Promotorship PhD Jolien van Malderen: From the cradle to the grave – the urban environment impinges on developmental programming and acts as selective agent

Project Details


A growing proportion of wildlife is exposed to habitat loss as a result of increasing global urbanisation. While this has negative consequences for most species, some species manage to thrive in this novel environment. Yet not all individuals of such urban dwelling species live in urbanised areas. Moreover, individuals often limit urban habitat use to specific activities, e.g. to reproduce in the city while foraging on natural resources or vice versa. This individual variation in the use of urban habitats might on the one hand arise from environmental effects during early ontogeny, which may e.g. shape habitat preferences. The urban environment might on the other hand select for specific (behavioural) traits. Here, I will study the effects of living in the urban habitat throughout all life stages using a notorious urban dweller, the herring gull, as model species. I will study how developmental programming during early and late ontogeny is affected by urban stressors. Next, I will study if this results in preferences for urban habitats or improved ability to adjust to urban habitats through learning and habituation. Lastly, I will analyse the characteristics associated with urban foraging and urban breeding, and study how they are linked to reproductive success. This project improves our understanding of the role of developmental programming for urban living in general, and might also help to understand the current population decline of herring gulls in particular.
Effective start/end date1/12/2231/12/27

Free keywords

  • habitatuse
  • gulls
  • urban

Thematic List 2020

  • Protected nature
  • Nature & society
  • Data & infrastructure