As a biologist — not as a naturalist — I am clearly a late bloomer. After abandoning a career in law, I came to work in Theunis Piersma’s lab at the NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research in 2001 — as a student. In 2003 I embarked on a PhD-research, with Theunis as a promotor.

barbary close up-JanvandeKam
Barbary Falcon (Falco pelegrinoides) at Banc d’Arguin. Photo: Jan van de Kam

For my thesis I examined the impact of avian top-predators on populations and individuals of wintering shorebirds. During many visits to the beautiful Banc d’Arguin since 2002 we gathered most of the field data about lethal and non-lethal effects of falcons on shorebirds. In Red Knot we detected changing responses to dangers during ontogeny, which seemed related to trade-offs between competition and predation.

Indoor experiments at NIOZ revealed how Red Knots and Ruddy Turnstones differ in how they adjust their body structure (pectoral muscle and body mass) to changing levels of predation danger. These results suggest that flight efficiency to escape means different things to different species according to their mode of escape. I defended my thesis Struggle for Safety: Adaptive responses of wintering waders to their avian predators in 2010.

My thesis that was published in 2010. The full-text PDF can be downloaded from the RUG website.

After my PhD work I was part of the METAWAD research team for five years, studying habitat use of shorebirds and peregrines in a seasonal perspective.

Though still occasionally involved in scientific work, my angle is shifting towards science writing. Predator-prey relationships remain my favorite subject.

You can find my publications on ResearchGate or on my personal website.

Banc d’Arguin 2004. Photo: Jeroen Reneerkens