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University of Groningen uses crowdfunding to support research on Arctic tern

06 April 2013
Artic tern
Artic tern. Photo: Maarten Loonen (no copyright)

The Arctic tern is a sensational bird. Every year, it flies 70,000 km from the North to the South Pole and back again. On this voyage, the Arctic tern experiences the effects of global warming more than any other bird. Maarten Loonen, researcher at the University of Groningen’s Arctic Centre, wants to chart the terns’ flight paths. With the support of the University’s Ubbo Emmius Fund he is deploying a new tool to finance his plans: crowdfunding. He needs €40,000 to be able to fit the birds with geolocators so he can track them.

Maarten Loonen has been visiting Spitsbergen for more than 25 years. He is conducting research there on the behaviour of migratory birds and the effects of changes to their habitats. The effects of global warming are felt the most in the North Pole region. Loonen wants to find out how climate change is affecting migratory birds that spend time in this region.


The University of Groningen is world famous for its research on migratory birds. Loonen earlier charted the behaviour of geese using satellite transmitters. Now he wants to study the Arctic tern, the champion among migratory birds. Satellite transmitters are too heavy for these tiny birds, but they can bear the weight of the much lighter geolocators. These only weigh 0.6 grams, the same weight as a leg ring.

Worldwide changes

Loonen was able to fit twenty Arctic terns with a geolocator in the summer of 2012 thanks to the financial support of the University’s alumni. He now wants to return to Spitsbergen to read the data collected by these locators and fit the birds with a new device. He also wants to include more birds in his study, as not all birds fitted with geolocators return and are able to be captured. Loonen expects to be able to plot changes in the migratory patterns by repeating the survey over several years. Moreover, because the birds travel around the entire globe twice a year, he also hopes to gain more insight into worldwide ecological changes.


It costs €500 to fit a single bird with a geolocator. Maarten Loonen needs €40,000 to be able to continue the research over a period of several years. He hopes to collect this amount through a relatively new source of financing: crowdfunding.

Loonen wants as many people as possible, including alumni, staff and students of the University of Groningen, as well as bird lovers, to donate a sum of money and encourage their friends and associates to do the same. He is drumming up support via the website, social media and various other channels.

Donors will be rewarded depending on the amount of their donation. For €25 they get a photo of an Arctic tern, or they can ‘adopt’ a tern and give it a name if they donate €250. For €500 they earn themselves a Meet & Greet with Loonen himself.

The campaign was set up by the Ubbo Emmius Fund (UEF), an organization devoted to raising funds for academic research and education at the University of Groningen, and is serving as a pilot for further crowdfunding projects that UEF is developing for the University’s 400th anniversary next year.

This makes the University of Groningen the first university in the Netherlands to deploy crowdfunding as a means to raise funds for academic research via a dedicated website.


More information:

·         Maarten Loonen

·         Derk Bosker

Last modified:13 March 2020 02.16 a.m.
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