Posted on: July 4, 2014
Author: Shaun Hurrell
Report by BirdLife INTERNATIONAL
By Shaun Hurrell, Fri, 04/07/2014 – 15:17
Professor Theunis Piersma, world authority on the ecology of migratory birds (especially Red Knots) has been awarded The Spinoza Prize – the so-called ‘Dutch Nobel Prize’. The prize comes with an award of € 2.5 million that Piersma can spend on his research.
This is great news for flyways conservation and shorebirds, whose ability to adapt to a human-dominated world is being put to the test. This is also the first time in history that we can follow small birds for life with satellite tracking, so this understanding will enable us to understand how they are threatened.
Vogelbescherming Nederland (VBN, BirdLife in The Netherlands) and WWF-Netherlands are supporting Piersma by funding his chair in migratory bird ecology at the University of Groningen, allowing him time to undertake his flyways work.
Professor Piersma and his team at Groningen are part of the Global Flyway Network (GFN), an alliance of wader research groups from all over the world. VBN has supported the work of the GFN since 2007.
The Spinoza Prize will enable Piersma to study environmental factors during the growth phase of migratory birds. They have an incredible ability to adapt to their demanding way of life and changes to their environment – but are experienced birds better able to adapt to a changing world?
“I think even in ecology the role of the environment has been underestimated,” says Piersma. “There’s much more to migratory birds than just a genome.”
“I enjoy embracing the fuzzy nature of ecology,” says Piersma. “Especially if you then manage to see the wider picture.”
For the conservation of migratory birds, which cross international borders and adapt to a changing environment, the ability to understand the bigger picture is crucial.
Congratulations Professor Piersma!