Conservation biology of amphibians and reptiles in Switzerland

Supervised by Benedikt Schmidt


Human activity is the cause of the ongoing biodiversity crisis. Our goal is to do research on the conservation biology of amphibians and reptiles because we would like to understand how conservation problems can be solved and thereby population declines halted or even reversed. In doing so, we would like to contribute to evidence-based conservation.

We study the dynamics and genetic structure of metapopulations that live in man-made landscapes. We would like to know how the metapopulations function and how they respond to changes in the landscape (e.g., is there an extinction debt?). We also study how conservation activity affects metapopulations. For example, we ask whether translocations are successful and whether we can increase dispersal rates in metapopulations. To address these questions, we must know how one can survey and monitor populations reliably. Therefore, we also study monitoring methods.

In addition, we study whether conservation action is successful. We select conservation actions and assess the success of these projects. We would like to know which conservation actions had the greatest positive effects on threatened species.


In collaboration with:

Ruth Fiechter | MSc Student

Co-supervised by Dr. Benedikt Schmidt (IEU Group Leader & Swiss Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Program)

After finishing my master thesis, I started working as a project leader for “pro natura Aargau”, an NGO buying and preserving ecologically important lands in Switzerland. Some of these areas are managed by grazing ruminants like goats, sheep, and in wetlands, water buffalos. Additionally, I am in charge for research on wildlife management at “Wildtier Schweiz” in Zurich, which is connected with the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies. Besides, I am working on boosting my knowledge in herpetology (karch), ichthyology (ETH/Eawag)  and ornithology (Birdlife).


Over the past 12 years, I have been involved in many disciplines of veterinary medicine including clinical practice, research and environmental protection. I have expanded my veterinary experience through various projects, routine clinical practice and zoological medical rotations, both in Switzerland and internationally. These include:

  • Zoo- and exotic animal medicine
  • Laboratory animal medicine
  • Ruminant medicine
  • Swine medicine
  • Anaesthesia
  • Surgery
  • Animal husbandry and behaviour

Now I extend my professional knowledge in environmental sciences. In my MSc project, I investigate the effects of competition on the dynamics of an anuran community. Specifically, I investigate the consequences of competitor removal on the dynamics of Alytes obstetricans (Common Midwife Toad), Bufo bufo (Common Toad) and Rana temporaria (European Common Frog) using an experimental setup. In a full factorial block-design experiment, which contains treatments with three, two, one and no species, I investigate the effect of A.o. (assumed to be the dominant competitor) on B.b. and R.t. The animals are followed in mesocosms until complete metamorphosis. The body mass of the individuals and the survival will serve as indicators for the potential competition effect between and within the species. For more info in German, please visit my project page.


2012-2014 MSc student in Environmental Science, Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich
2003-2005 Doctoral Degree in Veterinary Medicine, University of Zurich
1998-2003 Studies in Veterinary Medicine, University of Zurich

  • Siebenrock KA, Fiechter R, Tannast M, Mamisch TC, von Rechenberg B. (2012)Experimentally induced cam impingement in the sheep hip. Journal of Orthopaedic Research, 31:580-7
  • Fiechter R, Deplazes P, Schnyder M (2012) Control of Giardia duodenalis in a dog kennel with ronidazole and intensive hygiene management, Veterinary Parasitology, 187:93-8.
  • Fiechter R, Grimm F, Müller G, Schnyder M (2012) Häufung von Ornithonyssus bacoti (Tropische Rattenmilbe) Infestationen bei Heimnagern und ihren Besitzern im Kanton Zürich und der Ostschweiz. Schweizer Archiv für Tierheilkunde, Verlag Hans Huber, 79-85
  • Mamisch TC, Fiechter R, von Rechenberg B, Siebenrock KA (2008) 63 Experimentally induced early degeneration of the hip joint in a sheep model, Osteoarthritis and Cartilage
  • Fiechter R (2006) Am Schafmodell reproduziertes Femoroacetabulärtes Impingement, häufigste Ursache der frühen Osteoarthritis beim nichtdysplastischen Hüftgelenk des Menschen, Dissertation, Universität Zürich