Detailed information about the course

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Early-environment effects: Towards integrating theoretical and empirical approaches


18-21 July 2017


Prof. Barbara Taborsky, University of Bern (CH)

Prof. Michael Taborsky, University of Bern (CH)

Dr. Leif Engqvist, University of Bern (CH)

Dr. Joachim Frommen, University of Bern (CH)


Prof. Victoria Braithwaite, Penn State University (US)

Dr. Sinead English, University of Cambridge (UK)

Dr. Tim Fawcett, University of Exeter (UK)

Dr. Bram Kuijper, University of Exeter (UK)

Prof. Olof Leimar, University of Stockholm (SE)

Dr. Suvi Ruuskanen, University of Turku (FI)

Prof. Carmen Sandi, École Polytechnique Fédérale Lausanne - EPFL (CH)


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

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.


General schedule:

July 18: arrival day

July 19 and 20: scientific program

July 21: excursion to the mountains






Full attendance and active participation




18-21 July 2017


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.



For more information, please contact Barbara Taborsky (barbara.taborsky(at) or Caroline Betto-Colliard (ecologie-evolution(at)



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


Free for PhD students of the DPE. Please note that a guarantee of 100 CHF will be asked to PhD students of the DPEE. This guarantee will be given back after the workshop.

Participants (Postdocs, Masters) from CUSO universities (Lausanne, Bern, Neuchâtel, Geneva and Fribourg): 355 CHF
Master and PhD students from universities that are not member of the CUSO: 400 CHF
All other participants: 450 CHF

The registration fees covered full board from Tuesday evening to Friday morning (3 nights).



PhD students of the DPEE are eligible for reimbursement of incurred travel expenses by train (half-fare card, and 2nd class). Please send the original tickets (no copies, except for the general abonnement) with the reimbursement form to:

Caroline Betto-Colliard

Doctoral Program in Ecology and Evolution  

DEE- Biophore Building  

University of Lausanne  

CH-1015 Lausanne


CUSO PhD students: through your MyCUSO account. 


External participants (non-CUSO PhD students, post-docs, etc...): use the icon "registration" at top of page and the last gray box "non-CUSO student" ("personne hors myCUSO").



Deadline for registration 06.07.2017
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