Contact: Prof. Owen Petchey



Ecology is about understanding the links between organisms, populations, communities and ecosystems. These links, which include processes such as predation, mutualism and parasitism, determine how environmental change will impact ecological communities and the services that humans derive from them.

In the Ecology Masters you learn about the latest ecological research from the people performing it and have the opportunity to conduct a research project in one of many research groups. A wide range of organisms and ecosystems can be studied, from microbes to tortoises and glacial streams to alpine meadows. Approaches can be observational, experimental and theoretical or a combination of these.

The Ecology Masters welcomes students from any University with a suitable undergraduate degree (you need not have studied at the University of Zurich or in Switzerland).


Master of Science in Biology, Ecology


The course is part taught (20 credit points), part research (60 credit points) and part review of understanding (10 credit points). The research part is performed as an independent Master thesis, supervised by an expert.

Outstanding students have the possibility to apply via the “Fast Track Programme” to combine the Masters and PhD studies.




All students with a suitable bachelor's degree (e.g., Biology), ideally including some previous study of ecology, and with a good knowledge of English can apply. Matriculated biology bachelors of UZH can enter without an application to the Central Admissions Office.

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Professor Petchey holds regular advice and information sessions. See here for how to chat with Professor Petchey about studying ecology at the University of Zurich:


Click here for a list of some of the Masters thesis projects on offer.


Research group: Research interests: Affiliation:
Spatial Ecology and Remote Sensing

Ecosystem-climate interactions, Arctic ecosystems, land surface-atmosphere interaction, albedo and energy budget, remote sensing of vegetation, spatial ecology, animal movement ecology


Dr. Gabriela Schaepman-Strub, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, UZH
Population Biology and Global Environmental Change Population ecology; biodemography; life-history evolution; evolutionary biology; metapopulation dynamics; wildlife disease dynamics; quantitative methods for the analysis and management of animal populations Prof. Dr. Arpat Ozgul, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, UZH
Cooperation and Social Structuring in Mammals Animal behaviour; social evolution; social behaviour; social selection; energetics and immunology of lactation; kin recognition; conservation biology; animal welfare of lab and zoo animals Prof. Dr. Barbara König, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, UZH
Biology of Species Interactions Plant decision making; plant growth and competition; invasion biology; ecology and genetics of small populations; life-history evolution of clonal organisms; transgene x environment interactions; evolutionary plant genetics and epigenetic; mechanisms of plant competition and coexistence; plant–animal interactions; community assembly; community genetics and evolution; biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships Prof. Dr. Bernhard Schmid, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, UZH
Community Ecology Metapopulation and metacommunity ecology in aquatic systems; dispersal and invasion dynamics in dendritic river-landscapes; biodiversity; effects of climate change on butterflies and moths Prof. Dr. Florian Altermatt, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, UZH
Islands and Interactions Plant-animal interactions; island biology; ecological networks; mutualisms; conservation and restoration biology; rewilding Dr. Dennis Hansen, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, UZH
Pollination and Mating Systems Plant-pollinator interactions; pollinator behaviour and floral evolution; chemical ecology of floral signals; pollinator driven plant speciation; evolution of floral mimicry Prof. Dr. Florian Schiestl, Institute of Systematic Botany, UZH
Inland Water Ecosystems Food web structure and substrate availability in freshwater and marine habitats; microbial ecology; microbial adaptation; biogeography and population dynamics; life strategies; bacterial ecotypes; indicator organisms of water pollution; community composition of freshwater and coastal microbial assemblages; infochemicals Prof. Dr. Jakob Pernthaler, Department of Limnology, Institute of Plant Biology, UZH
Evolutionary Ecology of Environmental Change Population and community ecology; evolution of plasticity; conservation genetics Dr. Josh Van Burskirk, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, UZH
Evolutionary and Ecological Genomics Molecular basis of biodiversity; evolutionary and ecological genomics; evolution of mating systems; speciation by genome duplication (polyploidization); predicting evolutionary and plastic responses in changing environments Prof. Dr. Kentaro K. Shimizu, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, UZH
Evolutionary Ecology and Genetics of Natural Populations Evolutionary ecology; population and quantitative genetics; conservation biology Prof. Dr. Lukas Keller, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, UZH
Causes and Consequences of Extinction Population, community, and ecosystem ecology; effects of environmental change; modelling biological systems; statistical computing Prof. Dr. Owen Petchey, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, UZH
Invertebrate Behavioral and Evolutionary Ecology Evolutionary ecology; evolution of animal life histories; body size and sexual dimorphism; phenotypic plasticity to thermal adaptation Prof. Dr. Wolf Blanckenhorn, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, UZH
Evolutionary Ecology

Evolutionary ecology; micro- and macroevolution; resource acquisition and allocation; reproductive and life-history trade-offs; phenotypic plasticity

Prof. Stefan Lüpold, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, UZH


Collaborators: Research interests: Organisation:
karch: Swiss amphibian and reptile conservation programme Amphibians; chytridiomycosis; conservation biology; demography; disease ecology; distributions; evidence-based conservation; mark-recapture models; monitoring; population dynamics; site occupancy models Dr. Benedikt Schmidt, karch
Ecological Farming and Arable-Crop System Soil biodiversity; plant biodiversity and ecosystem functioning; microbial diversity; symbiotic associations between plants and soil microbes; plant-soil interactions, ecosystem sustainability; development of ecological farming systems Prof. Dr. Marcel van der Heijden, Agroscope: Swiss research into agriculture, nutrition and the environment
Bat Conservation Switzerland Bat conservation and protection; spatial ecology; protection of endangered species; environmental awareness programs; environmental education; recovery programs; human bat conflicts Dr. Hans-Peter Stutz, Bat Conservation Switzerland
Swiss Ornithological Institute Bird monitoring; population trends; status assessment; ecological research; population dynamics; stress and disturbances; bird migration; recovery programs for priority species; conservation and enhancement of habitats; conflicts between birds and humans PD Dr. Lukas Jenni, PD Dr. Gilberto Pasinelli and Dr. Marc Kéry, Vogelwarte Sempach
eawag Spatial dynamics; groundwater; parasites; food webs; adaptation; streams; plankton; endosymbionts; decomposition Dr. Katja Raesaenen, Dr. Christopher Robinson, Dr. Florian Altermatt and Dr. Francesco Pomati, eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology
WSL Patterns of biodiversity in riparian ecosystems; population biology of threatened species; monitoring of habitat quality; ecological processes within landscapes; species adaptation to changing environments; biological control Prof. Dr. Rolf Holderegger and Dr. Kurt Bollmann, WSL: Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research