Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Phone number
+31 (0)222 369 452
PhD student
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Theunis Piersma
  • Sanderlings in the Wadden Sea
  • Restoration and conservation ecology
  • Tracking local movements
  • Foraging ecology

Emma Penning

PhD student

Research interests

I am a PhD student at the University of Groningen and I am based at the Coastal Systems group of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ). I have worked under the supervision of Theunis Piersma since the start of my masters. I work in the research project Conservation of the Dynamic Island of Griend. The project is funded by the Dutch NGO Natuurmonumenten and I work in close collaboration with colleagues at the University of Groningen. My study area is the island Griend and the mudflat around the island, located in the Western Dutch Wadden Sea (here).

In spring and autumn hundreds of thousands of migrating shorebirds make use of Griend to rest but also to fatten up at the food-rich mudflat that surround it. Sanderlings are increasingly making use of Griend and are the main focus of my project. I study habitat use of Sanderlings in relation to food abundance and in relation to wintering area.

In addition, I study the possible effects of the recent restoration works on Griend on the presence of Sanderlings. The restoration was required because of ongoing rapid erosion, and intends to restore processes that should make sure that the island can maintain itself in the future. The reconstruction was featured in The National Geographic. We keep a blog about the research that is done around Griend.








Professional education



Awards and Prizes




blogs about the research that is done around Griend.

Global Flyway Ecology

Visit my page on the website of all of Theunis Piersma's collaborators.

Griend restoration in media

Vroege Vogels TV episode

NOS news item

Linked news

Friday 28 September 2018
Drieteenstrandlopers vliegen grote afstanden tijdens hun tussenstop in de Waddenzee
Drieteenstrandlopers van slechts 50 gram vliegen bij iedere getijdewisseling grote afstanden in de Waddenzee. Dat blijkt uit de eerste resultaten van het monitoringsexperiment bij Griend. Allert Bijleveld, gedragsecoloog bij het NIOZ is verrast door…
Wednesday 18 July 2018
Groot experiment op de Waddenzee bij Griend: Wat beweegt trekvogels?
De Waddenzee is een belangrijke plek voor veel vogels. Op de drooggevallen wadplaten eten ze bodemdieren zoals schelpen, wormen en garnalen, maar hoe en waar de vogels hun voedsel vinden, weten onderzoekers nog niet precies. De rijkheid aan voedsel…

NIOZ publications

  • 2016
    Bijleveld, A.I.; MacCurdy, R.B.; Chan, Y.-C; Penning, E.; Gabrielson, R.M.; Cluderay, J.; Spaulding, E.L.; Dekinga, A.; Holthuijsen, S.; Ten Horn, J.; Brugge, M.; van Gils, J.A.; Winkler, D.W.; Piersma, T. (2016). Understanding spatial distributions: negative density-dependence in prey causes predators to trade-off prey quantity with quality. Proc. - Royal Soc., Biol. Sci. 283: 1828.

Linked projects

Conservation of the dynamic Island of Griend
Henk van der Veer
Vereniging Natuurmonumenten
Project duration
1 May 2014 - 1 Jul 2020
WATLAS - advanced tracking and localisation of shorebirds
Allert Bijleveld
Project duration
1 Jan 2018 - 31 Dec 2024