Benedikt Schmidt | Research Associate

beniResearch Interests

Conservation biology, conservation evidence, herpetology, demography, population dynamics, disease ecology (chytridiomycosis), environmental DNA, occupancy dynamics, mark-recapture models, monitoring

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Publication List @ZORA



  • 2011-present, Independent Research Group Leader, University of Zurich
  • 2002-present, Scientific Collaborator at Koordinationsstelle für Amphibien- und Reptilienschutz in der Schweiz (
  • 2003-2011, Postdoc in the group of Prof. Uli Reyer, University of Zurich
  • 1999-2002, PhD in evolutionary biology (“Predator-induced phenotypic plasticity in larval newts”; supervisor: Josh Van Buskirk), University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • 1996-1999, Collaborator at the Amt für Raumplanung, Abteilung Natur und Landschaft, Kanton Basel-Landschaft
  • 1995-1995, MSc in population biology (“On the maintenance of the genetic polymorphism at the locus LDH-B in the pool frog, Rana lessonae“; supervisors: Hansjürg Hotz, Brad R. Anholt, Uli Reyer, Stephen C. Stearns)
  • 1988-1995, Studies in Biology, University of Basel, Switzerland

Triple congratulations to Dominik

Series of congratulations to Dominik on three wonderful achievements!

First and foremost, he managed to persuade a wonderful lady, Regula, to tie the knot. We wish them a long and happy life together. May they grow old on one pillow!


Secondly, he successfully attracted third-party funding to support his PhD study on wild dog dispersal in Botswana, and started his PhD work. He is currently out and about, gps-collaring wild dogs together with Gabriele.

Last but not the least, he just received the Albert Heim Foundation’s 2016 Science Award, with his MSc work on the Swiss wolves. This award is given annually to outstanding work by young researchers in Swiss universities. The broad spectrum of research includes various disciplines around canines, including interdisciplinary issues such as the human-wolf relationships, which Dominik has nicely studies during his MSc. He sure will be a promising contender again with his new canine sp. in the upcoming years.

Agnes Olin | MSc Student

agnesFor a long time I have been interested in how ecosystems respond to current environmental change. I feel like understanding these responses early is key for realising the huge impact we are having on the planet, and also for designing efficient conservation strategies for minimising this impact. My bachelor project addressed the effects of environmental change on the breeding success of northern fulmars in Orkney. For my masters project I will continue to study the effects of environmental change on birds, this time working with data from a long-term study of Siberian jays (Perisoreus infaustus) in Arvidsjaur, Sweden.

Research from the Arvidsjaur project has uncovered complex social patterns in the species, and has also provided insights into the effect of commercial forestry on the population. Further work by a previous masters student, Kate Layton-Matthews, has established links between environmental factors, such as snow depth and temperature, and Siberian jay survival and reproduction. Building on this, I will try to predict how projected changes in snow depth and temperature will affect the population. I will also attempt to determine whether the effects of environmental change on the demography of Siberian jays are mediated by phenotypic traits, and whether the long-term dynamics of the population differ from the short-term dynamics. I am backed up by a supervisory team consisting of Professor Arpat Ozgul (Population Ecology Group, UZH), Dr. Michael Griesser (Siberian Jay Project, Anthropological Institute, UZH) and Tina Cornioley (Population Ecology Group, UZH).



  • 2015 – 2017, MSc Ecology, Universität Zürich
  • 2013 (Jun-Aug), Research Assistant, Operation Wallacea, Indonesia
  • 2011 – 2015, BSc Biological Sciences (Ecology), University of Edinburgh


Ramon Müller | MSc Student

Co-supervised by Dr. Benedikt Schmidt (IEU Group LeaderSwiss Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Program) and Dr. Janine Bolliger (WSL).


In order to pursue my passion for conservation genetics, I have started a Master degree in Biology here at the University of Zurich.. During my bachelor degree I mainly focused on conservation from a more traditional point of view, learning species and community identification and how to take measurements to halt biodiversity loss and ensure species persistence. From this background I developed the view that incorporating genetic components is the essential next step in order to better understand conservation approaches.

For my Masters project I decided to study the two endangered amphibians species (Alytes obstetricans and Epidalea calamita), for which populations have strongly decreased over recent decades. In order to stop further losses, translocation projects in the cantons of Zurich, Lucerne, and St. Gallen have been launched to reintroduce new populations and support present populations. In my project I use microsatellite markers to determine the population structure of these populations, and identify whether translocated population differ from natural population in terms of genetic diversity and genetic differentiation. With this information I hope to use landscape genetic approaches to identify landscape features that limit migration between populations. The overall goal of this project is to evaluate the success of these conservation interventions and help inform future conservation efforts to produce more effective conservation success.

2013-2016 MSc in Biology, University of Zurich and BA in Business Administration, University of Zurich and Berne
2012-2013 Civil service
2009-2012 BSc in Environmental engineering, Zurich University of Applied Science

Jacqueline Moser | Admin Assistant

jacquiWhen I’m not in the office managing grants, writing financial reports and dealing with various administrative obstacles you can find me with my baby in my backpack hiking somewhere in the world, chasing northern lights, overcoming the hurdles of an unknown language over a drink of fermented mare milk in Mongolia, up on a mountain peak or in the depths of the sea, with a book in my hand about travel or how to raise an uncomplicated baby 😉

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

A Month of Inspiration

Written by Billur Bektaş

Koen, Frank, Kate, Tina, Billur, Stefan, Chris, Arpat & Pars, Sebastian, Sam, Naomi, Lilian, Cindy, Mollie, Chloé
Koen, Frank, Kate, Tina, Billur, Stefan, Chris, Arpat & Pars, Sebastian, Sam, Naomi, Lilian, Cindy, Mollie, Chloé

As an undergraduate student at the Istanbul Technical University from the molecular biology and genetics department, my journey in the field of ecology started with voluntary based projects in the TEMA* foundation in Turkey. In this foundation, I had several opportunities to attend ecological literacy instructions, meet people involved in ecology and even share my experience as well as learn with peers. However, guided by my dearest friend Burcu Arık Akyüz in the foundation and inspired by ecologists that I’ve met in my country, a will for deepening the knowledge and understanding for ecology started to grow inside. Since the education I take at my university is focused on molecular biology concentrating mostly on micro level studies, I was unsatisfied and lost. Sure, I was interested in genetics and other molecular based courses but I was deeply curious about several other questions. Namely: “What is the relationship between the environment and populations?” “How are populations and individuals affected by environmental changes?” “Is there a way to formulate and show these relationships and even predict the consequences of environmental changes?” and many more. I was looking for a way to link my education with this new ambition. Thus, thankfully I found out about Arpat. First by name, then in an interview online, then in his publications and at last I had the courage to email him to ask for an internship in his working group. Thankfully again, he accepted! So, I lived the most inspiring month of my life – academically and emotionally. Mainly I worked on rotifers in the laboratory, resurrected the resting eggs from 50 years ago coming from Lake Orta (Italy), a lake that was once contaminated with copper but then recovered. I conducted experiments to collect life table data (survival, and reproduction) and measure body sizes of individuals. During my first week in Zurich, I read different articles mostly about my experiment. I had the chance to take an introductory lecture to matrix modeling and LTREs (Life-Table Response Experiments) analysis from Arpat and we designed the experiment together with the group. In the second and third week, I conducted the experiment and hence encountered different problems in lab. The real experience was not the experiment itself, rather finding solutions to different problems with the group. Finally I learned how to do matrix population modeling and during the last week I analysed the data and sometimes really felt all neurons in my brain… Recalling all those math lectures I once took, trying to learn R-programming and learning something totally new for me… However, at the end I was fascinated by the intelligence behind connecting mathematics with ecology and creating the possibility to use this outcome for conservation biology and for deepening our understanding of ecology and evolution. From the first day to the last, all days passed with learning and curiosity to learn more. And finally my mind was totally clear! This was what I want! Finally I had found my curiosity, my inspiration and my topic for my future study. This feeling was really precious, giving an aim in life and willing to wake up as early as I can in the morning to go to work immediately, discovering more and more, always with a smile on my face and the ambition to carry on.

And now? Now I have many plans and goals for my upcoming years in my undergraduate studies. I have many projects in mind, many articles and books to read, many scientists to meet, many workshops to take… I want to improve my skills in this field on my own due to limited scientific opportunities in my country. However, I am also excited to study ecology in my home country because of its rich biodiversity and different ecosystems.

With this occasion, I want to thank all PopEcol group members to welcome me so friendly, helping me with my other projects and help me to survive socially in Zurich. I want to thank especially Naomi and Stefan for teaching me all these lab skills with discipline and guiding me through the experiment. And for sure I want to thank Arpat to give me the opportunity to be the part of this inspiring group, their scientific work and helping me to find my way in this marvelous journey of ecology.

*TEMA: The Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats

Stéphanie Vuichard | MSc Student

Co-supervised by Dr. Benedikt Schmidt (IEU Group LeaderSwiss Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Program) and Dr. Jasmin Winkler.

stephanieI’m interested in animals and their interaction with their environment. I’m concerned about the loss of biodiversity, which motivates me to learn more about ecology and conservation biology and explore what can be done to prevent it. My aim is to do conservation management in the future. As I was born and still live in Switzerland, my focus is on Swiss species. For a term paper during my Bachelor’s degree, I looked at survival  of Northern Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) breeding on flat roofs. My Bachelor’s thesis was about the Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca) and its temperature and sunlight duration preferences.

My Master’s thesis is on amphibian conservation biology. I investigate which environmental factors influence colonisation of ponds by amphibians.The study site is in Emmental (Canton of Bern), where dozens of ponds were built in the last 30 years. I’m looking at different variables from each pond and their surroundings. I compare the ponds where amphibians occur, where they reproduce, and where no amphibians were detected. The target species for the pond building project in Emmental is the Midwife Toad (Alytes obstetricans). However, I’m also looking at the other amphibian species in these ponds, namely the Common Toad (Bufo bufo), Common Frog (Rana temporaria), Alpine Newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris) and the Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus).

MSc in Environmental Sciences, University of Zurich
2013 -2014 Internship at the Canton of Zug – office of forest and wildlife (Amt für Wald und Wild)
2010-2013 BSc in Natural Resource Sciences, ZHAW (Zurich University of Applied Science), Wädenswil
2010 Internship at an ecological research office (Büro für ökologische Optimierungen GmbH)

Dominik Behr | PhD Student

My research interests are in the field of population ecology, movement ecology, animal conservation and wildlife management.

My current research focuses on dispersal and its demographic consequences in the African wild dog. I aim to explore the patterns and mechanisms of dispersal as well as the resulting population-dynamic implications by acquiring movement data and by using long-term demographic data. Ultimately, the goal is to provide scientific evidence for the implementation of effective conservation strategies for this endangered large carnivore. For more information, please visit our research page.

My previous work has investigated whether there is spatial consensus between suitable wolf habitats and public acceptance of the wolf in Switzerland.

Besides my research, you will most probably find me outdoors doing sports and taking pictures of wildlife or at the zoo in Zurich, where I work part-time as a guide. I also like traveling, reading, cooking and having a good beer with friends.



  • 2016-present, PhD student at Population Ecology Research Group, University of Zurich
  • 2016, Research assistant at Population Ecology Research Group, University of Zurich
  • 2014-2015, MSc in Environmental Sciences, University of Zurich
  • 2014, Nature Field Guide qualification, Limpopo Field Guiding Academy, South Africa
  • 2010-2013, Industrial Engineer, ABB Ltd, Switzerland & China
  • 2006-2009, MSc in Management, Technology and Economics, ETH Zurich
  • 2003-2006, BSc in Environmental Engineering, ETH Zurich



  • Behr DM, Ozgul A, Cozzi G (2017) Combining human acceptance and habitat suitability in a unified socio-ecological suitability model: a case study for the wolf in Switzerland. Journal of Applied Ecology