Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Royal Netherlands
Institute for Sea Research
Phone number
+31 (0)222 36 9340
PhD student
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Theunis Piersma
  • Animal behaviour, Life history traits, Ecology and evolution
  • Animal personality; exploratory, dominance and sociality
  • Social behaviour, Social network, Social information use
  • Movement ecology, Animal tracking
  • Wadden sea, Waders, Red knots

Selin Ersoy

PhD student

Research interests

I am a PhD student in the department COS under the supervision of Allert Bijleveld. I will be working with red knots on their exploratory behavior and its implications for social behaviour, life history and spatial distribution. 

Project title: Short-term Causes and Long-term Consequences of Individual Adaptations to Environmental Change in Red Knots 

Shorebirds in rapidly changing environments are increasingly threatened by habitat loss, overexploitation of natural resources, and climate change. In these changing environments, a fundamental understanding of organismal responses to global change and the role of individual characteristics became a core topic. Red knots (Calidris canutus) are shorebirds very well suited to study the ecological and evolutionary responses to environmental variations. This is because the species live in the most fragile and threatened habitats in the world: their breeding grounds in the Arctic are influenced by rapid warming and the coastal wintering habitats are under anthropogenic pressures during non-breeding season. Their ecology and behaviour can be studied on the individual level by marking/tagging (i.e., colour-bands and/or transmitters) birds and observing them in the wild; and by conducting behavioural experiments in a controlled setup with temporarily captured individuals.
During my PhD study, I plan to combine fieldwork on free living red knots and indoor experiments on captive red knots to investigate how individual, ontogenetic, and environmental factors influence red knot adaptation to environmental changes. Four main topics will compose the backbone of the proposed research and will be organized as self-contained sections of my PhD thesis:
1) Ontogeny of individual differences: How do individual differences in exploration emerge during development, how stable are these differences throughout lifetime, and how are they related to other phenotypic differences? How much of the individual differences are heritable and/or learned by adapting to environment?
2) Ecology of exploratory behaviour at the individual level: How does the spatiotemporal availability and variation in prey quality affect individual differences in exploration behaviour? How movements differ between individuals? Do individual birds adjust their movement patterns to the landscape-scale changes? Do exploratory behaviour predict individual foraging specialisation?
3) Ecology of exploratory behaviour at the population level: What are the implications of differences in exploration tendency for the spatial distribution of Red Knots and how does this affect the adaptive capacity of the species in times of global change? Does exploratory behaviour have an effect on survival? How does mean exploratory behaviour in a wild population of red knots change with seasonal as well as yearly changes in food availability?
4) Unifying eco-evo framework: What is the current status of research on consistent individual differences (i.e., animal personality) in adaptation to environmental changes? Can we build a theoretical model to investigate under what conditions individual differences in exploration behaviour emerge? Can we use my empirical data from the field and experiments to test theoretical predictions for individual adaptation to changing environment?
My results shall provide detailed information on the underlying mechanisms of individual responses to environmental variations. These new data combined with the existing knowledge at our institute will allow the investigation of different life-history strategies by taking into account the individual-level variation explicitly. The findings of the proposed study will increase our understanding of the ecological and evolutionary consequences of global change in socially and spatially structured species and will be of importance to biologists in the fields of behavioural ecology, movement ecology, and biodemography.






Key publications



Professional education



Awards and Prizes





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…

Linked blogs

Wednesday 01 December 2021
A tight knot between exploratory personality, foraging tactics and diet
There is a place on earth where life not only revolves around day and night but also around the tidal cycle. Intertidal mudflats are dynamic and fascinating places that are completely submerged for part of the day and exposed during others. For the…
Friday 02 October 2020
WATLAS fieldwork 2020 | Tracking Shorebirds in the Wadden Sea
The Wadden Sea is an important and unique site for many shorebirds. By tracking shorebirds, we study how shorebirds move with the tide, on which intertidal mudflats they feed, and how long they stay in the Wadden Sea on their migratory journeys. This…
Monday 09 December 2019
WATLAS | What do Red knots eat in the Wadden Sea?
The fieldwork of summer 2019 is over and we are back to our warm offices with lots of data ready to process. In total, 256 red knots were colour ringed and tagged this season. Thanks to WATLAS, we knew where the tagged birds were, but we didn’t know…
Thursday 15 August 2019
WATLAS | Where do Red Knots go in the Wadden Sea?
Blog 1: Now it is August and along with the other migratory shorebirds Red knots arrived in the Wadden Sea after breeding in the Arctic. The Wadden Sea is an important area for Red knots to mold their feathers and feed on bivalves, like mussels and…

NIOZ publications

Linked projects

WATLAS - advanced tracking and localisation of shorebirds
Allert Bijleveld
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research - Veni/Vidi/Vici
Project duration
1 Jan 2018 - 31 Dec 2024