Dr W. Halfwerk (35) is an assistant professor with the Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences at VU University Amsterdam. He is receiving the 2016 Heineken Young Scientists Award for Environmental Sciences for his creative research on how humans alter communication between animals in nature.
Wouter Halfwerk studied biology at Utrecht University and received his PhD in 2012 at Leiden University for his research on the evolution and ecology of birdsong. He was especially interested in the influence of human noise pollution on communication between great tits.
He spent the next three years working outside the Netherlands and grew interested in other senses and species. For example, while he was stationed at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, he used robotic frogs to study calling male túngara frogs and how predatory bats and parasitic midges perceive the associated cues and signals. A male frog that makes more sound and also generates more ripples on the surface of the water not only attracts more females but also more enemies.
Halfwerk is currently studying whether the sexual signals of male túngara frogs in urban settings differ from those of their counterparts in the jungle.
Wouter Halfwerk has published in such prestigious journals as Science. He has received an NWO VENI grant, an EU Marie Curie research grant, and a Smithsonian Fellowship. He is also actively involved in popularising science, for example by giving lectures and cooperating on television documentaries.
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