6708 PB Wageningen
My research at NIOO focuses on dispersal as mechanism to cope with climate change. In Svalbard, Pink-footed Geese (Anser brachyrhynchus) traditionally breed in the west, whereas nowadays also the east (Edgeoya) becomes snow-free early enough in the season to serve as breeding habitat. Pink-footed Geese have recently colonized this area, and we expect them to be better matched with the local food pulse than geese on traditional grounds, resulting in higher fitness. We also investigate to what extent the annual cycle differs between geese of both areas in terms of energy and time budgets and migration timing and routes, and whether geese of both areas are genetically differentiated. We will test aggression, docility and stress resistance during handling as measures of personality to see if personality may have played a role in the colonization process.
I did my Bachelor at Wageningen Universtiy focusing on Ecology and Biodiversity, with a thesis on Age- and density-dependent breeding success of Goshawks (at NIOO, A.J. van Noordwijk, and WUR, D. Kleijn). I moved to Groningen for the Topmaster Programme Evolutionary biology, with theses on Tidal migration of mobile benthic prey of Red Knots (at NIOZ, P.J. van den Hout and T. Piersma), the Relationship of personality with early-life body mass in Blue tits (at University of Turku, J.E. Brommer and B. Class), and Sex-ratio and sexual dimorphism in chicks of Honey Buzzard (at University of Groningen, C. Both and R.G. Bijlsma). After graduation I contiued working in Turku on the blue tit personalities.
Before and throughout my studies I have joined long-term breeding biology studies on raptors and meadow birds around my home-town Groesbeek, and assisted in fieldwork with Great Skuas on the Faroe Islands (University of Glasgow, S. Hammer), and with Arctic Skuas, Red-necked Phalaropes and Barnacle geese on Tobseda, Russia (NIOO, T.K. Lameris, and IMARES, R.S.A. van Bemmelen).
I am a keen fieldwork-based ecologist, valuing a holistic view and precise and standardised observations, also leaving room to respond to unexpected phenomena. Illustrative of such attitude is this quote by Tinbergen in the sixties:
"We did not tackle the problem by systematic experimentation but by collecting incidental evidence, which is not too difficult provided one has the problem continuously in mind during watching. As a rule, Nature makes numerous experiments for us and it is amazing how much evidence on can collect if one is continuously on the alert and appreciative of the possibilities." (N. Tinbergen (1960) The Herring Gull's World, p.99)
The Russian breeding population of barnacle geese Branta leucopsis has shown a rapid increase in numbers since 1980, which has coincided with a southwest-wards breeding range expansion within the Russian Arctic. Here barnacle geese also started to occupy coastal and marsh land habitats, in which they were not know to nest on their traditional breeding grounds. While these changes have been well documented by studies and observations throughout the new breeding range of barnacle geese, observations are lacking from the traditional breeding grounds on Novaya Zemlya, as this area is remote and difficult to access. This is especially relevant given rapid climate warming in this area, which may impact local distribution and population size. We used GPS-tracking and behavioural biologging data from 46 individual barnacle geese captured on their wintering grounds to locate nest sites in the Russian Arctic and study nesting distribution in 2008–2010 and 2018–2020. Extrapolating from nest counts on Kolguev Island, we estimate the breeding population on Novaya Zemlya in 2018–2020 to range around 75,250 pairs although the confidence interval around this estimate was large. A comparison with the historical size of the barnacle goose population suggests an increase in the breeding population on Novaya Zemlya, corresponding with changes in other areas of the breeding range. Our results show that many barnacle geese on Novaya Zemlya currently nest on lowland tundra on Gusinaya Zemlya Peninsula. This region has been occupied by barnacle geese only since 1990 and appears to be mainly available for nesting in years with early spring. Tracking data are a valuable tool to increase our knowledge of remote locations, but counts of breeding individuals or nests are needed to further corroborate estimates of breeding populations based on tracking data.