The cE3c Best Ph.D. Student of 2020
Sietze Norder received the 2020 Prize for the best Ph.D. Thesis in cE3c.
Norder’s Ph.D. thesis was conducted between 2016 and 2020 under the supervision of Prof. Paulo A. V. Borges (University of Azores), Prof. Margarida Matos (Faculty of Sciences of Univ of Lisbon) and Prof. Kenneth Rijsdijk (Univ of Amsterdam).
The PhD thesis ‘Island Biogeography in the Anthropocene and Quaternary’ by Sietze Norder consists of two parts. The first part of the thesis builds upon the realization that the current appearance of islands is not representative of the past. To test the extent to which current island biodiversity patterns are imprinted by past geographical dynamics, Norder developed the first global spatially-explicit database of changes in island geography driven by Quaternary sea level fluctuations. His statistical analysis revealed that the present-day distribution of single-island endemic species is better explained by long-lasting geographic configurations than by modern and LGM conditions, a finding which is novel to science.
The second part of Norder’s thesis explores the biodiversity legacies of human-environment interactions. In doing so, he used data from a wide range of sources and integrated methods from various disciplines. For example, he compiled data from satellite imagery as well as from historical documents and maps, and combined in-depth case-studies of individual islands with large-scale statistical analyses of societal and environmental variables. One of the major findings of the second part of his thesis is that island biodiversity is drastically modified by human actions, but that environmental conditions also influence the extent of such impacts. While both parts of the thesis contain many innovative aspects, perhaps the most important contribution of Norder’s work is its interdisciplinary synthesis. His work highlights that modern biogeographical patterns should be understood as being the outcome of a mix of geographical, ecological and anthropogenic processes.