Erik Kleyheeg


I am a PhD-student in the Ecology & Biodiversity Group at Utrecht University with a prime interest in birds and their interaction with the environment. For my PhD I am studying the role waterbirds (mallards) play in the dispersal of plants in wetlands. I focus on the three main components of the dispersal process: ingestion, digestion and transportation. For the ingestion part I’ve studied the occurrence of seeds in the diet of mallards, using carcasses of shot birds and literature. To analyze the effects of seed and animal traits I have performed experiments with captive mallards at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology. Finally, to understand where seeds are likely to end up when transported by mallards, I have tracked mallards in the field with miniature GPS loggers. This PhD project has clearly revealed that mallards play a major role in seed dispersal in wetlands, which is relevant for plant population dynamics and persistence in increasingly fragmented and isolated aquatic habitats.