The GFN Team

Chris Hassell – Australia

Chris Hassell is based in Broome, north Western Australia, where he has lived since 1996. Initially, Chris worked at Broome Bird Observatory (BBO) before establishing Turnstone Nature Discovery: a birdwatching and nature tour business. He has also conducted research and monitoring programs on migratory shorebirds during this period. Turnstone Nature Discovery has ceased its tourism component and Chris is now spending the majority of his time working for the Global Flyway Network.

chris and friend

Chris is also contracted to the Australasian Wader Studies Group to undertake shorebird population censuses at Roebuck Bay and 80 Mile Beach, north Western Australia, for a project called ‘Monitoring Yellow Sea Migrants in Australia’ (MYSMA). The Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) also contract him to trap waterfowl and shorebirds for Avian Flu monitoring.

Chris’s main role for the GFN is fully funded by BirdLife Netherlands and is a collaborative project with the Australasian Wader Studies Group (AWSG)

Adrian Boyle – Australia

Australian Shorebird Research

Adrian leaving the mudflats after a scanning session.

Adrian is an expert birdwatcher with a particular passion for shorebirds. This shorebird focus started at a very early age, in South Australia, when helping to catch and mark Sanderling for the Australasian Wader Studies Group (AWSG). He was just 13 when he banded his first shorebird in 1992.

Over the next few years Adrian visited Broome regularly to conduct shorebird research and moved permanently to Broome in 1998 where he worked at the Broome Bird Observatory.
Adrian takes an active role in all AWSG activities in north west Australia and is a co-leader of the Shorebird catching programme that runs in Roebuck Bay, Broome throughout year.

When not working professionally for the Global Flyway Network in north west Australia or China Adrian works as an expert wildlife guide on expedition ships around the world and conducts various wildlife consultancy work for several organisations and groups in Australia. His other major passion is wildlife photography and he contracts to the database of images for the company Wildlife Images.

Matt Slaymaker – United Kingdom

Australian Shorebird Research

Matt en route to the mudflats for another scanning session

Matt has had a lifelong interest in natural history with a particular interest in birds since the tender age of 8.

In the early years this was restricted to his home country, the UK, but during his late teens he has traveled extensively in Australia, North and Central America, Europe and Asia. During this time he has worked on numerous conservation projects from migration monitoring and environmental education programmes in Canada to exploration of unsurveyed areas of sub-tropical forest in the Colombian Andes to tour guiding in Australia. He first became involved with the Global Flyway Network while working as an assistant warden at Broome Bird Observatory, Western Australia. In spring 2013 Matt will join the GFN team at Bohai Bay for his fourth year of research in to the migration of shorebirds through this vital staging post.

Theunis Piersma – Friesland

Australian Shorebird research

Theunis Piersma (right) and Sytze Pruiksma leave the mudflats

Theunis is the scientific leader of the GFN project he is on the end of an e-mail and the phone and when we are lucky he is in the field with us.

Theunis has a massive list of achievements to his name, below is merely a summary!

Theunis’ CV

Professor of Global Flyway Ecology at the Animal Ecology Group, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies (CEES), Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, University of Groningen, P.O. Box 11103, 9700 CC4 Groningen

Senior Research Scientist and Wadden Sea team leader, Department of Marine Ecology, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), P.O. Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands


BSc in Biology-B5 (palaeontology as additional specialization), University of Groningen, 1980

MSc in degree Biology, University of Groningen, 1984 (cum laude; upper 3%)

PhD in degree Biology, University of Groningen (supervisor: Prof. Dr R.H. Drent), 1994 (cum laude)


September 1984: Consultant (Wader & Benthos specialist) with DHV, NEDECO in South Korea;

August 1985-February 1987, June-August 1987: Research Biologist at the Rijksdienst voor de IJsselmeerpolders, Lelystad (Scientific department);

April 1988 to October 1992: University of Groningen, PhD position in Behavioural Biology, Zoological Laboratory, in co-operation with Department of Coastal Systems at NIOZ ;

December 1993-May 1994: Temporary contracts as Editor and Research Biologist at NIOZ;

June 1994-June 1996: Research Biologist at NIOZ, Texel;

July 1996- June 2003: Senior Research Scientist at the Department of Marine Ecology of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) (0.9 fte) and Associate Professor at the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies at the University of Groningen (0.2 fte).

From June 2003: Professor of Animal Ecology at the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies at the University of Groningen  and Senior Research Scientist at the Department of Marine Ecology and Evolution of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ).

From June 2012: Professor of Global Flyway Ecology in the Animal Ecology Group at the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen  and Senior Research Scientist at the Department of Marine Ecology of  NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research.


Piersma, T. & van Gils, J.A. (2011). The flexible phenotype. A body-centred integration of ecology, physiology, and behaviour. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Piersma, T. (2011) Why marathon migrants get away with high metabolic ceilings: towards an ecology of physiological restraint. Journal of Experimental Biology, 214, 295-302.

van de Kam, J., Battley, P.F., McCaffery, B.J., Rogers, D.I., Hong, J.-S., Moores, N., Ki, J.-Y., Lewis, J. & Piersma, T. (2010). Invisible connections. Why migrating shorebirds need the Yellow Sea. Melbourne: CSIRO Publishing.

van de Kam, J., Ens, B. J., Piersma, T. & Zwarts, L. (2004). Shorebirds. An illustrated behavioural ecology. Utrecht: KNNV Publishers.

Quaintenne, G., van Gils, J.A., Bocher, P., Dekinga, A. & Piersma, T. (2011) Scaling up ideals to freedom: are densities of red knots across western Europe consistent with ideal free distribution? Proceedings Royal Society B 278, 2728-2736.  doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.0026.

van den Hout,P.J., Mathot,K.J., Maas,L.R.M. & Piersma,T. (2010) Predator escape tactics in birds: linking ecology and aerodynamics. Behavioral Ecology, 21, 16-25.

Lourenço, P.M., Mandema, F.S., Hooijmeijer, J.C.E.W., Granadeiro, J.P. & Piersma, T. (2010) Site selection and resource depletion in black-tailed godwits Limosa l. limosa eating rice during northward migration. Journal of Animal Ecology, 79, 522-528.

Folmer, E.O., Olff, H. and Piersma, T. (2010) How well do food distributions predict spatial distributions of shorebirds with different degrees of self-organization? Journal of Animal Ecology 79, 747–756

Bijleveld, A.I., Egas, M, van Gils, J.A. and Piersma,T. (2010) Beyond the information centre hypothesis: communal roosting for information on food, predators, travel companions and mates? Oikos 119, 277-285.

Kraan, C., van Gils, JA., Spaans, B., Dekinga, A., Bijleveld, A.I., van Roomen, M., Kleefstra, R. & Piersma, T. (2009) Landscape-scale experiment demonstrates that Wadden Sea intertidal flats are used to capacity by molluscivore migrant shorebirds. Journal of Animal Ecology, 78, 1259–1268.

Rogers, D.I., Battley, P.F., Piersma, T., et al. (2006) High-tide habitat choice: insights from modelling roost selection by shorebirds around a tropical bay. Animal Behaviour, 72, 563-575.

van Gils, J.A., Spaans, B., Dekinga, A. & Piersma, T. (2006). Foraging in a tidally structured environment by red knots (Calidris canutus): ideal, but not free. Ecology 87, 1189-1202.

van Gils, J. A., Battley, P. F., Piersma, T. & Drent, R. (2005). Reinterpretation of gizzard sizes of red knots world-wide emphasises overriding importance of prey quality at migratory stopover sites. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 272, 2609-2618.

van Gils, J. A. & Piersma, T. (2004). Digestively constrained predators evade the cost of interference competition. Journal of Animal Ecology, 73, 386-398.


Contributing to the Animal Ecology Group, University of Groningen (staff of 5 scientists and 7 technicians, and ca. 7 postdocs, more than 20 PhD students, and over 10 MSc students)

Scientific leader of the Wadden Sea research team at NIOZ, Texel, managing more than 20 people including 2 research scientists, 5 technicians, 2 postdocs, 9 PhD students, and several MSc students

Founder and co-leader of a worldwide consortium of shorebird scientists, the Global Flyway Network, that is financially supported by BirdLife International and employs 2 researchers in Australia

Scientific coordinator/PI/co-PI of 18 current national and international research projects

Regular advisor of national and international governmental and non-governmental agencies on issues of conservation and management of nature and natural resources, especially in relation to marine wetlands and cultural landscapes

The Chair in Global Flyway Ecology was made possible by BirdLife Netherlands and World Wildlife Fund-Netherlands.


(Co-)authorship of 315 ISI-recognized publications (with >7,000 citations) since 1984, 15 of which have been cited 100 times or more; current H(irsch)-index is 45

(Co-)author of 14 books, and >460 contributions to the popular press, working papers, reports and other non-peer-reviewed publications

(Co-)advisor of 25 completed PhD theses, and 18 in progress

>90 invited and plenary lectures in the last decade


1994: Winner of the Dutch National Zoology Prize, awarded by the Netherlands Zoological Society (NDV) 1996: Recipient of the prestigious 5-year PIONIER-award of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO)

1998: Elected Corresponding Fellow of the American Ornithologists’ Union

2004: Recipient of the biannual national Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Prijs voor Natuurbehoud (Dutch Nature Conservation Award from the Prince Bernhard Cultural Fund) (50 k€)

2004: Winner of the Ornithologenpreis of the German Ornithological Society

2004: Recipient of the first Luc Hoffmann Medal for Excellence in Science and Conservation, awarded by Wetlands International

2007: Elected Corresponding Member of the German Ornithological Society

2009: Elected member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW, Amsterdam)


Projects of this magnitude can only run with the help of dedicated volunteers. I am very lucky here in Broome to have a fantastic core volunteer team. This help is augmented during the dry season when visitors who are staying at the BBO join us on our catching days.

This is hot and hard but hugely rewarding work and everyone is welcome to join in. A brief training session is given on how to handle birds and if we make a good catch then it is most definitely a ‘hands on’ experience in which you will, be involved!

I look forward to meeting you for some active research.

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