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.


A year of leaf litter dynamics in headwater catchments.
Eva Cereghetti


Leaf litter in a tributary of Lake Constance © Eva Cereghetti

Leaf fall is often a symbol of seasonal change, a sign that the growing season has come to an end and winter is just around the corner. For small streams, leaf fall represents a fundamental input: nutrients. Especially within forests, where algal growth in streams is limited due to the lack of direct sunlight, streams and their communities rely heavily on leaf litter to provide carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous and other nutrients necessary for growth and survival. Within the Altermatt Lab, Eva Cereghetti is researching the dynamics of leaf litter in freshwater streams. She is investigating how this dead organic material enters the aquatic system and is (re)cycled through the shredding activity of amphipods, small crustaceans with a central role in freshwater habitats. The focus of the research aims to expand the temporal scale at which these processes are investigated. Rather than concentrating on the autumn season (i.e. the peak input period), empirical data to describe leaf litter dynamics is being collected throughout a full year, to ultimately shed light on the importance of this material and energetic flow across the different seasons.


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.