Head of Division
Prof. Dr. Michael Taborsky

Institut für Ökologie und Evolution
Telefon: +41 31 631 91 11
Telefax: +41 31 631 91 41
E-Mail:   claudia.leiser@iee.unibe.ch

Ethologische Station Hasli
Wohlenstrasse 50a
CH-3032 Hinterkappelen

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Universität Bern


PNAS - Predation risk drives social complexity in cooperative breeders. Groenewoud, Frommen, Josi, Tanaka, Jungwirth & Taborsky
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The evolution of cooperation based on direct fitness benefits. Phil Trans theme issue compiled and edited by Taborsky M., Frommen JG & Riehl C. (2016)
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NATURE COMMUNICATIONS Kinship reduces alloparental care in cooperative cichlids where helpers pay-to-stay
Zoettl M., Heg D., Chervet N. & Taborsky M. (2013)
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Social competence: an evolutionary approach
Taborsky, B. & Oliveira, R.F.
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Larval helpers and age polyethism in ambrosia beetles
Biedermann P.H.W. & Taborsky M.
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Animal personality due to social niche specialisation
Bergmueller R. & Taborsky M.
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Environmental Change Enhances Cognitive Abilities in Fish
Kotrschal, A. & Taborsky, B.
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Extended phenotypes as signals
Franziska C. Schaedelin and Michael Taborsky
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On the Origin of Species by Natural and Sexual Selection
G. Sander van Doorn, Pim Edelaar, Franz J. Weissing
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Cambridge University Press
Alternative Reproductive Tactics: An Integrative

Oliveira R., Taborsky M. & Brockmann H.J.
more information

The role of sensory ecology and cognition in social decisions

Workshop, 19-22 July 2016, Arolla, Switzerland

Organizers: Michael Taborsky and Karin Schneeberger, Universitiy of Bern

This is a workshop of the CUSO Doctoral Program in Ecology and Evolution (DPEE) and the SNF ProDoc program “Proximate and Ultimate causes of Cooperation

Workshop topic

Social interactions are often assumed to require advanced cognitive abilities, as social behaviour typically happens among a large network of individuals, across different contexts, and over extended time periods. This is at variance with the observation that complex social behaviour can be observed in a wide range of animals, both in the laboratory and field. We think that rather simple cognitive mechanisms can generate complex social responses. The aim of this workshop is to discuss sensory and cognitive abilities and limitations of animals in the context of social behaviour. Questions discussed in the workshop will include, for instance, how social cues and signals are perceived by individuals and how they are used for decision making; the role of memory for behavioural responses in repeated social interactions; the significance of different sensory modalities for communication in the contexts of conflict and cooperation. These topics are of great interest to students and scientists from different disciplines, such as behavioural ecology, neurobiology, cognitive sciences, and psychology. Interaction between different fields will identify open questions and directions for future interdisciplinary research.

Workshop program

General schedule: July 19: arrival day; July 20 and 21: scientific program; July 22: excursion to the mountains

The program of the workshop will consist of a combination of plenary talks by invited speakers and work performed in small groups, in which the participants will discuss a particular theme together with one of the invited speakers. The results of these small-group sessions will be presented to the plenum by student participants, followed by a general discussion.


Location and Venue

The symposium will be held in the Grand-Hôtel 'Kurhaus' in a breath-taking scenery amidst some of the finest mountain peaks of Switzerland. The venue is situated above the picturesque mountain village of Arolla, at 2100 m sea level at the core of the High Alps of the Valais. Enjoy the 360° mountain view panorama to be seen from the hotel (just with much less snow in summer!)


Access to Arolla and the Kurhaus: The nearest railway station to Arolla is Sion. From Sion, a bus ("Postauto") goes to Arolla, with one exchange of buses at Les Hauderes (travel time by bus is 1:15 h). On the arrival day (Tuesday, July 19, 2016) and during weekdays, buses leave Sion at 6:57, 8:40, 10:40, 12:50, 14:10, 16:10, and 17:10. On weekdays buses go back to Sion at 8:25, 10:00, 12:10, 15:00, 16:25, and 17:26. You will find the schedules of all trains and buses within Switzerland at the SBB website


1 - 2 ECTS can be obtained, depending on the contribution of the participant. The evaluation will be based on your active participation in discussions and group presentations during the symposium.

Costs for DPEE-participants and reimbursement

There is generally no registration fee. Only PhD students registered at the CUSO Doctoral Program in Ecology and Evolution (DPEE), researchers/teachers and people organizing the workshop are eligible for reimbursement of incurred travel expense by train (2nd class, half-fare ticket), accomodation and meals. Please see 'Instructions for reimbursement'

Expected costs for other participants

Workshop expenses for PhD-students from universities that are not member of the CUSO will be 400 CHF and 450 CHF for all other participants. All prices include full board (i.e., all meals and coffee breaks, and wine and water during dinner) in a shared double room.




For more information, please contact Michael Taborsky (michael.taborsky@iee.unibe.ch), Karin Schneeberger (karin.schneeberger@iee.unibe.ch), or Caroline Betto-Colliard (ecologie-evolution@cuso.ch)


Check out the picture gallery of the workshop here.