Seasonally migrating animals spend their annual cycle in various different habitats that are distinct in place and time, often by thousends of kilometers. The large spatial scales involved makes it highly challenging to answer even the most basic questions concerning migrants, such as why populations of long-distance migrants decline more than short-distance migrants, where are the population-regulating bottlenecks located within flyways, and where in space and time population can be managed, restored and protected most effectively?
Remote observation techniques have the potential to reconstruct not only where animals are located year-round, but also what are their activities, where and when they are pushed to their limits, and ultimitely, where mortality occurs. I like to use my quantitative and mathematical skills to develop new data-intensive observational techniques (weather radar networking, individual tracking), and analyse resultant observations with dynamic behaviour-based models. To be able to make mechanistic inferences, I develop mathematical models that firmly integrate with ecological theory, which can capture both the movement decisions and foraging behaviour of animals, but also provide a realistic reconstruction of the dynamic environment in which my study animals live and interact with. The increasing availability of big data and data-rich observational techniques provides great opportunities for ecology to advance as a predictive science - a task of imminent fundamental and practical importance given the ongoing major impacts of global human-induced environmental changes on the fitness of individuals and populations.
How do Dark-bellied Brent Geese (Branta bernicla bernicla) prepare in the Dutch Wadden Sea for their fast migration to Taimyr peninsula in Russia?
Common Swifts (Apus apus) are specialist flyers which spend nearly their entire life on the wing. At night they show impressive (and puzzling) flight behaviour.
How do Eurasian Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) exploit their dynamic intertidal habitat, and can we predict its carrying capacity in winter?
Using large networks of weather radars, bird migration can now be studied at the unprecedented scale of a full continent