My research interests are centred around all aspects of movement ecology: why and how do animals move where and when?
To work on those questions, I presently use the greater white-fronted goose (Anser a. albivrons) as a study species. This species is so far numerous to winter in the Netherlands, Northern Germany and Hungary, but might become affected by climate and habitat change as well as increasing levels of hunting, especially during their migration travels.
My main project at the moment is EO-Move (http://www.orn.mpg.de/3741772/eomove), where in collaboration with the University of Würzburg we try to unravel habitat use of white-fronted geese during their spring migration and how this might have changed due to habitat degradation in the past years. We will combine high resolution GPS and accelerometer (ACC) tracking data with novel Sentinel 1 and Sentinel 2 satellite images. The project is funded by the Germany Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.
In the past years, I have focused on understanding how individual movement paths of geese are driven by environmental factors like food availability or wind and social factors like the movement of other individuals. For disentangling those questions, I collect and analyse high resolution GPS tracks and 3D ACC data, often in close collaboration with tag developers. Since two years, we use GPS/ACC tags that are included in a neckband collar, which has been developed by and with madebytheo, and we are highly pleased with their performance and the low discomfort levels that tagged geese show.
One interesting result of my studies of environmental factors that influence the geese’ migration flights is that during autumn migration they wait for rare supportive winds before starting their often 1000s of kilometre long stretches of flight, whereas during spring migration such behaviour cannot be seen (see http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/oik.03121/abstract).
Most interestingly, I study the collective behaviour and social movement of families of white-fronted geese (http://www.orn.mpg.de/3340623/Social-Migration-of-Goose-Families) that we catch in collaboration with the Dutch Goose Catchers in the Netherlands and equip all members of the family with GPS/ACC tags. I am mainly interested in understanding how the members of single families move with each other, if there are leading individuals and how their behaviour is coordinated. What are young geese learning from their parents and how long do they actually stay together? The project has been funded under the umbrella of the ICARUS project by the German Space Agency.
In August 2016 I have organised a field trip to the main breeding sites of white-fronted geese on Kolguev Island (Russia) in collaboration with the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Alterra-Wageningen UR and the Institute for Waterbirds and Wetlands Research e.V. The trip was funded by a personal grant from National Geographic Society. Several geese could be caught and equipped with GPS/ACC tags. However, the summer season of 2016 has been very early in the Arctic, so that many birds were already finished with their moult and catching was increasingly difficult. Follow some of our tagged birds on http://www.blessgans.de/?602.
- 2013 – present Post-Doc, Department of Migration and Immuno-Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Radolfzell, Germany
- 2009 – 2013 Post-Doc, Project Group Movement Ecology and Department of Animal Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Wageningen, the Netherlands
- 2007 – 2009 PhD student, Mathematical Modelling, University of Oldenburg, Germany
- 2006 – 2007 PhD student, Theoretical Ecology, Universtiy of Potsdam, Germany
- 2000 – 2005 Diplom student, Biomathematics, University of Greifswald, Germany