Research

What do I do?  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. 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 this? 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 on birds
  • Field experiments and GPS-tracking of birds
  • Comparative analysis on multi-species and multi-population datasets
  • Demographic modelling of populations
  • Developing new statistical methods for ecological research

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 & Bruno Ens, 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 European birds collected by citizen science schemes (e.g. Constant Effort Site or Breeding Bird Surveys schemes in the Netherlands and UK) or multi-population datasets on frequently studied species (e.g. great and blue tits across Europe collected by many colleagues).