As a post-doctoral researcher in the Conservation Ecology Group at the University of Groningen (RUG) I have the privilege to study the ecology and evolution of Sanderling migration. While I have been fascinated by bird migration since I was a kid, my real interest and focus on shorebirds came during my MSc-projects on the brooding behaviour of American Golden Plovers in relation to ambient temperature and age of the chicks (published here), and on endocrinology in Red Knots (several published articles, e.g. this one). During both MSc-projects I got introduced to, and fell in love with, the (sub)Arctic and its breeding shorebirds; first at Churchill along the Hudson Bay in Canada, later at the most northern settlement on Earth at Alert, Ellesmere Island, Canada. It was therefore a dream come true when Theunis invited me to do a PhD with him on yet another field of shorebird biology; the functional aspects of changes in preen wax composition in shorebirds allowing me to continue studying (Arctic) shorebirds. Among others, in an experiment with a trained sniffer dog, I discovered that the seasonal shift in preen wax composition may increase the olfactory crypsis of ground-nesting shorebirds. Next to studying preen waxes, I got the opportunity during my PhD to visit both High Arctic Greenland and the Banc d’Arguin, Mauritania for shorebird research. It was at those locations, and especially the Danish field station in Zackenberg, Northeast Greenland, where the seeds for the long-term project on Sanderlings were planted.
My current research explores the demography of Sanderlings aiming to understand the costs and benefits of intra-population migration strategies. Sanderlings are an ideal study species for such studies because among many other benefits they (1) are relatively easy to study at the Arctic breeding grounds, compared to most other long-distance migratory Arctic breeding shorebirds in combination with (2) being visible during migration and winter to a large network of volunteer observers along the East Atlantic flyway between northern Scotland and Namibia. This research is done in close collaboration with many co-workers both professional and volunteers along the entire flyway.
I am also part of the editorial boards of Ibis (as an associate editor) and Wader Study.
You can view my publications at my profiles on ResearchGate, Google Scholar, and the University of Groningen. I am particularly proud of the long-term study on Sanderlings showing the (lack of) consequences of predators and food on reproductive timing, published in Ecology & Evolution.
Profile photo: Stefan Sand