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NWO Spinoza Prizes 2014 announced
Date:6/6/2014

influence of nature conservation plans on migratory birds.

Environment, evolution and aerodynamics Piersma's research changed the standard ideas about flight aerodynamics (the maximum non-stop flight distance for a bird was found not to be 5000 km, but a staggering 13,000 km), has demonstrated the major role of pathogens in the life and evolution of mammals and birds, and thrown new light on how the flexibility of the phenotype - what an animal looks like or how it manifests itself - influences evolution in animal species. Piersma made the knowledge about the phenotype applicable outside his own discipline as well.

Research leads to new nature management Piersma combines different research methods: from sampling shellfish and worms in the Wadden Sea, interpreting satellite images to map conditions on a large-scale, molecular genetic research, and the use of micro-transmitters to follow individual birds to the use of advanced statistical methods to unravel all of these processes. The fundamental research of Piersma has led to major adjustments in nature management on many occasions. His research into soil animals and the sediment composition of mudflats in the Wadden Sea has led to a ban on the mechanical fishing of cockles and to changes in the management of the Wadden Sea. His research has also given a boost to an innovative approach to the most characteristic aspect of Dutch biodiversity, meadow birds.

Passion for biology Piersma's passion for biology is not only expressed in research: together with the multi-instrumentalist Sytze Pruiksma he developed the show 'Music of Migration'; a story about the godwit. In his free time he has also written the book 'De Zwaluwen van Gaast', in which he describes his fascination for the fellow residents under his roof: the house martin.

Theunis Piersma studied biology at the University of Groningen where he gained his PhD in 1994. Since his PhD he has worked as a researcher at NIOZ, th
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Contact: Margot Custers
m.custers@nwo.nl
31-070-344-0741
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
Source:Eurekalert

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