Research

What questions do I study? I am interested in how individuals and populations deal with environmental variability and change. My main focus is therefore on global change ecology with an ultimate interest on how it impacts populations and what we can do to mitigate these effects and determine the most effective conservation strategies. The kinds of questions we ask are:

  • How do individuals cope with extreme climatic events?
  • Is increased environmental variability good or bad for populations?
  • How do different aspects of environmental change accumulate to affect populations?
  • What are the most efficient mitigating, compensatory or conservation actions?
  • Why do individuals, population and species differ in their climate sensitivity?
  • How does environmental variability affect cooperation and how does cooperation help to deal with environmental variability?

How do I do research? Overall I take a strongly quantitative approach to ecology: I am not so much interested in showing that there are effects, but in estimating how strong these effects are, how certain we can be about them, translate what this means for population numbers (as this is most relevant to conservation) and what the most efficient ways is to mitigate negative impacts. We collect data from the field, literature and computer simulations by conducting:  

  • Long-term field studies and field experiments
  • GPS-tracking of animals and remote sensing
  • Comparative analysis on multi-species and multi-population datasets
  • Demographic modelling of populations
  • Developing new statistical methods for ecological research

Who or what do I study? Basically, birds and bytes or any other interesting long-term dataset that help us answer our questions. The birds being:

  • Eurasian oystercatchers on the Dutch barrier island of Schiermonnikoog and many citizen science populations across the Netherlands (in collaboration with Kees Oosterbeek, Sovon, ongoing since 1983)
  • Superb fairy wrens in the Botanic gardens of Canberra, Australia (led by Prof. Andrew Cockburn and Prof. Loeske Kruuk, ongoing since 1992)
  • Red-winged fairy wrens in the tall Karri forest of biodiversity hotspot of south-west Australia (led by As. Prof. Lyanne Brouwer, Radboud University, ongoing since 2008)
  • Large multispecies dataset on birds collected by citizen science schemes (e.g. Constant Effort Site or Breeding Bird Surveys schemes) or multi-population datasets on frequently studied species (e.g. great and blue tits across the world collected by many colleagues).

Current projects

  • Using artificial intelligence for automated phenotyping: can we distinguish boys from girls? (2020; funded by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences).
  • Cumulative Human Impact of biRd Populations ( 2016-2022; funded by applied research council NWO-TTW, the Royal Air force, NAM gas mining company, BirdLife Netherlands & Deltares). Two PhD students, a postdoc and several technicians asses how different human actions accumulate to affect oystercatcher populations and what are the most efficient mitigation and conservation actions.
  • I am also involved in several other projects as a partner investigator: Project ECOVAR studies how to manage ecosystems in an increasingly variable world, led by Assoc. Prof. Yngvild Vindenes at Oslo Univ. Project sTraitChange studies how trait responses to climate change translate into demographic rates and population dynamics, led by Dr. Viktoriia Radchuk IZW berlin. Project ‘ When is global change too much ? Limits to plastic responses in wild birds, led by Dr. Celine Teplitsky CRNS France.