Prof. dr. Marcel Klaassen


Contact information

T: +31 317 473 400


  • Animal Energetics
  • Bird Migration
  • Disease Ecology
  • Plant-Animal Interactions

Visiting address

Droevendaalsesteeg 10
6708 PB Wageningen
T +31-317-473400
The Netherlands

Postal address

P.O. Box 50
6700 AB Wageningen
The Netherlands



Marcel Klaassen (1962)

BSc, MSc (Cum Laude 1988), PhD (Cum Laude 1992), University of Groningen, The Netherlands

Professional appointments:

  • 2010 to date: director Centre for Integrative Ecology, Deakin University, Australia
  • 2005 to date: Professor in Animal-Plant Interactions University of Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • 1997 to 2009: Head of department of Plant-Animal Interactions, Centre for Limnology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology
  • 1995 - 1997: Post-doc at the department of Plant-Animal Interactions, Centre for Limnology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology
  • 1994 - 1995: Scientist at the Max-Planck-Institut für Verhaltensphysiologie Andechs, FRG
  • 1991 - 1994: Max Planck fellow at the Max-Planck-Institut für Verhaltensphysiologie Andechs, FRG
  • 1988 - 1991: Scientist at the Institute for Forestry and Nature Research, The Netherlands

Editorial work


To gain a better understanding of the behaviour and functioning of animals, I use rate of energy intake and the economy of its use for life processes as an index of fitness. This is prompted by the fact that all animals must obtain and convert energy from their environment and use it for maintenance, growth and reproduction. Other potentially limiting factors apart from energy (e.g. nitrogen, water) are also quantified. My theoretical, experimental and observational eco-physiological studies involve mainly higher vertebrates, notably omnivorous and herbivorous birds, and focus mainly on reproductive, migratory and foraging behaviours. I enjoy the challenge of trying to extrapolate from individual behaviour to population dynamics and community functioning.

My research projects are increasingly conducted within a freshwater plant-animal interaction framework. Besides studies on protein and energy turnover and body store dynamics my research interest includes temporal and spatial variation in diet choice (partly through stable isotope techniques) and the role birds (and notably waterfowl) play in connecting life at distant sites.

Research abroad


2006-2007: a 6 month sabbatical leave at The Ecology Centre, University of Queensland, Australia  
2005: Preparations for trans-Pacific migration in a supposedly granivorous wader, the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Alaska, USGS/Swedish Polar Institute/LundUniversity/ NIOO (1 month; picture Åke Lindström).  
2004-2007: Reserve dynamics in arctic breeding Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese, Spitsbergen. In co-operation with National Environmental Research Institute Denmark and University of Groningen (yearly 2 weeks; picture Jesper Madsen)
2004: Preparations for trans-Pacific migration in a supposedly granivorous wader, the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Alaska, USGS/Swedish Polar Institute/LundUniversity/ NIOO (2 weeks; picture Åke Lindström).
2003: Reserve dynamics in arctic breeding Pink-footed geese. A FRAGILE expedition to Spitsbergen organised by NERI Denmark (1 month).
 2001- 2002: Sabbatical leave at School of Biology, University of Sydney, Australia (1 year).
1999: Energetics of arctic breeding birds, Tundra-Northwest-Expedition, Swedish Polar Research Institute, Canadian Arctic (1 month).
1998: Pre-migratory preparations in Bewick’s Swans, Pechora delta, Russia(1 month; picture Thijs de Boer).
1997: Moulting and breeding Bewick’s Swans, Pechora delta, Russia (1 month).
1996: Incubation energetics of hornbills in Namibia (1 month).
1995: Experiments on physiology of migration and aerodynamics of flight in wind tunnel of Lund University, Sweden (totalling 9 months; picture Magnus Elander) . 
1991 - 1995: Max-Planck-Institut für Verhaltensphysiologie Andechs, FRG. Physiological bottle-necks in trans-Sahara migrants. Latitudinal differences in energetics of passerine birds. Endogenous rhythms in bird chicks.

1992 - 1993: Scientific member of the Dutch/Danish expedition to Guinea-Bissau. Foraging behaviour in wintering terns (1 month).



1991: Libyan dessert, Egypt. Trans-Sahara bird migration (2 months; picture Herbert Biebach).

1990 - 1991:Scientific member of the Dutch Antarctic Expedition 1990- 1991. Breeding energetics Antarctic Terns (2 months).


1990: Thermoregulatory ability of Arctic Tern chicks in relation to nutritional condition at Spitsbergen (1 month; picture Guri Slagsvold) . 


1988: Scientific member of the Dutch Mauritanian Expedition 1988. Predator - prey interactions. Ecophysiology of Fiddler Crabs (2 months).

1987: Building indirect-calorimetry set-up at the Department of Zoology, University of Uppsala, Sweden (1 month).  
1986-1987: Energetics of arctic breeding birds (totalling 6 months of which 3 on Spitsbergen and 3 in Trondheim, Norway).
1986: Scientific member of the Dutch Mauritanian Expedition 1986. Wader wintering biology (2 months).










The impact of waterfowl on aquatic systems  

Funding agencies: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chinese Academy of Sciences. 
External collaborators: Winnie Rip and Gerard ter Heerdt (WaterNet Amsterdam), Jos Verhoeven and Yuhong Liu (Utrecht University), Håkan Sandsten (Lund University; diving to inspect the effect of swan grazing)


Nutritional ecology of waterfowl, waders and marsupials  

Funding agencies: Schure-Beijerinck-Popping, NWO
External collaborators: Theunis Piersma (Groningen University), Ian Hume (University of Sydney), Åke Lindström (University of Lund), Robert E. Gill (USGS).

Modelling migration strategies, population dynamics and conservation strategies in waterfowl  

Funding agencies: EU
External collaborators: Matthieu Guillemain (Tour du Valat, France), David Roshier (Deakin University, Australia), Hugh Possingham (Ecology Centre, Queensland University, Australia) and members of FRAGILE (Fragility of Arctic Goose habitat: Impacts of Land use, conservation and Elevated temperature; FRAGILE's WP3 a powerpoint presentation)


Reserve dynamics in arctic breeding birds (swans, geese and waders)  

Funding agencies: EU, NWO
External collaborators: Theunis Piersma (University of Groningen), Åke Lindström (Lund University), Jesper Madsen (NERI Denmark), Sarah Jamieson (Massey, New Zealand)



Marcel and Åke, possibly holding the fatest sharp-tailed sandpiper ever caught (>150 g)


Linking breeding and wintering grounds and resolving migration routes using stable isotopes  

Funding agencies: EU. External collaborators: Christiaan Both (Groningen University), Åke Lindström(University of Lund), Thor Veen (Exeter University), Mårten Hjernquist (Uppsala University), Garreth Davies and Laura Font (Free University of Amsterdam)


The ecology of migratory birds and its relevance to the spread of influenza viruses  

In 2003, with the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the Netherlands (2003) we received a major reminder of the threats of avian influenza to animals and man. The threat has not subsided; a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (H5N1) recently spread from Southeast Asia to Russia, Eastern Europe and Turkey, and has killed 85 indiviuals out of 160 infected. Many people fear that this virus could cause a new pandemic similar to the Spanish Flu pandemic, which caused an estimated 40 million casualties worldwide in 1918. It has been speculated that the spread of the H5N1 virus is facilitated by migratory waterfowl, which would be bad news for The Netherlands being a hot spot for these animals with some visiting species easily outnumbering the human population. 



Although virologist should importantly be dealing with this paramount issue, the ecology of the viruses and their hosts may significantly determine the chances and severity of an influenza pandemic. It is the latter aspect that has my specific interest and which has led me to launch a number of projects in co-operation with the groups of Ron Fouchier (Erasmus University) and Hans Heesterbeek (University of Utrecht).


For further information see:; we launched two research projects within the International Polar Year BIRDHEALTH framework



Selected publications

For PDFs or reprints

For a publication overview, links to publications and citation metrics see my researcherID at