Here we post open positions and potential MSc projects. We also welcome enquiries from prospective students. If you have an original project that fits into our general research interests, contact us to discuss possibilities. To learn more about the funding opportunities, follow the links at the bottom of this page.
- Currently none
- Resurrection ecology – Demographic responses of rotifers to pollution: Lake Orta in northern Italy is a subalpine lake that has experienced intense industrial pollution during the last century. Thanks to a series of restoration efforts, today the lake is considered clean. In this MSc thesis, the student will investigate whether rotifers (Brachionus calyciflorus) adapted to changing pH levels of the lake water. To this end, the student will resurrect rotifer lineages from previously collected sediment samples and test these lineages for acidification tolerance in a laboratory experiment (details on our resurrection-ecology project can be found here and here). This project does not involve field work. The laboratory work will be supervised by Stefan Sommer; the responsible supervisor of the MSc thesis is Arpat Ozgul. Earliest possible starting date is March 2018. Interested students should contact Arpat or Stefan.
- Amphibian conservation biology – Consequences of translocations: Translocations are often used in conservation practice to rescue populations threatened by development or to create new populations. The currency for measuring the success of translocations is whether translocations led to a new population. Here we seek a master student who is keen to assess the success of a Natterjack toad translocation project. A previous master thesis showed that natural and translocated populations do not differ in microsatellite genetic variation. The aim of this project is to investigate phenotypic (i.e. fitness-related) traits using a common garden experiment in outdoor mesocosms. Eggs from different populations have to be collected in the wild. Tadpoles will be raised in captivity. As this study involves live individuals of a threatened species, we are looking for a highly motivated student who can handle animals carefully. For this master project, you need a driving license (field work). German is an advantage. If interested, contact Benedikt Schmidt.
- Amphibian conservation biology – Experimental environmental DNA: Environmental DNA (eDNA) is a powerful method to study the distribution of aquatic species. Basically, one collects a sample of water and then looks for DNA in the water. One big open question is how the density of species affects the detectability of species. The goal of this master thesis is to design an outdoor mesocosm experiment in which the effects of density and other factors can be measured. This master thesis will be part of a larger collaborative KTI-project on conservation genetics. The eDNA lab work will be done by Microsynth, one of the partners in the project. As this study involves live individuals of threatened species, we are looking for a highly motivated student who can handle animals carefully. For this master project, you need a driving license (field work). German is an advantage. If interested, contact Benedikt Schmidt.
- Amphibian conservation biology – The slow decline in abundance of a neglected species: Conservation biologists usually study rare and enigmatic species. There is, however, a growing number of studies which shows that many other species, including common ones, are declining as well. The amphibian monitoring of the Swiss canton Aargau showed that the Palmate newt, Lissotriton helveticus, has been declining in abundance for the past ~15 years while pond occupancy remained roughly constant.
Here we seek a master student who is keen to analyse the data using state-of-the-art statistical methods. The goal is a robust quantification of the decline. In addition, we would like to understand the reasons for the decline (land use change? climate change? a hoax?). Field work will be necessary to collect data which will then be used to test some hypotheses. For this master project, you need a driving license (field work). German is an advantage. If interested, contact Benedikt Schmidt.
- Amphibian conservation biology – Water quality and the distribution of a stream-breeding salamander. The salamander Salamandra salamandra has been declining in Switzerland for many years even though it is a generalist species which is found in many different types of streams and associated terrestrial habitat. In this project, we relate water quality assessment based the presence/absence of aquatic organisms made by the Swiss Biodiversity Monitoring to the local abundance of salamander larvae. Here we seek a master student who is keen to collect the field data and to analyse the data using state-of-the-art statistical methods. Field work will be necessary to collect data which will then be used to test some hypotheses. For this master project, you need a driving license (field work). Your own car would be an advantage. German is an advantage. If interested, contact Benedikt Schmidt.
- Amphibian conservation biology – Does body condition predict abundance and population trends? Many amphibian species in Switzerland are declining. It is necessary to monitor the abundance of species across many sites to infer population declines. This is time-consuming work. Are there short-cuts? In particular, can we use phenotypes of individuals to predict the state of a population (i.e. abundance, trend)? In this project, you will compare population trends as inferred based on “normal” population monitoring with phenotypic data of individuals (size, mass, body condition). The study can be done with one or two endangered anuran species (yellow-bellied toads and/or natterjack toads). We seek a master student who is keen to collect the field data and to analyse the data using state-of-the-art statistical methods. Field work will be necessary to collect data which will then be used to test some hypotheses. For this master project, you need a driving license (field work). Your own car would be an advantage. German is an advantage. If interested, contact Benedikt Schmidt.
- Spatially explicit demography in a little owl population: mapping the fitness landscape
It is widely assumed that animals select habitat in a manner that increases their reproductive output and that habitat selection enhances fitness. However, habitat quality is usually derived from spatial variation in animals’ distribution (density or intensity of space use), and is rarely inferred from spatial variation in vital rates. Animals can maladaptively select habitats where mortality is higher than survival (ecological trap or sink habitat), and fitness can therefore be a more accurate measure of habitat quality. Following a decline due to the disappearance of suitable nesting sites, the little owl population in central Europe has been in the last 20 years due to the provision of nest boxes. However, individual little owls could select for nest boxes in otherwise poor habitat, and face an ecological trap. To be able to identify and predict attractive sinks or ecological traps would therefore be invaluable for the applied conservation of the little owl. The aim of this master thesis is to link demographic data to space use data of little owl in order to identify landscape heterogeneity in reproductive success.
Methods: This project will build up on existing little owl demographic and space use data that have been collected in a population in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. In a first step, the student will refine habitat selection models evaluated using space use data (telemetry relocations in the study area) by linking them to demographic data of breeding success. The outcome will be used to identify and map possible mismatch between space use-defined habitat quality, and fitness-defined habitat quality. In a second step, the student will use experimental supplemental feeding data to understand how this could have manipulated the fitness-landscape in the study area.
Demands: This project is desktop-based, with no fieldwork component. A strong will to spend time in front of the computer analysing data is therefore mandatory. Previous knowledge of R and/or GIS (Arc, QGIS, other) would be an advantage. The student is expected to register at the University of Zürich for the thesis and join the Population Ecology Research Group.
If interested, contact Martin Grüebler (+41 41 462 97 22) or Julien Fattebert (+41 41 462 97 00), Schweizerische Vogelwarte, 6204 Sempach.
- UZH students find information about the module BIO 357 Research Internship in Ecology in the course catalogue
- International students should check the BUSS programme