Martijn Van De Pol



For my PhD I studied life-history decisions in a long-lived shorebird on a tiny barrier island in the Netherlands. When my field experiments were flooded 3 years in a row, I decided to take this as a sign and switch fields to study the climate change ecology of birds. I first headed up north for a postdoctoral fellowship at the Norwegian University for Science & Technology to get acquainted with theory on stochastic population dynamics. Wondering where the sun had gone, I then headed down south to work as a research fellow at ANU. There I got an opportunity for hands on experience with long-term field studies on iconic fairy-wrens. Although fairy-wrens have quite a reputation because of their extreme promiscuity and complex behavioural strategies, they are actually also an extremely useful model system to study the mechanisms by which individuals and populations respond to climate change (they really, really love rain…). In 2013 I started up a new lab, in which we are focussing on long-term studies of a variety of bird species to further our understanding of the eco-evolutionary dynamics in a changing environment. I am also an honorary Senior Researcher at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology and an Associate Editor of the Journal of Animal Ecology.


Research interests

  • What are the mechanisms by which animals adapt to climate change and is it fast enough to keep up with the rapidly changing environment (i.e. eco-evolutionary dynamics)?
  • How do individuals and populations respond to stochastic extreme climatic events, such as increased flooding risks and heatwaves?
  • What determines why some type of species are more prone to extinction than others?
  • What is the interactive effect of different threaths to species (climate change, habitat fragmentation, predation)?
  • Optimal life-history strategies of species with age-structured life-cycles living in a stochastic environment (e.g. bet-hedging).

Recent grants

  • Australian Research Council Future fellowship 2013-2017: How animals respond to extreme climatic events
  • Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Discovery fellowship (APD) 2010-2013
  • Australian Research Council Discovery Grant 2010-2014: Fitness in free-living populations in a changing world (Andrew Cockburn, Martijn van de Pol and Loeske Kruuk)

Lab awards and achievements

  • 2014 APA PhD Scholarship (McLean)
  • 2013 APA PhD Scholarship (Bailey)
  • 2013 ARC Future fellowship (van de Pol)
  • 2013 Associate editor Journal of Animal Ecology (van de Pol)
  • 2010 ARC Australian Postdoctoral Discovery fellowship (van de Pol)
  • 2007 Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research Rubicon postdoctoral fellowship (van de Pol).


We are always very interested to talk to people interested in studying exciting aspects of the behavioural, evolutionary or population ecology of animals, either in the field, on the computer, or both. Please drop by for a chat!

Australian students can apply for Australian Postgraduate Award PhD scholarship, while international students can apply for International Postgraduate Research Scholarships to do a PhD. Postdocs can e.g. apply for ARC DECRA or for outgoing Marie Curie fellowships (if from Europe).


Selected publications

  • van de Pol, M., Osmond, H & Cockburn, A. (2012) Fluctuations in population composition dampen the impact of phenotypic plasticity on trait dynamics in superb fairy-wrens. Journal of Animal Ecology, 81: 411-421.
  • Dingemanse, N., Bouwman, K., van de Pol, M., van Overveld, T., Patrick, S., Matthysen, E. & Quinn, J. (2012) Variation in personality and behavioural plasticity across four populations of great tit Parus Major. Journal of Animal Ecology, 81: 116–126.
  • van de Pol, M., Vindenes, Y,, Sæther, B.E., Engen, S., Ens, B.J., Oosterbeek, K., Tinbergen, J.M. (2011). Poor environmental tracking can make extinction risk insensitive to the colour of environmental noise. Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 278: 3713-3722.
  • van de Pol, M. & Cockburn, A. (2011) Identifying the critical climatic time-window that affects trait expression. The American Naturalist 177: 698-707.
  • Brouwer, L., van de Pol, M., Atema, E. & Cockburn, A. (2011) Strategic promiscuity helps avoid inbreeding at multiple levels in a cooperative breeder where both sexes are philopatric. Molecular Ecology, 20: 4796–4807.
  • van de Pol, M., Ens,B.J., Heg,D.H., Brouwer,L., Krol,J., Maier,M., Exo,K-M., Oosterbeek, K., Lok,T., Eising,C., Koffijberg,K. (2010) Do changes in the frequency, magnitude and timing of extreme climatic events threaten the population viability of coastal birds? Journal of Applied Ecology 47: 720-730.
  • van de Pol, M., Vindenes, Y, Sæther, B.E., Engen, S., Ens, B.J., Oosterbeek, K., Tinbergen, J.M. (2010). Effects of climate change and variability on population dynamics in a long-lived shorebird. Ecology 91: 1192-1204.
  • Brouwer, L., Barr, I., van de Pol, M., Burke, T., Komdeur, J. & Richardson, D.S. (2010) MHC-dependent survival in a wild population: evidence for hidden genetic benefits gained through extra-pair fertilisations. Molecular Ecology 19: 3444-3455
  • van de Pol, M., Brouwer, L., Ens, B.J., Oosterbeek, K., Tinbergen, J.M. (2010). Fluctuating selection and the maintenance of individual and sex-specific diet specialization in free-living oystercatchers. Evolution 64: 836-851.

All publications

Updated:  13 December 2018/Responsible Officer:  Director RSB/Page Contact:  Webmaster RSB