Thomas Oudman

Thomas Oudman is a behavioural ecologist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, and currently enjoys a 2-year Visiting Scholarship at the Laland Lab, financed by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. He is working on the learning behaviour of migratory birds, focusing on how traditions help and hinder them in adjusting their flight schedules and destination as a response to e.g. climate change. Thomas' personal website can be found at

Thomas Oudman by Jan van Gils

About to release a Red Knot which is deployed with a 5 g radio tag. Photo: Jan van Gils

His PhD thesis, on Red Knots wintering at Banc d’Arguin in Mauritania, focussed on the factors that determine their foraging decisions. This work was done at the NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, under supervision of Jan van Gils and Theunis Piersma. Using experiments, mathematical modelling and radio-tracking of red knots in the wild, he compared the decisions of Mauritanian Red Knots with their conspecific counterparts in the Dutch Wadden Sea. These studies show large differences in the habits of these two subspecies, which can be related to environmental differences.

In a joint project by NIOZ, Sovon and Global Flyway Network, and financed by Programme Towards a Rich Wadden Sea, he published a report evaluating all winter counts of waterbirds at Banc d’Arguin, showing that red knots and the bar-tailed godwits have shown strong declines over the last thirty years. The numbers suggest that especially species that depend on the intertidal have been in decline, but much more effort is needed to realize population trends of most species with any confidence.

Red Knots JeroenOnrust

Red Knots foraging in the water line at Banc d’Arguin. Photo: Jeroen Onrust

Thomas was also involved as a postdoc in rounding up the Metawad project, working amongst others on the breeding distribution of Spoonbills in the Netherlands.

Thomas received his MSc in 2010 at the University of Amsterdam, having done theoretical work on the presence (or actually absence) of early warning signals before ecosystem collapses with Maarten Boerlijst and Andre de Roos (University of Amsterdam) on the timing of Barnacle Goose migration to Spitsbergen with Maarten Loonen, Jouke Prop and Gotz Eichhorn (University of Groningen). Since 2008, he has been involved in Barnacle and Pink-footed Goose research on Spitsbergen lead by Jouke Prop, recording the strongly increasing impact that polar bears have on the breeding success of these geese.

On 18 May 2017 Jessica Schop of the Wadden Academy reviewed Thomas' thesis (in Dutch): Hoe kanoeten-gewoontes in Europa en Afrika verschillen

Thomas Oudman

The cover of Thomas' PhD thesis