In 2004 Theunis and I started two long-term research programs on inland, fresh-water, wader species:  Black-tailed Godwit and Ruff. Although I am appointed at the Conservation Ecology Group of the University of Groningen, you can find me most of the time in SW Friesland, The Netherlands, where the majority of the fieldwork takes place.

The Ruff project is almost finished now since Ruffs no longer pass through our study area in massive numbers. But the demographic study on Black-tailed Godwits is still booming and nowadays we follow a population of about 1000 breeding pairs in a 10.000 ha study area, including many colour ringed individuals.

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The next generation of Black-tailed Godwits, with code flags. Photo: University of Groningen

My role is to manage the daily running of the program: including preparing and conducting fieldwork,  directing a team of up to 10 field assistants, equipment logistics, database management, public outreach, organizing expeditions to Iberia and Africa, assist in fundraising, contributing to publications.

Black-tailed Godwits and other meadow-bird species have been decimated in the past 40 years, mainly due to habitat loss as a result of agricultural intensification. Our study has lead to many new insights on what is necessary to prevent this national bird of The Netherlands from getting extinct. I am convinced that by creating public awareness, informing policy makers and discussing with landowners our  wader science will eventually contribute to a revolution in agricultural practices and the restoration of farmland biodiversity.

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Black-tailed Godwits wintering in Guinea Bissau. Photo: University of Groningen