PhD Program in Ecology

Completing a PhD research project in the joint University of Zurich (UZH) and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, PhD Program in Ecology, in one of the internationally acclaimed research groups, enhances a student’s PhD experience. Students of this program are enrolled at either the UZH or the ETH. The program offers research training in the interdisciplinary field of ecology, general skills training for academic and non-academic excellence, and opportunities to interact with other doctoral students. The program includes a curriculum of at least 12 ECTS credits, teaching experience, and is usually completed within three to four years (full-time). It offers yearly graduate schools, courses on subject specific matters and on methods that are of direct use to the work of doctoral students. Additional courses on transferable skills prepare students for professional life, whether this is in an academic institution or not. Research seminars foster international collaborations and the exchange of experiences among doctoral students and experts from different fields of ecology.


Mycorrhizal symbiosis in ferns and lycophytes: the evolution of an ancestral relationship
Thais Guillen


Collecting Struthiopteris spicant  in a Swiss forest © Thais Guillen

The colonization of land by vascular plants was one of the most important evolutionary steps leading to today’s global biodiversity. However, many details about the strategies adopted by these lineages to succeed and diversify in the new environmental conditions remain poorly understood. Ferns and lycophytes contain taxa that already occurred over 400 million years ago and others that expanded recently along with the rise of angiosperms to ecological dominance. New paleontological and molecular clues indicate that the association with fungi was one of the main factors ensuring their success. Thais Guillen Otero aims to elucidate the dynamic and evolution of mycorrhizal associations in ferns and lycophytes. At the Institute of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, she studies the phylogenetic relationship among these ancient plant lineages and their fungal allies, and sheds some light over the ecological characteristics of facultative mycorrhizal ferns.

Contact: thais.guillenotero(at)


Photography for Scientists
Science and science communication rely heavily and extensively on photography. In this course organised by the PhD Program in Ecology, student scientists were taught how to be more "visually literate", empowering them to more effectively communicate their science.

Filmmaking for Scientists
In this course organised by the PhD Program in Ecology, students learnt how to prepare their own documentary films, including how to deal with camera and lighting, screenwriting/storyboard and film editing. At the end of the workshop, the PhD students prepared a short documentary film.