Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Royal Netherlands
Institute for Sea Research
Phone number
+31 (0)222 36 9579
Visiting PhD
  • Migration Ecology
  • Movement Ecology
  • Foraging Ecology
  • Conservation
  • Shorebirds

Ginny Chan

Visiting PhD

I am a PhD candidate of the University of Groningen (RUG), currently based at the NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research. My project studies how migratory shorebirds are impacted by, and how will they adapt to, the rapidly diminishing habitats at their fuelling stops in China. I am funded by the Ubbo Emmius Fund of the RUG (link to the RUG Alumni Hong Kong Newsletter). We work closely with Fudan University and Beijing Normal University in China, all under the umbrella of Global Flyway Network.



Satellite tracking of individuals

I conducted three years of fieldwork putting satellite transmitters (PTTs, manufactured by Microwave Telemetry) in Northwest Australia. Using the latest developments in miniature satellite transmitters, we track three shorebirds species: the Bar-tailed Godwit, Great Knot and Red Knot. They migrate from Australia to their Siberian breeding areas via the Chinese and Korean coast. From the tracks we can identify important staging sites, and know the migration routes and timing of individuals.

Large-scale habitat surveys and benthic sampling at the Chinese coast

Together with PhD student Hebo Peng, in each spring, we visit as many staging sites as possible to sample the food, observe foraging behavior of birds and survey the area. We document threats at each site. Read more about our fieldwork at our blog on this websitecalled “Coastal China Field Updates”.

Harness development

Since 2013, I am involved in developing and testing harnesses to tag shorebirds with body structure like the red knot. The results of the earliest work were summarized in a publication in the Journal of Ornithology (DOI: 10.1007/s10336-015-1276-4). Feel free to contact me for latest developments!


My background

I was born and grew up in Hong Kong, a city on the south coast of China just at the edge of the tropics. I did my Bachelor degree in Environmental Life Science at the University of Hong Kong. My interest in avian ecology has motivated me to further my studies abroad, and I was very fortunate to receive the Erasmus Mundus Scholarship to join the Evolutionary Biology Master Programme at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands. My Master's research project with Theunis Piersma has brought me back to my ‘flyway’ where migratory birds are in steep decline because of human activities. After a few years of searching for funding (during which I collected preliminary data), in 2015 I can finally start a PhD to study how migratory shorebirds are impacted by the rapidly diminishing habitats at their fuelling stops in China.

Linked news

Wednesday 19 May 2021
Birds dealing with change - Mapping migration routes can lead to conservation areas
Tracking migratory birds that carry tiny satellite transmitters in featherlight ‘backpacks’, can teach us a lot about change in the environment. It may also point at possibilities to avoid loss of biodiversity. That is an important message in the…
Thursday 18 July 2019
Grote Kanoeten gebruiken andere 'tankstations' dan eerder gedacht
Geïnspireerd door het belang van de Europese Waddenzee voor trekvogels, heeft China vorige week onderdelen van haar eigen waddenzee – in de Gele Zee - succesvol genomineerd voor de Unesco Werelderfgoedstatus. Hiermee is de lijst beschermde gebieden…

NIOZ publications

  • 2021
    Chan, Y.-C (2021). Struggles ashore: Migration ecology of threatened shorebirds in the East Asian−Australasian Flyway. PhD Thesis. University of Groningen: Groningen. 223 pp.
    Piersma, T.; Kok, E.M.A.; Hassell, C.J.; Peng, H.-B.; Verkuil, Y.I.; Lei, G.; Karagicheva, J.; Rakhimberdiev, E.N.; Howey, P.W.; Tibbitts, T.L.; Chan, Y.-C (2021). When a typical jumper skips: itineraries and staging habitats used by Red Knots (Calidris canutus piersmai) migrating between northwest Australia and the New Siberian Islands. Ibis early view.
  • 2020
    Muller, J.R.M.; Chan, Y.-C; Piersma, T.; Chen, Y.-P.; Aarninkhof, S.G.J.; Hassell, C.J.; Tao, J-F.; Gong, Z.; Wang, Z.B.; van Maren, D.S. (2020). Building for nature: Preserving threatened bird habitat in port design. Water 12(8): 2134.
    Muller, J.R.M.; Chen, Y.-P.; Aarninkhof, S.G.J.; Chan, Y.-C; Piersma, T.; van Maren, D.S.; Tao, J-F.; Wang, Z.B.; Gong, Z. (2020). Ecological impact of land reclamation on Jiangsu coast (China): A novel ecotope assessment for Tongzhou Bay. Water Science and Engineering 13(1): 57-64.
  • 2019
    Chan, Y.-C; Peng, H.-B.; Han, Y.-X.; Chung, S. S.-W.; Li, J.; Zhang, L.; Piersma, T. (2019). Conserving unprotected important coastal habitats in the Yellow Sea: Shorebird occurrence, distribution and food resources at Lianyungang. Global Ecology and Conservation 20: e00724.
    Chan, Y.-C; Tibbitts, T.L; Lok, T.; Hassell, C.J.; Peng, H.-B.; Ma, Z.; Zhang, Z.; Piersma, T. (2019). Filling knowledge gaps in a threatened shorebird flyway through satellite tracking. J. Appl. Ecol. 56(10): 2305-2315.
    Zhang, S.-D; Ma, Z.; Choi, C.-Y.; Peng, H.-B.; Melville, D.S.; Zhao, T.-T.; Bai, Q.-Q.; Liu, W.-L.; Chan, Y.-C; van Gils, J.A.; Piersma, T. (2019). Morphological and digestive adjustments buffer performance: how staging shorebirds cope with severe food declines. Ecol. Evol. 9(7): 3868-3878.
  • 2018
    Zhang, S.-D.; Ma, Z.; Choi, C.-Y.; Peng, H.-B.; Bai, Q.-Q.; Liu, W.-L.; Tan, K.; Melville, D.S.; He, P.; Chan, Y.-C; van Gils, J.A.; Piersma, T. (2018). Persistent use of a shorebird staging site in the Yellow Sea despite severe declines in food resources implies a lack of alternatives. Bird. Cons. Intern. 28(4): 534-548.
  • 2017
    Piersma, T.; Chan, Y.-C; Mu, T.; Hassell, C.J.; Melville, D.S.; Peng, H.-B.; Ma, Z.; Zhang, Z.; Wilcove, D.S. (2017). Loss of habitat leads to loss of birds: reflections on the Jiangsu, China, coastal development plans. Wader Study 124(2): 93-98.
  • 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.
    Chan, Y.-C; Brugge, M.; Tibbitts, T.L.; Dekinga, A.; Porter, R.; Klaassen, R.H.G.; Piersma, T. (2016). Testing an attachment method for solar-powered tracking devices on a long-distance migrating shorebird. J. Ornithol. 157: 277–287.
    Piersma, T.; Lok, T.; Chen, Y.; Hassell, C.J.; Yang, H.-Y.; Boyle, A.; Slaymaker, M.; Chan, Y.-C; Melville, D.S.; Zhang, Z.W.; Ma, Z. (2016). Simultaneous declines in summer survival of three shorebird species signals a flyway at risk. J. Appl. Ecol. 53: 479-490.