Dr. habil. Sandra Bouwhuis

15 July 2019

Proud-supervisor-moment: Nathalie’s first PhD paper came out today in Journal of Ornithology. It shows that a year of carrying a tarsus-mounted light-level geolocator has negligible effects on common tern behaviour and fitness components, such that we can safely use these devices to study their migratory behaviour. 

08 July 2019

We now have an overview map of the foraging trips we could follow by deploying our incubating birds with Pathtrack GPSs in collaboration with Jacob and Teresa. Quite some variability both within and between the birds. We can't wait to see what explains it!

04 July 2019

Maria Moiron is talking social components of tern phenology at the annual meeting of the Society for Experimental Biology in Seville today.

26 June 2019

Happy 10th birthday for your UNESCO World Heritage Site status, dear Wadden Sea! Thank you for helping 'our' Banter See common terns flourish! 

25 June 2019

More tracks are coming in. Whereas 18-yr old Madame consistently foraged between Wilhelmshaven and Varel, 9-yr old London shows more variability in his routes to fish. Very exciting!

19 June 2019

The museum we're building at our field site is starting to take shape! The design of the building has recently been finalised, and today we were presented with a scale model of its content. 

A sneak-peak of the building:

And part of the scale model:

9 June 2019

Peak fieldwork is here. Our season in numbers, so far: 

* 895 registered birds 
* 188 'bugged' adults
* 87 recorded chick feedings
* 24 retrieved and deployed geolocators
* 10 deployed GPS loggers
* 10 bloodsampled chicks

And there's more to come! :-)

3 June 2019

The first hatchling of 2019 is a fact!

26 May 2019

When you take your kid into the field for the morning. :-)

24 May 2019

Here we go - our first common tern tracks! Madame consistently visited the Jade Bay between Wilhelmshaven and Varel for catching her fish.

23 May 2019

Who would have thought retrapping Madame would be a breeze? But it was, and so here we go: her GPS is back in the pocket and waiting for data extraction and analysis!

The attached device in close-up:

And back in the (literal) pocket:

17 May 2019

Just a little update on Madame: she's doing well :-)

16 May 2019

A few more snapshots from the field:

15 May 2019

Such an exciting day in the field with Jacob González-Solís and Teresa Militão, who showed us how to deploy our common terns with pinpoint GPSs. As a result, our 18-year-old Madame is now being tracked as she swaps her incubation bouts for foraging trips!

One of the pathtrack GPSs that Jacob and Teresa brought us:

Madame being deployed:

Madame being released:

Madame's unringed partner taking over incubation:

11 May 2019

Finally! New round, new chances!

7 May 2019

Oh dear... all 4 first eggs have been predated by crows and the terns are not showing any sign of being ready to produce new ones...

4 May 2019

We have a new age record! For males that is. 25-year-old Victor returned today. He hatched in 1994, prospected in 1996 and started his reproductive career in 1997. Since then, he has fathered 32 clutches produced by 3 females (Eli, Taletta and Birgit) and fledged 15 chicks. 16-year old Birgit, his partner since 2009, arrived yesterday, so it looks as if they are set for another season.

(Our female age record is 27 and held by Kirsi, who was last seen in 2017.)

3 May 2019

The birds made us wait, but here we are: the first eggs of 2019 are a fact! 4 eggs today across 3 of our artificial islands. Hooray!

8 April 2019

The first registration of the breeding season of 2019 is a fact! 11-year old Anubis arrived today, exactly 1 week earlier than he did last year, but at the exact same first arrival date of last year (set by Idefix). Anubis has been Uta's partner since 2013 and has so far fledged 3 chicks with her. Let's hope 2019 will add a few fledglings to that count.

11 March 2019

While we're getting excited for the terns to return to us in a week or 3, we are also still analysing their tracks from 2016 and 2017. Here's a first repeat-track to show you. It's from Bibo, a male hatched in 2003 in the nest of Josef & Marianne. We equipped him with a geolocator in 2018 too, so let's hope he returns this upcoming season to show us his 3rd track!

20 February 2019

Out now in The American Naturalist: our paper showing that early chick mortality allows common terns to deal with food shortage in an economical way, but that sibling competition may interfere with this process.

15 February 2019

I am co-organising a workshop on the 'Causes and consequences of inclusive inheritance' with Britta Meyer, Miriam Liedvogel and Melanie Heckwolf. It'll be held between 6 and 8 November 2019, in Plön. There is no registration fee and registration and abstract submission are now open. Come join us!

8 February 2019

I had the pleasure of collaborating with Antica Culina et al on a paper that describes the life histories of two closely related bat species inhabiting Wytham Woods in the UK, where I did my PhD as well as some postdoctoral work. The paper, now out (and open access) in Journal of Animal Ecology, shows that Daubenton’s bats have a strategy that involves almost all females conceiving in their first year of life, even though reproductive success is very low and comes at a cost to survival. Natterer’s bats, on the other hand, adopt a more conservative strategy: females delay breeding up to 4 years, when the probability of successful pregnancy is high. Neither first pregnancy nor first lactation seems to come with a cost to survival, but experienced females have a somewhat lower chance of successful pregnancy in the year following successful reproduction. As such, these two closely related species exhibit remarkable life-history differences: Daubenton's bats seem to show patterns expected for short-lived, income breeders, while Natterer's bats behave as long-lived, capital breeders. Further work will be required to understand the causes of these differences.

6 February 2019

Our new paper showing how heterozygosity-fitness correlations differ between life stages and the sexes (indicating differential selective processes and emphasizing the importance of assessing fitness consequences of traits over complete life histories) is now out in Molecular Ecology! Thanks team!

1 February 2019

It's official! I have a permanent position! :-)

16 January 2019

A little preview of our upcoming paper in the American Naturalist, showing how earlier chick mortality reduces the energy wasted on non-fledged chicks in years with low herring abundance, came out today.

15 January 2019

While the birds are hopefully enjoying their time in Africa, we're analysing their tracks from previous years. Here are two examples from 2016: 16-year old Armando wintered off the coast of Senegal, while 6-year-old Indira spent her winter in Ghana. Both birds were tracked in 2017 and 2018 as well, so it'll be cool to see whether they always take the same route and winter in the same place, or whether this may vary with environmental conditions. Thanks again to the DO-G for having funded 40 devices in 2018. More tracks to come soon! :-)

15 December 2018

Heiko de Groot's 'Wild medicine' can now be viewed online at ARTE. The terns and us make our appearance at 20 minutes in. We're superpleased to have been included in such a nice documentary!

9 December 2018

Out today in Ecology Letters: A collaborative study that we had the pleasure to contribute to that investigates how the age‐dependency of demographic rates and year‐to‐year interactions between survival and fecundity affect stochastic population growth rates and thus population persistence. 

29 November 2018

We're so happy to say that we came third in the competition for the Norddeutscher Wissenschaftspreis 2018! We won 50.000 euro, which we'll use to find out whether (i) parental ageing comes with (epi)genetic changes, (ii) these changes (if any) are transmitted to the offspring, and (iii) offspring (epi)genetic profiles are carried through to adult life and explain their parental-age-related variation in lifetime reproductive success. Our progress will be reported here!

15 November 2018

We took the terns to the pub tonight. So much fun! Thanks NWDUG for the invite! :-)

14 November 2018

We're so excited to be named one of the three finalists in the competition for the Norddeutscher Wissenschaftspreis 2018! Fingers crossed for the 29th, which is when we'll find out who wins!

18 October 2018

This evening Nathalie will be science slamming her work on kleptoparasitic terns and how she's studying them. Not many tickets left, so be fast if you are in the area and would like to attend!

26 September 2018

Another week, another city, another inspiring scientific get-together. Today marks the start of 'Talking Evolution', where Britta will present our epigenetics project.

22 September 2018

Three weeks into her PhD, Nathalie has won the 3rd prize at the poster competition at the German Ornithological Society meeting today. I'm one proud supervisor! :-)

20 September 2018

So happy to talk about the age-specific fitness consequences of developmental conditions at the 151st meeting of the German Ornithological Society today. If you're there, also go and check out posters 3 and 31, by Dr. Britta Meyer and Nathalie Kürten.

3 September 2018

It's September, which means that Nathalie Kürten starts her DBU funded PhD studying migration of the terns with us today. Moreover, Dr. Maria Moiron is joining the tern team as a Marie Curie research fellow based in Montpellier with Dr. Anne Charmantier to study the genetic basis of multidimensional plasticity. And Fredo Ostermann joins the team within the framework of his federal voluntary service. Today is a good day. :-)

21 August 2018

As fieldwork slows down, labwork picks up. First sexing results of the season today. Among chicks, we also sexed Gundolf, an 8-yr old who bred with 21-yr old Louis. From both samples it's clear enough: Gundolf is a male too. Next question: who provided the eggs? 

10 August 2018

Our paper showing that experimental manipulation of embryonic growth rate also affects telomere length at hatching is now out in Journal of Experimental Biology. There's a really nice blog post too.

9 August 2018

It's another record year! 1063 birds have now been picked up by their pittag: 587 males and 476 females ranging in age from 1 to 24. The birds are also beating their own latest-clutch-initiation-ever-record (set in 2016), by the way, with 1 day, as a new clutch was started on the 3rd of August. One of the parents is Drogon, a 3-year-old male who has newly recruited after having prospected last year. The previous record-holders never hatched their egg. Let's see what Drogon and his unringed partner can do...

30 June 2018

It's official! What started with a successful DBU application at the end of 2016 has now been topped with a successful NBank application in collaboration with the city of Wilhelmshaven. Renovation of our field station will start in September and next September will see the addition of a new building that will contain a viewing platform and be home to a museum. The museum will focus on our scientific journey with the common terns as well as the importance of, and threats to, biodiversity. We're beyond excited!

On Thursday, Olaf Lies handed us the 'Förderbescheid'. If you're German, you can read about it in our local newspaper, the Wilhelmshavener Zeitung.

17 June 2018

Long‐term individual‐based studies are valuable resources to study how life histories are shaped by selection on resource acquisition and allocation. In the latest issue of Journal of Animal Ecology, Henri Weimerskirch synthesises a 50‐year study of wandering albatrosses, showing how age‐ and sex‐specific foraging distribution and efficiency affect fitness and population dynamics, and how understanding such patterns facilitates conservation. My take on his synthesis and this amazing study can be found here. For fantastic pictures of ageing in humans versus albatrosses, I'd recommend checking out the blog.

13 June 2018

Out today: our new Biology Letters paper, in which we test the relationship between parental age and offspring early-life telomere length in our terns. We find a significant negative correlation between paternal age and offspring telomere length: offspring telomere length is reduced by 35 base pairs for each additional year of paternal age. We find no correlation with maternal age. These results fit with the idea of compromised germline maintenance in males, whose germline stem cells require continued division.

6 June 2018

Our season so far: 822 birds have been registered, 622 clutches have been initiated, 334 eggs have been photographed, 184 blood samples have been collected, 344 chick provisionings have been observed and 30 birds have been (re-)equipped with a geolocator. So far, so good!

31 May 2018

The best of news! The DBU has awarded Nathalie a PhD fellowship! Nathalie will start in September and use geolocators to investigate the migratory behaviour of our terns.

26 April 2018

409 registered birds today, among which 25 geolocator birds, but most importantly: the 1st egg!!

Between 1994 and 2018, first arrival has advanced by 0.6 days a year, first laying by 0.3 days a year. 

9 April 2018

More happy news: the DO-G has agreed to fund 40 geolocators for our terns this season! We can't wait to collect more tracks!

8 April 2018

The first registration of 2018 is a fact! Honours go to Idefix, a 9-yr old male, which hatched in the colony in 2009, prospected between 2011 and 2013 and has bred each year since 2014.

2 April 2018

Our Banter See population of terns is 1 of the 145 breeding populations of seabirds included in a huge meta-analysis showing that, on average, seabird populations worldwide have not adjusted their breeding seasons over time (−0.020 days/year) or in response to sea surface temperature (−0.272 days/°C). This wonderful collaborative study is out today in Nature Climate Change!

21 March 2018

The colony and field station are looking rather desolate at the moment. But soon there'll be observation huts, a registration system, and... terns!

16 March 2018

Thanks to the Wattenmeer Besucherzentrum for inviting us to add some of our girl power to their 'Frauenpower im Wattenmeer Besucherzentrum' for the 'Lange Nacht der Kultur'!

23 February 2018

Our team ladies are rocking it this month. Congratulations to Nathalie Kürten for graduating in the top of her cohort and to Finnja Mattig for winning the Weser-Ems-Region Judend forscht competition! Fingers crossed for the Niedersachsen round on the 6th of April, Finnja!

29 January 2018

Yesss! I'm so happy to say that María Moirón received Marie Curie funding to work on the evolutionary genetics of multidimensional plasticity in the terns. She'll be based in Montpellier with Anne Charmantier, but visiting us regularly. Welcome to the team, María! :-)

21 January 2018

Fancy tern fieldwork? For this spring, we're still looking for an Msc student who'd be interested in assessing whether variability in egg colour and patterning can be explained by parental physiology. The work would include general checks of the colony (i.e. lots of interaction with birds), photographing eggs, bloodsampling adults with the help of bugs and analysing the data. The ideal starting date would be in April, with fieldwork being most intense in May and June.

We're also still looking for an Msc student who'd be interested in continuing our long-term observations of age- and sex-specific parental offspring provisioning. This work would also include general checks of the colony, combined with five 2-hour observation bouts of nests with parents whose provisioning behaviour was also assessed in previous years. One of the parents will be marked with picric acid, and the chicks will be marked with coloured stickers, enabling you to assess which parent is feeding which chick with which prey type and size. This project would start in May.

9 January 2018

So very pleased to be presenting my first-ever plenary talk at a very inspiring EvoDemo meeting today. Lyon is providing the prettiest of backdrops for it too!

1 January 2018

Happy new year!

20 December 2017

The numbers have been crunched. 2017 was a record year not only in terms of the registered number of birds, but in terms of the number of breeding pairs too: 740! Hard to imagine the islands can hold many more, but who knows what 2018 will bring. :-)

21 November 2017

Made it! I'm very happy to announce that I can now add PD and 'habilis' to my doctor title. Thanks so much to all who came to show their support today!

21 October 2017

Coming up in exactly one month... my habilitation talk on 'Animal innovation, social learning and the extended evolutionary synthesis'. If you happen to be in the Oldenburg area that day, do stop by for a drink!

6 October 2017

Oscar and I attended a workshop on ‘Diversity in telomere dynamics’ this week. So nice to catch up with friends and colleagues, meet new ones and to talk tern telomeres.

9 September 2017

We celebrated the institute's 70-year anniversary of being in Wilhelmshaven today with an open day that included poster/workshop/technique displays, talks and our tern-chick-feeding-game. Thanks to all who joined us and made it so much fun!

18 August 2017

Our new paper, to be published in a special issue on individual heterogeneity in Oikos, is online. We review longitudinal studies of wild bird populations that test the relationship between annual reproductive success and lifespan and find the majority to report a positive correlation, while none reports a negative correlation. We therefore conclude variation in individual quality in resource acquisition to appear common among birds. 

Considering that there is little evidence for heritable variation in fitness, we expect heterogeneity in individual quality among adults to be due to life-long effects of developmental conditions. We use our common tern data to test for life-long effects of cohort quality and within-cohort nest quality, but find no significant effects on long-term proxies of quality: 

Since other studies do find strong life-long effects of developmental conditions, we suggest that the brood reduction strategy adopted by the terns, causing the majority of offspring to die rapidly after hatching, efficiently reduces variation in offspring quality at independence. As such, a brood reduction strategy may contribute to reduced heterogeneity in adult survival in stochastic environments, although further study is required to assess whether the relative strength of selection in early and late life may indeed affect the magnitude of heterogeneity in individual quality over life.

4 August 2017

It's another record year! A 1-yr old new prospector (70004871) brought us to 1045 registered birds today! And we have more reason to celebrate, because we also just found out that one of last year's geolocator chicks, the son of Moni and Cooper, prospected at the colony this year! Of course we're hoping that he'll also return next year and will start his reproductive life, so that we can retrieve his geolocator and find out about his first four migratory journeys!

10 June 2017

The breeding season is in full swing! So far:
* our automated registration system has registered 919 birds
* we have >600 active nests and a huge hatching peak (e.g. 148 chicks were ringed today)
* we have retrieved 21 geolocators and equipped 25 birds with new ones (10 more to go...!)
* we have collected blood samples from 131 adult birds (and have started to collect chick samples too)
* observations of the parental division of labour (incubation and chick provisioning) are in progress 

In other good news: our new paper, suggesting that tern chicks prioritize investment in long-term somatic state (as indicated by canalization of telomere maintenance) over immediate survival benefits of growth as part of an efficient brood reduction strategy that benefits the parents is now out in Journal of Evolutionary Biology.

19 May 2017

We’ve got a new paper out in Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. In this paper, based on data from a classical 
common-garden experiment, we show that there are intrinsic differences in embryonic development rate between offspring of different parents, and that embryos with faster heart rates require shorter incubation time. We also show 
that, after correction for heart rate, embryos require more time for development at a lower incubation temperature. 
This suggests that processes other than development require a greater share of resources in a sub-optimal environment 
and that relative resource allocation to development is, therefore, environment-dependent. We conclude that there is opportunity to detect intra-specific life-history trade-offs with embryonic development time and that the resolution of such trade-offs may differ between embryonic environments.

More good news: the terns have finally chased the crows. We now have 791 registered birds and 283 active clutches!

15 May 2017

Every breeding season brings surprises, but this year's season really is off to a strange start. Arrival started early and has continued with such a speed that we now have 737 registered birds, 128 more than this time last year (when we reached a record of 1044 birds by the end of the season). Egg laying, however, started late and has not yet brought us any closer to reproductive success, as two local pairs of crows have managed to steal the at least 76 eggs that have so far been produced! 

The colony site looks empty most of the day, which suggests that the foraging conditions are so poor that courtship feeding is not possible and all birds are out foraging for themselves. As a result, there are too few individuals to chase the crows and one of the main benefits of colonial breeding is not yet being reaped. We can only hope that the foraging conditions will soon improve, such that more birds start spending time at the colony and producing eggs and collaborating on mobbing their predators.

In better news: 23 out of 24 birds equipped with a geolocator have now returned! In addition, we have a fledgling from last year that is already actively exploring the colony site. Over the 1992-2016 period, only 6 other individuals have ever returned as 1-year olds and never as early in the season as this year's young lady!


04 May 2017

Following up from my last news: perhaps the sea surface temperature in Senegal has been rather high this last winter, because it's only now that I can report that the first egg of the 2017 Banter See common tern season has been produced!

And it wasn't just one egg, but two. In a single nest... A case of egg dumping? A trio? Time will tell...

Other than that, the season is progressing well. A total of 579 individuals have been registered so far (119 more than this time last year; are we heading towards another record?), among which 22 of our 24 geolocator-tagged birds! We're very much looking forward to catching those and finding out where they have spent their winter.

We're also very excited that Kirsi has returned, on the 1st of May! She has thereby added another year to our record age, which now is 27 (6 years below the European record). Her toyboy Marshall arrived nearly three weeks earlier. Will he have waited for her? Will 2017 be the year that they can produce a fledgling and work on getting Kirsi a grand-fledgling? Because while 2016 brought our previous age-record-holding Lotti another 3 recruited offspring and another 5 grand-fledglings, Kirsi's success did not increase...

  Lotti Kirsi
 year of birth 1989 1990
 year of recruitment 1992 1993
 number of partners 3 5 known
 number of subcolonies 1 5
 number of fledglings 38 20
 number of recruits 19 2
 number of grand-fledglings 99 0
 year last seen 2013 2017

31 March 2017

While 'our' birds are providing us with a record for early arrival this year, early arrival does not necessarily mean early laying. Our new paper, published today in Ecology and Evolution, describes that laying date is heritable (0.27 ± 0.09) and under significant fecundity selection to become earlier, but that the interval between arrival and laying shows phenotypic plasticity in relation to the sea surface temperature at the wintering ground. For each 1°C of warming of the sea surface in Senegal, common terns delay their laying date in northern Germany by 6.7 days. This suggests that warmer waters provide poorer wintering resources and shows how a substantial plastic response to wintering conditions can oppose natural selection, perhaps constraining adaptation.

29 March 2017

Two terns have been spotted exploring the colony from the air! They haven't yet come down, but they'll surely provide us with a record for the earliest arrival date once they do. We look forward to registering them!

27 February 2017

It's here! The book on 'The evolution of senescence in the tree of life', which includes our chapter on whether birds are escape artists can now be ordered from Cambridge University Press!

15 February 2017

Our new paper, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B today, shows how early chick mortality saves parental energy. Using 24 years of data on growth and age of mortality of >15 000 tern chicks, we modeled age-specific survival from hatching to fledging. We found that mortality peaked directly after hatching, after which it rapidly declined. Although 54% of hatchlings did not fledge, we estimated these chicks to have consumed only 9.3% of the total pre-fledging energy consumption of all hatched chicks in the population. We suggest that the observed rapid mortality of excess offspring is part of an adaptive brood reduction strategy to the benefit of the parents and ongoing work is focusing on how parents may facilitate such a strategy.

25 January 2017
I am very happy to say that the German Federal Environmental Foundation has decided to fund our museum plans for the Banter See. With a viewing platform and telescopes we'll be providing a direct look into the colony. In addition, we are planning an exhibition about biodiversity, using the common tern as an example. We'll continuously update the museum with the latest results from our research and will provide interactive fishing and chick feeding games for added fun. Expected opening: 2020. I'll keep you informed!

15 January 2017
The NDR just aired 'Die schönsten Küsten im Norden', in which you can enjoy footage of our terns and see us move through the colony for little over 3 minutes from 58:34.

21 December 2016
We're going out with a bang this year! The Max Planck Institute has decided to fund our proposed collaboration with the wonderful Dr. Miriam Liedvogel at the Behavioural Genomics Group in Plön to start work on the epigenetics of parental age effects in our common terns! We’ll first sequence, assemble and annotate the common tern genome, then use repeated blood samples of parents, and their offspring produced at different ages, to characterise their DNA methylation status. 

We can’t wait for the 2017 season to begin!

20 December 2016
The numbers have been crunched! At 650 breeding pairs, the 2016 breeding population was larger than ever. Reproductive success was slightly above average at 1.03 fledglings having been produced per first brood.

24 November 2016
I'm super happy to talk trans-generational age effects at the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies of the University of Zurich today.

17 September 2016
I'm talking kin selection and late life fitness costs of developmental conditions at the DZG meeting in Kiel. Come and say hi if you're there!

1 September 2016
A new month, new team members! I am very pleased to say that Dr. Coraline Bichet has now joined the team. She will be working on the common tern microsatellite data and setting up projects on immunology and pollution. We also welcome Rebecca Köhler, who is joining us for her Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr (FÖJ).

3 August 2016
Our new Biology Letters paper showing that sex allocation changes as terns age is now online.

24 July 2016
Meereswelten 2016 was a huge success. Tours, games, coffee and cake. Many thanks to those who joined us at the Banter See!

18 July 2016
It's a record year! As of today, our automatic antennae system has registered over 1000 individual common terns!

23 June 2016
As perhaps suggested by the radio silence, it has been a busy season! The antenna system has so far registered 851 birds and 676 clutches have been initiated. Quite a few of those have been successful and the first fledglings are starting to leave the colony, although new clutches are also still being produced.

In addition to the continuation of the long-term population monitoring, we have focused on a geolocator project: 
We have artificially incubated the eggs of 48 clutches, measured the heart rate of the embryos in these eggs, taken blood samples and heart rate measurements of the parents, equipped 12 fathers and 12 mothers from 24 of the clutches with a geolocator and subsequently measured the division of parental labour during incubation. Freshly hatched chicks have had their body composition assessed using echoMRI, after which they have been returned to their nest of origin. The division of parental labour during chick provisioning has been measured too, and we are still assessing growth of the chicks. At 20 days of age, chicks have their body condition assessed again and a blood sample taken, and the first-hatched chicks from the 24 nests from which one adult was equipped with a geolocator receive a geolocator too. In about a week, this project should reach its conclusion (for this season)!

A few images of our season so far:

4 May 2016
While Cadfael and Colifa did not seem to delay their onset of reproduction in response to the snow and hail we experienced late April, many pairs did. If we compare this year's arrival schedule to last year's, it doesn't look too different (left panel of the figure below). If we compare the number of clutches found by the 4th of May, however, the difference is vast: 52 this year versus 141 last year (right panel of the figure below). The result? Less efficient mobbing and a quite extensive loss of eggs to predation by crows. Hopefully more birds will lay their first eggs over the next few days, such that increased colony attendance will prevent more predation.

27 April 2016
The terns weren't deterred by snow or hail: the first egg was found today! Likely owners are Cadfael (20) and Colifa (10), who were the runners-up last year, when they laid their first egg on the 28th of April. Last year's first bird, Caprio (then 7 and breeding with an immigrant Dutch female) has not yet returned to the colony site, so can be assumed dead...

25 April 2016
Looks like we've made it into the modern era: the common tern project can now be found on Twitter!

8 April 2016
They're back! The first transpondered bird to be registered by our antennae system this year was Eike (08.04.2016 at 07:20:42), a 15-year-old male, hatched at the Banter See in 2001 in the nest of Timo and Klara. Eike prospected in 2003, after which he has been seen every year. He recruited to the breeding population in 2005 and has bred every year since, except for 2011. In 2015, Eike bred with an immigrant female on island A, but was unsuccessful. Let's see what this year will bring him.

4 March 2016
I'm pleased to announce that the Institute and tern team will be joining Meereswelten 2016, which means that, if you're in Wilhelmshaven on July 24th, you can visit our tern colony and get to know many of the other local scientific institutes too. There'll be the option to listen to talks, join tours, look at posters, play games, gain some hands-on research experience, as well as visit laboratories. There'll be catering too, so all there's left to do is saving the date and hoping for some sunshine.


1 February 2016
Prof. Peter Becker's last official working day has come to an end and we have spent the last weekend of January celebrating his wonderful 37 years here at the Institute of Avian Research. His kind leadership and knowledge of the terns will be missed, but we will make sure to take good care of his terns, colony and legacy and wish him and his family all the best for his retirement. It has been an honour to work with you, Peter!

4 January 2016
Happy New Year! And a happy start to the new year it is, because I am very excited to announce that Dr. Coraline Bichet has accepted the 3+2 year postdoctoral research position I was offering. Coraline is currently finishing her postdoctoral work on Alpine marmots and will join the team from the 1st of August.

Moreover, collaborative work with Emeline Mourocq has been accepted for publication in Evolution.

1 September 2015
I am advertising a 3+2 year postdoctoral research position in Avian Evolutionary Ecology. If you hold a PhD and are interested in the physiological and/or (epi)genetic basis of life history traits and their ontogenetic change, come and work with me! I will start considering applications on November 1st. To apply, please send, in a single pdf file: (i) a statement of your research interests, motivation and suitability for this position, and (ii) your CV, including a list of publications and the contact details of three references. Applications are to be sent to ifv@ifv-vogelwarte.de. I look forward to seeing them!

17 August 2015
I am elected a Council member of The Waterbird Society. My term will start in January and run for three years. I look forward to meeting the other Council members at next year's (40th anniversary!) meeting held in New Bern, North Carolina (USA) from 20 to 23 September!

24 July 2015
Our new paper "Sex-specific pathways of parental age effects on offspring lifetime reproductive success in a long-lived seabird", published in Evolution, is now online!

3 June 2015
It's the third of June; so far we've picked up 623 pit-tagged birds and our six sub-colonies house 545 nests. On islands B and C, we're spray-painting our known-age adults and colour-marking their chicks to do observations on sex- and age-specific provisioning behaviour. Unfortunately, the cold and stormy days are not making this an especially nice job this year: there's a lot of aggression and many chicks get too cold and/or starve. With the improved weather predictions, we're hoping for a nice tail to the season!

In other news: Kirsi, our oldest bird has been found breeding on island F, nest 697. She has stayed with toyboy Marshall, but they have moved island, as they were on the opposite side of the colony, on island A last year. They're quite late and incubating only a single egg. Senescence? Maybe, but Kirsi was never one for a high breeding success... Here's her record, compared to our superstar bird, Lotti, who held the age record in our colony until Kirsi returned this year:

  Lotti Kirsi
 year of birth 1989 1990
 year of recruitment 1992 1993
 number of partners 3 5 known
 number of subcolonies 1 5
 number of fledglings 38 20
 number of recruits 16 2
 number of grand-fledglings 94 0
 year last seen 2013 2015

20 April 2015
Our Journal of Animal Ecology paper reporting the relative contribution of various within- and between-individual processes to age-specific trait expression in common terns is now online (pages 797-807).

Speaking of age, the first terns of the season arrived at the 11th of April, with 7-year-old Eros arriving first. But also among some of the early arriving ones was Kirsi, who now holds the age record in our colony, with her amazing 25 years. Her toyboy (Marshall, 5 years) has also arrived, so we are looking forward to a nest!

1 February 2015
Our Ecology paper describing contrasting between- and within-individual trait effects on common tern mortality risk is now online (pages 71-79).

26 January 2015
Two papers that I (co-)authored are published back-to-back in the January issue of Journal of Animal ecology (pages 199-218).