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

Early-environment effects: Towards integrating theoretical and empirical approaches

Workshop, 18-21 July 2017, Arolla, Switzerland

Organizer: Barbara Taborsky, Universitiy of Bern

This is a workshop of the CUSO Doctoral Program in Ecology and Evolution (DPEE)

Workshop topic

There is ample evidence that the environment organisms experience during early development can shape their phenotype for lifetime, and that these early environment effects can even be transmitted across generations. In the past two decades the field of early environment effects was dominated by empirical research. Recently an exciting body of theoretical work has started to emerge modelling how direct environmental, epigenetic and genetic information shapes the phenotypes of developing organisms. Although, opposite to other areas in biology, this novel theory is developed in close exchange with empiricists, phenotypic development is still modelled at a high level of abstraction ignoring the architecture of the physical substrate of development. This workshop shall focus on effects of early experience on phenotypic development in general, and the development of animal behaviour in particular. It will bring together researchers of function and mechanisms of early environment effects with theoreticians modelling these effects. Invited speakers will give lectures about their field of expertise (behavioural ecology, cognition, psychology, theory and molecular brain mechanisms) followed by joint discussions with the student participants in small working groups about possible future directions of theory development, and how to integrate molecular, neurological and psychological mechanisms in the modelling work.

Workshop program

General schedule: July 18: arrival day; July 19 and 20: scientific program; July 21: 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.


  • Prof. Victoria Braithwaite, Penn State University, USA: "In search of resilience: effects of earlier life experience"
  • Dr. Sinead English, University of Cambridge, UK: "How information use shapes our understanding of early-environment and transgenerational effects"
  • Dr. Tim Fawcett, University of Exeter, UK: "Anticipating the future: adaptive behaviour in autocorrelated environments"
  • Dr. Bram Kuijper, University of Exeter, UK: "Maternal versus paternal influences on early life"
  • Prof. Olof Leimar, University of Stockholm, SE: "Detection vs. selection: integration of genetic, epigenetic and environmental cues in fluctuating environments"
  • Dr. Suvi Ruuskanen, University of Turku, FIN: "Early-life hormonal environment, development, behavior and fitness  -  an avian perspective"
  • Prof. Carmen Sandi, École Polytechnique Fédérale Lausanne (EPFL), CH: "Behavioral shaping by peripubertal stress in rodents – A focus on glucocorticoids, their molecular targets and brain development"

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). 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), accommodation and meals. Please see 'Instructions for reimbursement'

Expected costs for other participants

Workshop expenses for Master and 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.


Please register at the CUSO Registration portal.
Registration is open until 1 June, 2017. CUSO PhD students have first to log on their MyCUSO account and then to click on the icon « registration ». External participants (non-CUSO PhD students, post-docs and other participants) have to use the icon "registration" at top of page and the last gray box "non-CUSO student" ("personne hors myCUSO ») to proceed to registration.


For more information, please contact Barbara Taborsky (barbara.taborsky@iee.unibe.ch) or Caroline Betto-Colliard (ecologie-evolution@cuso.ch)


Check out the picture gallery of the last (2016) workshop here.