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How to find us dr. J. (Janne) Ouwehand

dr. J. Ouwehand

Postdoctoral researcher
dr. J. Ouwehand

My research centers on global change adaption. In my collaborative and internationally oriented research I use avian migrants to understand adaptive processes and selective forces acting on free-living animals, in our rapidly changing world. I integrate long-term monitoring, novel ultra-light tracking technology, and ecological field (experimental) research in a model for climate-change adaption in migratory birds; the pied flycatcher.


Background and aims

Human-induced global change forces species to adapt to modified environments. Long-distance migrants often show insufficient responses to global change, negatively impacting populations world-wide. The causes underlying insufficient responses in migrants to global change are poorly understood. By investigating seasonal interactions and tracking migratory songbirds across the year, my research aims to increase our understanding on how non-breeding conditions alter timing decisions and the adaptive capacity of migrants to climate warming.

 The pied flycatcher is intensively studied at the breeding grounds and has become the model for climate-change adaption in migratory birds. Birds are pressed to advance breeding arrival to meet earlier springs in Europe. But as for most songbirds, the importance of their African wintering sites for timely arrival is poorly understood. Yet, our recent discoveries of exceptionally fast spring migration, non-stop flights across the Sahara desert, and strong individual differences in migration schedules in pied flycatchers, all suggests that birds have little potential to speed up their migration to keep up with climate warming. While the wintering conditions might be paramount for their ability to adapt to climate warming, because harsh ecological conditions at African wintering sites likely impact the preparation and timing of migration, fitness, and thereby also the inheritance of timing traits. Therefore the major theme of my research focusses on how non-breeding conditions limit timing adjustments to climate change in migrants, or likely do so in the future, due to deterioration of wintering habitats from deforestation and increasing droughts?

This research contains several topics and tools, and takes place in several key locations.

(1) Geolocation tracking, migratory connectivity

Multi-year geolocation tracking from wintering and various breeding grounds is key to study migration timing and movements during the whole annual cycle. The constant effort of geolocator deployment over many years allow to study how much non-breeding factors shape or hamper successful migration strategies. While geolocation tracking across the range, makes it possible to investigate causes and consequences of migratory connectivity, and e.g. whether different breeding populations experience the same bottlenecks. For this we use

  • ~ 8 years of tracking data from the Dutch breeding population in Drenthe
  • > 12 populations being tracked across the range
  • 3-4 years of tracking data from the Ivorian wintering population

(2) Wintering ecology & behaviour, fuelling migration

I established an in-depth ecological research line at the African wintering grounds (first in Ghana, in 2011), and since 2017 in Comoé NP in Ivory Coast. Myself and Wender Bil combine old-school fieldwork with modern tools such as

  • DNA-based diet analyses (led by Dr. Yvonne Verkuil)
  • life-tag radio telemetry, field experiments
  • geolocation tracking
  • vegetation and insect sampling/imaging (drone) to ground truth remote sensing
  • automatic balances to study migratory fuelling

3) Seasonal interactions with breeding arrival and performance, fitness, inheritance

The long-term investment of Prof. C. Both and colleagues in studying pied flycatchers in the Netherlands allows to investigate environmental effects from non-breeding onto inheritance of arrival and laying dates, and look into fitness consequences. For this we can make use of

  • a feather database; to study carry-over effects from winter into breeding season using stable isotope analysis
  • social pedigree, animal models
  • excellent breeding population data of ~300 pairs
Last modified:03 December 2020 4.33 p.m.

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