Luke Eberhart-Phillips



My interest in the life sciences stems from “the stoke” of being in the field and engaging my curiosity of the natural world. I have a background in applied study of wildlife management and conservation biology. Consequently, I approach my research questions from a demographic perspective.

I am an ornithologist by trade, with a special interest in shorebirds (suborder: Charadrii). The diverse life-histories of shorebirds and their extreme tractability in the field make them the ideal organisms to exemplify fundamental principles of ecology and evolutionary biology. My current work focuses largely on understanding life history evolution in the light of vital rate variation and population dynamics.

Madagascar_PloverThe behaviour of an individual is driven by its intrinsic motivation to maximize fitness, yet the success of this drive is often constrained by extrinsic factors acting upon the population it comprises. To empirically assess potential feedbacks between individual behaviour and population ecology, I am using Charadriinae plovers as a study system; a subfamily well known for its extraordinary inter- and intra-specific diversity in mating system and parental care (see cladogram below). My fieldwork is centered in south-western Madagascar where the Kittlitz’s (C. pecuarius), white-fronted (C. marginatus), and the endemic Madagascar plover (C. thoracicus, left) breed alongside each other in unison yet engage in wildly different mating and parental strategies.

In my free time I am an avid climber, cyclist, and photographer.

Here is a short film that highlights my scientific curiosity and quest for adventure:




Joe Hoffman, Bielefeld University, Germany
Tamás Székely, University of Bath, UK
Oliver Krüger, Bielefeld University, Germany
Clemens Küpper, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany
Orsolya Vinzce, University of Debrecen, Hungary
Sama Zefania, University of Toliara, Madagascar
Cristina Carmona-Isunza, University of Bath, UK
Mark Colwell, Humboldt State University, USA
Tom Miller, Rice University, USA

  • 2013–2017: PhD – University of Bielefeld, Germany
  • 2010–2012: MSc – Humboldt State University, California, USA
  • 2006–2010: BSc – Humboldt State University, California, USA
Professional Experience
  • 2017–present: Postdoctoral Researcher – Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen, Germany
  • 2012–2014: Research Associate – Humboldt State University, California, USA
  • 2012 Fall: Raptor and Songbird Field Technician – Idaho Bird Observatory, Idaho, USA
  • 2012 Summer: Shorebird Field Technician – US Fish and Wildlife, Alaska, USA
  • 2011–2012: Teaching Assistant – Humboldt State University, California, USA
  • 2010 Summer: Songbird Field Technician – Alaska Bird Observatory, North Slope, Alaska, USA
  • 2009 Summer: Songbird Field Technician – Alaska Bird Observatory, Denali National Park, Alaska, USA
  • 2008 Summer: Raptor Field Technician – US Forest Service, Lake Tahoe, California, USA


  1. Eberhart-Phillips LJ. Breeding systems: diversity and evolutionary origins. In Colwell MA, Haig SM (Eds.), The population ecology and conservation of Charadrius plovers, (in print).
  2. Carmona-Isunza MC, Eberhart-Phillips LJ, Küpper C, Cruz-López M, Zefania S, Hoffman JI, Krüger O, Székely T. Breeding schedule of males and females in monogamous and polygamous plover populations, (submitted).
  3. Eberhart-Phillips LJ, Küpper C*, Miller TEX, Cruz-López M, Maher KH, dos Remedios N, Stoffel MA, Hoffman JI*, Krüger O*, Székely T*. Adult sex ratio bias in snowy plovers is driven by sex-specific early survival: implications for mating systems and population growth, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, doi:10.1073/pnas.1620043114. pdf_icon R Markdown: pdf_icon
  4. Martínez-de la Puente J, Eberhart-Phillips LJ, Carmona-Isunza MC, Zefania S, Navarro MJ, Krüger O, Hoffman JI, Székely T, Figuerola J (2017) Extremely low Plasmodium prevalence in wild plovers and coursers from Cape Verde and Madagascar, Malaria Journal, 16:243. pdf_icon
  5. Maher KH, Eberhart-Phillips LJ, Kosztolányi A, Carmona-Isunza MC, Cruz-López M, Zefania S, St Clair J, AlRashidi M, Weston MA, Serrano-Meneses MA, Krüger O, Hoffman J, Székely T, Burke T, Küpper C (2017) High fidelity: extra-pair fertilisations in eight Charadrius plover species are not associated with parental relatedness or social mating system. Journal of Avian Biology 48:001-011. pdf_icon Journal cover: pdf_icon
  6. Eberhart-Phillips LJ*, Cruz-López M*, Fernández G, Beamonte-Barrientos R, Székely T, Serrano-Meneses MA, Küpper C (2017) The plight of a plover: viability of an important snowy plover population with flexible brood care in Mexico. Biological Conservation, 209:440-448. pdf_icon R Markdown: pdf_icon
  7. Eberhart-Phillips LJ (2017) Dancing in the moonlight: evidence that Killdeer foraging behaviour varies with lunar cycle. Journal of Ornithology, 158:253-262. pdf_icon R Markdown: pdf_icon
  8. Eberhart-Phillips LJ (2016) At the crossroads of sexual and natural selection: parental incubation roles in plovers. Wader Study, 123:169-170. pdf_icon
  9. Hoffman JI, Kowalski GJ, Klimova A, Eberhart-Phillips LJ, Staniland IJ, Baylis AMM (2016) Population structure and historical demography of South American sea lions provide insights into the catastrophic decline of a marine mammal population.  Royal Society Open Science, 3:160291. pdf_icon
  10. Stoffel M, Caspers BA, Forcada J, Giannakara A, Baier MC, Eberhart-Phillips LJ, Müller C, Hoffman JI (2015) Chemical fingerprints encode mother-offspring similarity, colony membership, relatedness and genetic quality in fur seals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112:E5005–E5012. pdf_icon R Markdown: pdf_icon Journal cover: pdf_icon
  11. Eberhart-Phillips LJ, Hudgens B, Colwell MA (2015) Spatial synchrony of a threatened shorebird: regional roles of climate, dispersal, and management. Bird Conservation International, 26:119–135. pdf_icon
  12. Eberhart-Phillips LJ, Hoffman JI, Brede EG, Zefania S, Kamrad MJ, Székely T, Bruford MW (2015) Contrasting genetic diversity and population structure among three sympatric Madagascan shorebirds: parallels with rarity, endemism, and dispersal. Ecology and Evolution, 5:997–1010. pdf_icon
  13. Que P, Chang Y, Eberhart-Phillips LJ, Liu Y, Székely T, Zhang Z-W (2015) Low nest survival of a breeding shorebird in Bohai Bay, China. Journal of Ornithology, 156:297-307. pdf_icon
  14. Eberhart-Phillips LJ, Colwell MA (2014) Conservation challenges of a sink: the viability of an isolated population of the Snowy Plover. Bird Conservation International, 24:327–341. pdf_icon Journal cover: pdf_icon
  15. Colwell MA, Pearson WJ, Eberhart-Phillips LJ, Dinsmore SJ (2013) Apparent survival of snowy plovers (Charadrius nivosus) varies with reproductive effort and year and between sexes. Auk, 130:725–732. pdf_icon

*These authors contributed equally

Contact Details

Luke Eberhart-Phillips
Behavioural Genetics and Evolutionary Ecology
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology
Eberhard-Gwinner-Str. Bldg. 5 Rm. 0.19
82319 Seewiesen

telephone: +49 (0)815 932-328
e-mail: luke[dot]eberhart[at]orn[dot]mpg[dot]de

I am funded by: