Kerstin Bouma

Kerstin Bouma MSc

PhD Candidate
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Visiting Address

Droevendaalsesteeg 10
6708 PB Wageningen

+31 (0) 317 47 34 00

The Netherlands



During my PhD I am looking into food web dynamics during a water drawdown in a Dutch wetland: The Oostvaardersplassen. This broad scope allows me to look at the complete ecosystem, from red deer and carp to zooplankton and small macrofauna.


My name is Kerstin Bouma and at the moment I am working on my PhD project at the Aquatic Ecology group of NIOO-KNAW. I did my bachelor and master biology at the Wageningen University and graduated in 2020. I have always had a broad interest which led to very diverse research projects during my master: During my thesis I looked into the effect of pre- and post-natal predatory cues and how these shape offspring behaviour in the bank vole and for my internship I looked into the effect of the European bison on landscape heterogeneity in a Dutch nature area. During my free time I like to go outside for running or cycling and in the winter I love to go ice skating or skiing!

Now I am excited to broaden my knowledge from solely terrestrial ecology to a combination of aquatic and terrestrial ecology. This project also allows me to perform very diverse tasks by combining fieldwork, labwork and computerwork.

Kerstin Bouma op een kano tijdens het veldwerk in de Oostvaardersplassen.
Tjitske Dalderup
Kerstin Bouma during her fieldwork in the Oostvaardersplassen
Uitzicht over een rietkraag van de Hoekplas in de Oostvaardersplassen.
Kerstin Bouma
View of one of the shallow lakes surrounded by reed vegetation in the Oostvaardersplassen

For my project I work in the Oostvaardersplassen, a Dutch nature area, created on former marine sediment from the Zuiderzee after land reclamation. The area consists of various shallow water bodies surrounded by reed and typha vegetation and patches of willow. 
Eutrophic wetlands, like this one, are known to have so-called boom-bust cycles in which bird numbers are increasing in certain years and decreasing in following years. Yet, the exact driver of these cycles is still unknown. The main hypothesis is that this cycle realtes to water level and as a consequence to vegetation structure. Since, a drawdown is taking place in the Oostvaardersplassen from 2020-2024 to reset vegetation structure, it gives an unique opportunity to research how the different food web components are affected by a drawdown and how this might drive boom-bust cycles in wetland birds.

Cracked soil in the area of the Oostvaardersplassen where a drawdown is initiated. The soil is quickly colonised by pioneer vegetation.
Kerstin Bouma
Pioneer vegetation (Ranunculus scleraturus) is quickly developing in the drawdown area.

Research groups


Key publications

  • Frontiers in Ecology & Evolution

    Pre- and Postnatal Predator Cues Shape Offspring Anti-predatory Behavior Similarly in the Bank Vole

    Thorbjörn Sievert, Kerstin Bouma, Marko Haapakoski, Kevin D. Matson and Hannu Ylönen
    Prey animals can assess the risks predators present in different ways. For example, direct cues produced by predators can be used, but also signals produced by prey conspecifics that have engaged in non-lethal predator-prey interactions. These non-lethal interactions can thereby affect the physiology, behavior, and survival of prey individuals, and may affect offspring performance through maternal effects. We investigated how timing of exposure to predation-related cues during early development affects offspring behavior after weaning. Females in the laboratory were exposed during pregnancy or lactation to one of three odor treatments: (1) predator odor (PO) originating from their most common predator, the least weasel, (2) odor produced by predator-exposed conspecifics, which we call conspecific alarm cue (CAC), or (3) control odor (C). We monitored postnatal pup growth, and we quantified foraging and exploratory behaviors of 4-week-old pups following exposure of their mothers to each of the three odour treatments. Exposure to odors associated with predation risk during development affected the offspring behavior, but the timing of exposure, i.e., pre- vs. postnatally, had only a weak effect. The two non-control odors led to different behavioral changes: an attraction to CAC and an avoidance of PO. Additionally, pup growth was affected by an interaction between litter size and maternal treatment, again regardless of timing. Pups from the CAC maternal treatment grew faster in larger litters; pups from the PO maternal treatment tended to grow faster in smaller litters. Thus, in rodents, offspring growth and behavior are seemingly influenced differently by the type of predation risk perceived by their mothers.
  • Proceedings of the ISAE Benelux conference 2018. - International Society for Applied Ethology (ISAE)

    Dog-directed parenting as a candidate determinant of dog to owner attachment

    Bouma, K.; Herwijnen, Ineke van; Beerda, B.
    Attachment between dog and owner should establish that the owner acts as a secure base from which the dog can freely explore and interact with the environment. Insecure attachment may cause problem behaviour and poor welfare, and is possibly prevented by appropriate dog-directed parenting. Recently, we identified three dog-directed parenting styles, which were authoritarian correction oriented (AUN), authoritative training oriented (AUT) and authoritative intrinsic value oriented (AUI). We studied how these styles associate with dog to owner attachment as measured with a Strange Situation Test (SST) protocol with different test episodes. In these episodes the dog was either alone in an unfamiliar room, with a stranger, the owner or both. Dog behaviours were grouped by principal component analysis (PCA). Online questionnaires were used to calculate owner-report based scores for parenting styles and these were related to SST dog behaviour scores, as grouped in the PCA. A preliminary analysis of 35 dog-owner dyads correlated AUT dog-directed parenting to behaviours indicative of secure attachment (N=35, r=0.38, p=0.025), which included dogs exploring more during owner presence. Insecure attachment scores were also derived from PCA, and included behaviours such as vocalisations during owner absence. These scores correlated negatively with AUN parenting (N=35, r=-0.48, p=0.004) and positively with AUI parenting (N=35, r=0.46, p=0.006). Our preliminary findings are in agreement with what is known about the parent-child bond, suggesting that for dogs the authoritarian parenting style is most optimal as it is for children. Though the causality of dog-directed parenting and dog to owner attachment remains to be evidenced. Here we find that dog-directed parenting styles may be a route for facilitating appropriate dog to owner attachment and thereby protects dogs from negative emotional states and impaired welfare.

Projects & collaborations


  • Rewilding wetlands

    Project 2016–2024
    Restoring wetlands by allowing water level dynamics and connecting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems can be considered as a form of aquatic rewilding. Lake restoration project Marker Wadden and the Oostvaardersplassen marsh reset are part of our research program studying the impact of lake and wetland restoration measures on the biodiversity and functioning of aquatic ecosystems.
    Water research Marker Wadden