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Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies

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.


Coevolution at the community scale
Fernando Pedraza Perez

The coevolution of ecological communities. Communities contain direct (solid lines) and indirect (dashed lines) interactions. Such interactions can lead to coevolution, i.e., the reciprocal evolutionary change of species (differences in node colour). These evolutionary changes may, in turn, result in the establishment or loss of interactions © Fernando Pedraza Perez

Ecological interactions can result in reciprocal evolutionary change. Examples of coevolution exist across all types of species interactions. For instance, antagonism can lead to arms-race dynamics between hosts and parasites. In turn, mutualism can result in trait synchrony of plants and their pollinators. Such coevolutionary dynamics have resulted in the diversification of life and some of its major evolutionary transitions. Yet, most of our understanding of coevolution comes from the study of pairwise interactions. Thus, we ignore how coevolution operates in communities, where species are embedded in complex networks of interactions. In my PhD work, I leveraged models merging evolutionary and network theories to explore the coevolution of ecological communities. First, I studied how the structure of ecological networks affects the coevolution of species traits. Second, I explored how the nature of species interactions affects the coevolutionary dynamics of communities. Third, I assessed how coevolution modulates the structure of interactions networks and how this influences the robustness of communities to co-extinctions. Through my work I aim to understand how the ecology and evolution of communities are intertwined through the process of coevolution.


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.

Photography for Scientists

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.

Weiterführende Informationen



Prof. Dr. Jordi Bascompte
Program manager:
Dr. Debra Zuppinger-Dingley

Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
University of Zurich
Winterthurerstrasse 190
8057 Zurich
Phone : +41 44 635 4778
Office: Y38-L-16
Email: phdecology(at)


Upcoming courses

Photo credit © Fernando Pedraza Perez

Semester Program Spring 2024