Thesis subject

Effects of climate change on ecosystems, agriculture and human health via changes in the timing of life cycle events

The Environmental Systems Analysis Group provides the possibility for students to do their thesis in collaboration with our group. This is one of many possible thesis subjects. Please feel free to contact dr. Van Vliet (right) for more information.

One of the research topics of the ESA Group is phenology: the study of the times of recurring natural phenomena (like flowering, leaf unfolding, bird migration, insect appearance), especially in relation to climate change. Due to the increase in temperature the growing season lengthened with several weeks. Changes in the timing of life cycle events have clear impacts on ecosystems, agriculture and human health.

The ESA group is coordinating the national phenological monitoring network De Natuurkalender (Nature’s Calendar) which monitors, analyses and forecasts the timing of life cycle events with a close involvement of the thousands of volunteers and several hundreds of school children in the Netherlands. Within Wageningen UR this is one of the projects that attracts most of the media attention.
The Nature’s Calendar programme aims to improve the adaptive capacity of society to the phenological changes by closely working together with stakeholders (hospitals, farmers, NGO’s, municipalities, nature organisations, etc.) In addition to the societal issues the Nature’s Calendar project works on several ecological sub-projects focusing on a large number of species groups like butterflies, plants, birds (including a geese migration project using satellites), amphibians and dragonflies.
Subprojects within the Nature’s Calendar project focus on:

    • human health (including ticks and Lyme disease, Oak processionary caterpillar and hay fever),
    • agriculture (including production of fruits, cereals and potatoes),
    • nature management (including pests and diseases and timing of maintenance work),
    • gardening. 

Students can engage in various aspects of phenology or submit their own proposal to contribute to our understanding of climate change impacts and adaptation options.