I am a PhD student at CESAM, University of Aveiro (Portugal) and University of Groningen (The Netherlands), working on the project “Waders of the Bijagós” funded by MAVA, that aims at securing the ecological integrity of the Bijagos archipelago as a key site for waders along the East Atlantic Flyway.

My interest in island systems began during my master’s degree, when I had the opportunity to volunteer in the Portuguese archipelagos of Berlengas and Madeira. This interest, together with my curiosity over tropical ecosystems, led me to develop my master research on the tropical island of São Tomé (in the Gulf of Guinea), exploring how anthropogenic land use changes affect avian seed dispersal. Aiming at gaining a better understanding about conservation biology, I later attended a tropical ecology and conservation course in Tanzania where I learned about community conservation, aquatic ecology and bioacoustics.

Bruce roost: the southern tip of Bubaque island is an important roosting area, unfortunately suffering from increasing human disturbance from touristic activities. Photo: Ana Coelho

With these set of skills and interests I joined the ‘Waders of the Bijagos’ project, where I develop my PhD, supervised by Dr. José Alves and co-supervised by Dr. Theunis Piersma, on the effect of environmental changes on migratory shorebird populations wintering in the tropics. I am currently focusing on the diet and energetic balance of some of the most common wader species, to understand if there are enough resources in the archipelago to support the large number wintering shorebirds. I will also explore how human and shorebird populations of the archipelago interact, and finally investigate changes in population numbers and functional diversity of waders over time.

After a long day of fieldwork on the extensive mudflats of Formosa island, there was still some time to help local women harvesting shellfish, a major protein source for the Bijagos people and a common prey for shorebirds. Photos: Afonso Rocha

Profile photo: Joshua Nightingale