feb. 2013)
  • Best Student Oral Presentation Award (3rd), Mangrove and Macrobethos Meeting (MMM3) (Jul. 2012)
  • VLIR-UOS VLADOC doctoral research grant (2011-2015)