The team that currently runs the foundation consists of the following people: Jeroen Mos, Tim Hofmeester, and Fokko Bilijam.
My first encounter with a mustelid was around 2003 during an internship in Canada, when I contributed to a field study on the American marten. Later, I studied the feeding ecology of badgers, the largest mustelid in the Netherlands, during my thesis at Wageningen University. During and after my studies, I conducted field research on weasels in Kielder Forest (England, 2003) and Białowieża (Poland, 2007). In this period, my interest in especially small mustelids got a solid foundation. I continued this with a voluntary study to the presence of small mustelids at, amongst others, the Deelensche Veld within the National Park Hoge Veluwe, using tracking tubes to find the species.
In 2012, I developed the first prototype of the ‘Mostela’, a combination of a tracking tube and the at that time increasingly popular camera trap. This camera-trapping concept can be seen as a promising method to study weasel and stoat, based on a field study I performed on the Hof te Dieren estate (2017-2018). I am interested in the way in which weasels and stoats use the Dutch landscape, in particular the (temporal) function of the existing landscape structures and the present (micro) habitat. Within the SMF and in my day-to-day work as an independent ecological consultant, I focus on deepening our knowledge about the complex ecology of small mustelids by initiating research and sharing ecological findings. Only in this way can we gain a better understanding of the species, ensure a better protection and preserve them sustainably in the longer term.
Seeing a pine marten in a Polish forest just after my 18th birthday changed my life for good. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to study carnivores, and especially mustelids! This newfound passion led me to do a lot of voluntary mammal research as a student, where I took up the coordination of dissecting road killed small mustelids at Wageningen Environmental Research. I wanted to make the study of mammals my profession, but it took a detour doing a PhD in disease ecology at Wageningen University, and emigration to northern Sweden to get there. I now work as a researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, where I focus on mammal communities in Scandinavia and abroad, using citizen science and technological advances, such as camera traps and artificial intelligence, to better understand the influence of people on wildlife and vice versa. Within the foundation, I want to specifically focus on international collaboration, spreading knowledge about the use of non-invasive monitoring and statistical analyses of these data to researchers, conservation professionals, and managers. Furthermore, I am to set up a monitoring of weasel and stoat in Sweden, especially related to their winter white coat and the shortening snow season.
Think about the idealistic images portrayed in the school posters of M.A. Koekkoek (Dutch draftsman and painter 1873-1844). The old Dutch landscapes with many species per square meter. Perhaps he portrayed a very exaggerated and idealized image with these posters, but they have shaped me. The mismatch with the changing of the peat meadow landscape in which I grew up, and the occasional glimpse of a small mustelid in my youth, prompted me to think about the small mustelids and their role. Where I used to occasionally see a weasel or stoat during my many hours in the field protecting meadow birds, these sightings have now mostly disappeared. The encounters have become too rare. We have turned the landscape into an industrial green complex. Contrastingly, I think it is great that we for example managed to get the otter back in the peat meadow landscape. It took a lot of effort and adaptation, but it succeeded! I think we need to hold on to that spirit, as nothing is lost yet, and that a lot can be achieved through cooperation. In several places in the Netherlands, there are people that work creatively to develop new methods to detect the small mustelids in the landscape. This results in great cross-pollination and we certainly learn from each other. Within the foundation, I want to focus on the new technologies that are still emerging all over the world and how we can apply those for small mustelid research and conservation. Think, for example, about technology where in first instance there is no direct link to small mustelids, but where with some creativity there might be new possibilities. Some of these methods will never leave the drawing board, but others will hopefully see the light, through proofs of concept and (international) collaboration.