I am a physiological ecologist, whose work mainly focuses on the adaptations and adjustments of migratory birds to fundamental challenges they face throughout their annual cycles. In 2010, during a 4-month PhD stay at the University of Groningen and NIOZ, I began to work with Dr. Theunis Piersma (and other colleagues) on the functional ecology of the saltglands in shorebirds. Since then, we have been working on the salt-water balance of shorebirds and other topics, including the ecology of Black-tailed godwits and the diversity of parasites in birds.

My PhD work (2008-2012) investigated the energetic costs of living in saline environments and the trade-offs between osmoregulation and immunity in shorebirds. This work was done at the the University of Extremadura (Spain), under supervision of Drs. José A. Masero and Juan Manuel Sánchez-Guzmán. Using lab experiments and comparative phylogenetic analyses, we found that salinity can pose major physiological challenges to shorebirds (e.g. increases metabolic rate and reduces immune responses), and that the size of their saltglands varies within and among species in relation to salt load and water needs.

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My thesis was published in 2012. The full-text PDF can be downloaded from ResearchGate.

After my PhD, I moved back to the Netherlands to work on the breeding biology of Black-tailed godwits during the field season of 2013. Then, I received a postdoctoral grant from the Government of Extremadura to become, officially, part of Theunis’ lab at NIOZ (2013-2015), where I resumed my work on the salt tolerance of shorebirds, especially of red knots.

As of April 2016, I began a new post-doctoral position in Evolutionary Comparative Ecology Group at the University of Hull with Dr. Isabella Capellini. In Hull I am investigating how ecological and life history traits promote invasion success in vertebrates.

I am also interested in the evolutionary ecology of host–parasite interactions, typically testing hypotheses at the macro-evolutionary scale.

For an overview of and links to my publications and more details about my research, see my ResearchGate and Google Scholar.

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Ring-reading in Banc d’Arguin (Mauritania). Photo: Marwa Kavelaars