Suzanne Kanters

Employee portrait

'Robust nature essential for people and society'

Ecologist Suzanne Kanters specialises in systems analyses. Together with a growing group of colleagues, she investigates how natural areas can be improved. After all, that is beneficial for both people and society.

Zip-off trousers

‘As a child, I was always outside: examining bugs, catching spiders – that sort of thing. I’d take dead birds home and examine, for example, how their necks worked. My mum was fine with it as long as I kept the animals and plants outside! During careers day at primary school, I dressed up in – wait for it – zip-off trousers and Teva sandals with socks. I even had binoculars. One biology teacher I didn’t like very much almost ruined things for me, but I ended up studying biology anyway and eventually become an ecologist. I don’t examine dead birds anymore; I’m now interested in how ecosystems function.’


‘Unlike, say, the landscape architects at Witteveen+Bos, what ecologists do isn’t directly related to engineering. We conduct independent investigations to identify how nature in the Netherlands can be restored. Humans have disturbed many natural systems, in particular by dewatering areas for agriculture and industry, or to intensify these. Our profession has become incredibly topical in a short time – take, for example, the Nature Restoration Law. This is also reflected in our group’s workload. When I started at Witteveen+Bos four years ago, there were 30 ecologists; now there are around 50 of us.’


‘I want to contribute to a better Netherlands and I like being involved in something that’s getting so much attention. At the same time, all the political discussions can be exhausting. There’s a lot of misunderstanding because things aren’t explained properly. Take nitrogen, for example: it’s an essential nutrient for plants, but too much of it causes problems. That’s what’s happening now. Nitrogen has a fertilising and acidifying effect and can be toxic. Fast‑growing species such as brambles, nettles and various grasses benefit from this, whereas other – more valuable – species disappear. This also has an impact on the species dependent on these plants. The result is biodiversity loss. Ultimately, we’re all dependent on our planet and its resources – and on biodiversity.’

More information?