MSc and PhD projects at the Swiss Ornithological Institute Sempach

Researchers from the Swiss Ornithological Institute supervise MSc and PhD projects of students from Swiss and foreign universities. Close contacts exist to the University of Zurich (Marc Kéry is PD for environmental sciences and conservation biology, Gilberto Pasinelli is PD for ecology and conservation biology), to the University of Bern (Michael Schaub is PD for population dynamics), to the ETH Zürich (Fränzi Korner and Silke Bauer are lecturer for animal migration and research in field ornithology) and to the University of Basel (Valentin Amrhein is professor of zoology, Baptiste Schmid is lecturer for ornithology).


MSc/PhD topics are offered within current research projects of the Swiss Ornithological Institute. Own research ideas can be proposed to see if they fit into projects of the Institute.

Current topics for MSc and PhD projects

The Swiss Ornithological Institute studies a variety of ornithological phenomena, ranging from basic research topics to applied conservation projects. Examples include analyses of bird distribution patterns, studies on the ecological requirements of species (e.g. space use, food, etc.) and on environmental factors affecting bird migration, evaluation of actions taken in favor of endangered species (e.g. in agricultural landscapes), investigations into the effects of disturbances on birds.


As the MSc or PhD will be conducted within a project of the Swiss Ornithological Institute, we are immediately interested in the results and make therefore high demands on work ethic, endurance, quality, data analyses and writing. Ideally, the written thesis reaches the level of one or several  manuscripts ready for submission, but we acknowledge that due to time limitations results may not necessarily have the standards required for publication yet (particularly applies to MSc theses).

General zoological and ornithological knowledge is required for most topics. In many cases, however, specific field ornithological knowledge is necessary (e.g. identifying native species in the field). Most MSc and PhD projects comprise fieldwork, and long work hours (“24/7”) during fieldwork periods are the rule. Data often need to be analyzed with multivariate approaches. Even if basic statistics courses have been taken, most students will need to become acquainted with these advanced approaches, a fact that is often under-estimated.

Most projects take place during the breeding season. For some projects, a driving license is mandatory.


We recommend that you contact the Institute in time. We plan our projects in late summer and fall of the year preceding fieldwork. You should therefore contact us no later than fall, if you plan to do your MSc project in the following spring. Please send us a CV including at least: primary and secondary subjects (major and minor), ornithological knowledge, anticipated period of MSc, your interests and motivations.

For PhD projects, we regularly advertise job openings at:

Besides a supervising researcher from the Swiss Ornithological Institute, a MSc or PhD project always requires a professor from the university where the thesis will be handed in. It is therefore very important to clarify at an early stage, who your supervisor at the university will be. We commend you to contact us also in this respect.

Students will prepare a study proposal based on our specifications. The proposal and the accompanying discussions will serve to decide whether or not the MSc/PhD thesis can be conducted from the perspective of the Institute.


PD Dr. Gilberto Pasinelli
Swiss Ornithological Institute
CH-6204 Sempach