Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

Emma Penning

PhD student
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

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 Prized




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

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