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Fox sparrow nest on Mandarte, photo by Kathrin Naepflin

Masters project or research practical

Interested in the link between physical and evolutionary fitness? Have look here (pdf)!.

Interested in doing a project on another topic? Feel free to contact me to discuss the possibilities!.

PhD students

Timothée Bonnet- The evolutionary genetics of life and death in snow voles

Funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF)

 My favourite recipe: A balanced blend of evolution and ecology of a natural population, a healthy dose of mathematics and at least a spoonful of genetics.
    In my PhD, I investigate the generation and maintenance of individual variation, and the consequences of this variation at the population level. Specifically, I study a wild snow vole (Chionomys nivalis) population which has been monitored since 2006. I am focussing on effects of body mass and snow cover on various fitness components. I will quantify the selection pressure acting on body mass, and how the strength and shape of selection depends on environmental factors like snow cover. Using quantitative genetic methods, I will then try to disentangle the role of genetics and the environment in shaping variation in body mass and fitness. Finally, I will be integrating these findings to show how individual variation and the environment shape the genetics and dynamics of this population. This work should shed new light on whether and how natural populations are able to adapt to environmental changes.

personal webpage



Simon Evans

Funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF)

My previous work used plumage coloration as a route to understanding the eco-evolutionary forces governing ornament expression. This research was based on long-term study populations of great tits (Oxford, UK) and collared flycatchers (Gotland, Sweden). All individuals in these nestbox-breeding populations are uniquely marked, allowing individuals to be monitored throughout their lives and pedigrees to be constructed that describe the relatedness structure within each population. By combining phenotypic and relatedness information, it is possible to estimate quantitative genetic parameters (e.g., heritability).
    I'm now applying this approach to humans, exploring how changes in the social environment (e.g., the Industrial Revolution and the accompanying demographic transition) have impacted the evolutionary dynamics of human life-history traits. While it's frequently stated that humans are no longer evolving, numerous molecular genetic studies have shown that—at least for specific loci—evolution in contemporary human populations is occurring. In this study, we are exploring whether the considerable environmental changes human society has experienced over recent centuries have resulted in the evolution of polygenic traits closely allied to Darwinian fitness.

personal webpage


MSc students

Nicolas Erzer

Unravelling the mechanisms underlying parental age-effects on offspring survival in humans

Xenia Wietlisbach

The genetics of giants: Aldabra giant tortoise population genetics

Andres Hagmayer

Ecological genetics of resting metabolic rate in snow voles



Dominique Waldvogel

Database development and management, lab and field work

Nina Vasiljevic

Data transcription and entry


Past members

Vicente García Navas Corrales

    Currently post-doc at the Estación Biológica de Doñana-CSIC, Spain.

Pirmin Nietlisbach

    Currently a post-doc with Lukas Keller at the University of Zurich.

Philipp Becker

Jasmin Winkler

    Currently running Ecolytics.

Kathrin Näpflin

    Currently PhD student at the Institute of Integrative Biology of the ETH Zurich.

Anja Bürkli

    Currently PhD student at the Aquatic Ecology group of the ETH Zurich.

Franziska Lörcher