The Gieskes-Strijbis Foundation generously supports the project 'Waakvogels, towards an observatory for global ecological change' (2018–2023). With the help of the latest space technology innovations, we track birds and remotely monitor their habitats using satellites in concert with ground-thruthing ecological measurements. These simultaneous observations of the behavior of migratory birds and the different areas of the globe they connect, informs use -almost real time- about the current global ecological changes.
This Waakvogel project focusses on Black-tailed Godwits, the Dutch national bird, and Eurasian Spoonbills, another emblematic migratory bird species for the Netherlands. They connect the Dutch meadows and mudflats with vulnerable wetlands in France, Spain, Portugal and West African countries, Morocco, Mauritania and to Guinea-Bissau.
We have been working with Black-tailed Godwits since 2004, focusing on their population dynamics and migration ecology. We search for explanations for the strong declines of godwits in The Netherlands.
Our work on the Eurasian Spoonbill builds on research efforts of the Dutch Spoonbill Working Group since the mid-1980s. They documented in detail the increase of the numbers of breeding spoonbills in The Netherlands from about 200 pairs then to about 4000 pairs now.
Godwits and other meadow birds show us the consequence of our use of the agricultural landscapes; spoonbills tell us how successfully we protect the Wadden Sea and other wetlands. That is why we call them Waakvogels - Sentinel birds. Their lifelong travels, connecting various areas in the world, they tell us about the consequences of intensive agriculture, the decline of ecosystems in the Wadden Sea, and of course, climate change.
With this project, TeamPiersma, RuG and NIOZ, the organizations where we based, want to start developing an observatory for global ecological change.
The MAVA foundation supports the large scale ecological research project ‘Waders and wonders of the Bijagós’ (2018–2022) in the Bijagos Archipelago in Guinea-Bissau. In this project, the researchers of TeamPiersma focus on the flyway ecology of long-distance migratory waders, who connect West-Africa with the Wadden Sea and the Arctic tundras.
The project is a collaboration between Guinean, Portuguese and Dutch institutions. In Guinea-Bissau: IBAP – Instituto da Biodiversidade e das Áreas Protegidas (coordinator), Palmeirinha, Tiniguena and ODZH – Organização para a Defesa e o Desenvolvimento das Zonas Humidas. In Portugal: Universidade de Aveiro, Departamento de Biologia-CESAM and Universidade de Lisboa, Faculdade de Ciências-CESAM. And in The Netherlands: University of Groningen and NIOZ – Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research.
MAVA foundation has previously supported our efforts to satellite tag Red Knots, Bar-tailed Godwits and Great Knots in the East Asian–Australasian Flyway. This research has greatly contributed to the protection of habitats for shorebirds, by halting the large-scale land claim decimating the areal of intertidal mudflats in the Yellow Sea.
The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) has supported our work with various grants, e.g. the NWO-ALW TOP grant ‘Shorebirds in space’. In 2014, NWO awarded Theunis Piersma the prestigious Spinoza Premium, which made it possible to establish a research programme on the ontogeny of bird migration using individual tracking. This has been the foundation for many of the ongoing projects, and encouraged the idea of an observatory for global ecological change.
An anonymous private donor supports our research on the threatened Dutch Black-tailed Godwit breeding population. Between 2016 en 2018 a number of private donors have supported our work on Black-tailed Godwits through “Steun the grutto” program of the Ubbo Emmius Fonds. We thank everyone who donated to this program.
From 2019, the Triodos Foundation supports the Rudi Drent Chair in Global Flyway Ecology, together with World Wildlife Fund Netherlands and BirdLife Netherlands.
The Province of Fryslân supports our field work on Black-tailed Godwits since 2013. This has enabled us to annually employ a large team of field workers and data analysts to follow the reproduction and population dynamics in the large study area in SW Fryslân.
Since 2012, Vogelbescherming Nederland / BirdLife International supports the Rudi Drent Chair in Global Flyway Ecology, together with World Wildlife Fund Netherlands and the Triodos Foundation.
Furthermore BirdLife Netherlands and BirdLife International have supported our research along two flyways. Since 2016 BirdLife supports our annual field work on Black-tailed Godwits along the East-Atlantic Flyway, especially in the various wintering areas in West Africa, and in Spain and Portugal. In the East Asian–Australasian Flyway, BirdLife has supported our field work on Red Knots, Bar-tailed Godwits and Great Knots. This research has greatly contributed to the protection of habitats for shorebirds, by halting the large-scale land claim decimating the areal of intertidal mudflats in the Yellow Sea.
Since 2012, World Wildlife Fund Netherlands supports the Rudi Drent Chair in Global Flyway Ecology, together with BirdLife Netherlands and the Triodos Foundation.
Furthermore, WWF has been a steady supporter of our field work on Red Knots, Bar-tailed Godwits and Great Knots in the East Asian–Australasian Flyway, especially along the coast of mainland China. This research has greatly contributed to the protection of habitats for shorebirds, by halting the large-scale land claim decimating the areal of intertidal mudflats in the Yellow Sea.