Gaurav Baruah | PhD Student

gauravI am investigating how populations respond to different environmental perturbations and if there are any early warning signals associated with population regime shifts. To achieve this, I am using a combination of simulation-based modelling approach and experimental methods involving laboratory microcosms. My previous research was based on how variation in a particular trait can result in coexistence in different tree species. In my current work, also, I am using a trait-based approach to better quantify and hopefully predict the impact of environmental change on populations and ecological communities.

For more information, please visit my webpage.



  • 2015 – present, PhD Student, Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2012 – 2015, MS in Biology, IISER Kolkata, India
  • 2010 – 2012, BS in Biology, IISER Kolkata, India

Chris Clements | Postdoc

chrisMy interests centre on the extinction of species and collapse of populations, topics which I investigate using a combination of mathematical models, microcosm experiments, and analysis of real world population data.

My previous work has looked at our ability to accurately gauge whether species extinct or extant, from a conservation perspective, as well as the potential effect temperature change can have on population persistence, and community structure.

My current work focuses on developing and testing early warning signals of population collapse, with a view to predicting regime shifts prior to their occurrence.

I am also continuing my work on conservation issues, and I am part of an international collaboration looking at the vulnerability of parasites to climatic change.

For more information, and an up to date list of publications, please visit:

Koen van Benthem | PhD Student

KoenMy research focuses on early warning signals: how can we predict critical transitions in populations. The aim is to base these predictions on a mechanistic understanding, rather than the predictions being purely phenomenological. To this end I will work with multiple long-term datasets. I will try to balance my work between more empirical and more theoretical approaches, such as the Price equations and its extensions. These two approaches will complement each other and create the desired more mechanistic understanding.



  • 2013-present, PhD student, Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies,
    University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2011-2013, MSc in Natural Sciences, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
  • 2008-2011, BSc in Natural Sciences, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Mollie Brooks, our new quantitative ecologist

We have a new quantitative ecologist joining our ranks, Mollie Brooks, who is a recent PhD graduate from University of Florida, Gainesville. Fresh out of Ben Bolker’s group, Mollie is bringing with her much needed skills in statistical and demographic analysis, and to our pleasant surprise, in baking!

During her postdoc, Mollie will contribute to our research projects on early warning signals and resurrecting past eco-evolutionary responses.


Eco-evolutionary Dynamics Workshop in Leiden

This week, Cindy and I participated in the “Eco-evolutionary Dynamics in a Changing World” workshop at Lorentz Center, Leiden.

The organisers, Stephanie Jenouvrier, Thomas Reed and Marcel Visser, brought together a select group of researchers working at the interface of ecology and evolution, from both theoretical and empirical backgrounds, to brainstorm on our current understanding of eco-evolutionary dynamics. Unlike most other workshops, this one had quite an interesting format. There were only a few plenary talks, and most of the time participants held smaller break-out sessions on their own research area. Although there were no final road-maps or even a clear definition of eco-evolutionary semantics, these break-out sessions, I think, worked very well for tossing around ideas and discussing more specialised topics among those with shared interests. For our part, we received great input on our two projects.

Stefan Sommer | Research Assistant

I am an experimental biologist contributing to projects that aim at prediciting and resurrecting population responses to environmental change. I conduct laboratory experiments, supervise students, and assist in teaching.


ResearchGate | ORCiD



  • Since 2012, Research Assistant, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies – Population Ecology, University of Zürich, CH
  • 2010–2012, Research Assistant, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies – Sexual Selection and Speciation, University of Zürich, CH
  • 2008–2009, MQRES Fellow, Centre for the Integrative Study of Animal Behaviour, Macquarie University, Sydney, AUS
  • 2002–2008, Research Assistant, Institute of Zoology, University of Zürich, CH
  • 2000–2002, Temporary Employee, Koller Auctions Zürich, CH
  • 1994–2000, Studies in Biology, Diploma in Zoology, University of Zürich, CH
  • 1989–1994, Studies in Architecture, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich, CH

Stefan Sommer, our new rotifer meister

Many long-term studies on larger vertebrates provide us with only a single time series to study population dynamics. To test all the interesting hypotheses arising from these studies, we have to shrink those systems into tubes and replicate under different treatments. For this, with the invaluable help of Dr. Diego Fontaneto (Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Italy), we chose the rotifers as our experimental system. It didn’t take too long for us to realize that we needed expert help. And that help arrived as a swiss-army-knife of a guy: Stefan Sommers, our research associate, rotifer-meister, orchestrator of our microcosm lab!

Predicting population responses to environmental change

species2A major goal in biodiversity conservation is to predict responses of biological populations to environmental change. To achieve this goal, we must identify early warning signals of the demographic changes that underlie sudden population declines or explosions. Some studies have achieved phenomenological prediction of sudden changes, but recent advances that link trait-based information with demography hint that a mechanistic understanding is within reach. We are developing a predictive framework by investigating how wildlife populations respond demographically, ecologically and evolutionarily to environmental change, and identifying the demographic and phenotypic statistics that can be used as early warning signals of population change. This project will exploit nine unique mammalian systems to identify early warning signals of population change and test these signals on two experimental systems. The results will hopefully provide much-needed predictive insight into how wildlife populations respond to rapid environmental change.


In collaboration with: