Detailed information about the course

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Negotiation and Trading in Nature


16-19 July, 2019


Dr Sacha Engelhardt, University of Bern
Dr. Joachim Frommen, University of Bern
Prof. Michael Taborsky, University of Bern
Prof. Barbara Taborsky, University of Bern


Joan Strassmann (Washington University in St. Louis)
David Queller (Washington University in St. Louis)
Gabriele Schino (Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies)
James Savage (University of Cambridge)
Rufus Johnstone (University of Cambridge)
Andres Quinones (Universidad de los Andes)
Nicholas E. Newton-Fisher (University of Kent)




Workshop topic

Cooperation is widespread in nature, and often partners in cooperative interactions are not related - they may even belong to different species. Recent theoretical and empirical evidence suggests that animals and other organisms are frequently trading same or different commodities among one another. This process typically involves some sort of negotiation, which may promote cooperation when individuals make decisions based on reciprocal service. The evolution of trade-based cooperation cannot be fully explained by mutual benefits, since individuals can reject a particular exchange if future returns are uncertain or if there are better alternative options. This 3-day workshop will search for optimal approaches towards unravelling the behavioural and evolutionary mechanisms underlying negotiation and trading among social partners.  Eminent evolutionary and behavioural ecologists, theoreticians, anthropologists and psychologists will give keynote presentations and guide the discussions among students and other workshop participants in order to develop a multidisciplinary framework for the study of negotiation and trading.



Gfrerer, N. and Taborsky, M. (2018) Working dogs transfer different tasks in reciprocal cooperation. Biology Letters 14 (2) [ pdf ]

Hammerstein, P., & Noë, R. (2016). Biological trade and markets. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 371, 20150101. [pdf available from the author]

Ito, K., McNamara, J. M., Yamauchi, A., & Higginson, A. D. (2016). The evolution of cooperation by negotiation in a noisy world. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 30, 603–615.

Quiñones, A.E., van Doorn, S., Pen, I., Weissing, F.J., Taborsky, M. (2016) Negotiation and appeasement can be more effective drivers of sociality than kin selection. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. B, 371: 20150089. [pdf].

Schweinfurth, M. K., & Taborsky, M. (2018). Reciprocal Trading of Different Commodities in Norway Rats. Current Biology, 28, 594–599. [ pdf ]

Taborsky, M., Frommen, J. G., & Riehl, C. (2016). Correlated pay-offs are key to cooperation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 371, 20150084. [pdf].


General schedule:

July 16 - Arrival day;
July 17 & 18 - Scientific program;
July 19 - Excursion to the mountains and departure


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.


Arolla, CH


1.5 ECTS


Full attendance and active participation




16-19 July 2019


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.

Please, don't forget to bring your own sleeping bag!



For more information, please contact Sacha Engelhardt (sacha.engelhardt[at] or Marta Bellone (ecologie-evolution(at)


Free for PhD students of the DPEE. 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): 330 CHF
All other participants: 850 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 pass) with the reimbursement form to:

 Marta Bellone
 Doctoral Program in Ecology and Evolution
 University of Fribourg
 Chemin du Musée, 10
 CH-1700 Fribourg


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 to register: 5 June 2019




Deadline for registration 05.06.2019
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