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Sander Moonen

Research interests

My main area of research is Behavioural Ecology, and I have a particular interest in patterns of movement and behaviour and the environmental factors influencing such patterns.

To analyze movement and behaviour, I employ animal collars. These devices have greatly evolved over the last few years, and we are now able to measure behaviour and local movement of a tagged individual 24 hours a day, without the need to directly observe it. To do this, we make use of acceleration and GPS measurements (and lots of other measurements). Acceleration measures the force at which an animal is moving in three dimensions. By combining this data with GPS points and placing these into Geographical Information Systems (GIS), we are able to investigate not only were an individual was at a certain point in time, but also what type of behaviour it was performing. For me, as an ecologist specializing in local movement and behaviour, the possibilities with these tags are endless.


Previous research

During my M.S.c Forest and Nature Conservation at the university of Wageningen (the Netherlands), I wrote two theses.

For my first thesis, I researched the behavior of the European brown hare (Lepus europaeus).  I investigated whether the European brown hare chooses to forage in areas with the highest quality of resources. I made use of data loggers from E-obs that gathered GPS and acceleration (ACC) data. Using this data I was able to analyse where and when the tagged European brown hares performed foraging behaviour, 24 hours a day. This enabled me to find that European brown hares choose for high quality resources even in an area with predation.

For my second thesis, I investigated the effect of large grazers on Ixodes ricinus density, and the infection rate with Borrelia burgdorferi s,l,. I found that there is no direct effect on the density of Ixodes ricinus caused by the presence of large grazers. However, using pathway analyses I found out that grazers do have an indirect effect on Ixodes ricinus. This indirect effect is caused by the negative effect of grazers on rodent densities, as a lower rodent density causes number of Ixodes ricinus to lower.


Current research

In November 2015 I started my PhD at the Institute of Avian research, Wilhelmshaven. Here, I am investigating the effect of human disturbance on local movement and behaviour of the great white fronted goose (Anser albifrons) and barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis). In addition, I will investigate the local movement and population demography of the greylag goose (Anser anser). I have the opportunity to work with highly sophisticated collars to address these topics, which collect GPS and ACC data, as well as height, internal temperature, hours of daylight, magnetic field and even more. 

    Sander MoonenSander Moonen