Pierre Bize


Pierre Bize
Pierre Bize (Foto © Archiv Vogelwarte)

Dr Pierre Bize
Swiss Ornithological Institute
Seerose 1
CH-6204 Sempach

++41 41 462 99 47 [office]
++41 79 967 25 29 [mobile]


Head of research on Anthropogenic Effects


  • Behavioural Ecology [personality, cognition, risk-taking]
  • Evolutionary Biology [ageing, life-history trade-offs, quantitative genetics]
  • Eco-physiology [oxidative stress, telomere, mitochondria, CORT]
  • Eco-toxicology [metal trace elements, persistent organic pollutants]

Current Projects

Effects of ALAN in the barn owl:  Artificial night lighting (ALAN) is one of the many forms of pressure that humans exert on natural habitats. This project aims to gain knowledge on the impacts of ALAN in a nocturnal bird of prey, the barn owl, by conducting research along three lines: on life history traits, behaviour and physiology.

Climate change in birds: Global climate change represents now one of the major threats for all living organisms and has already resulted in significant changes in animal phenology and distribution. Using the Alpine swift as the main study system, our key research goals are: (i) to bring new knowledge on the short and long-term effects of climate change on the phenotype, reproduction and survival of wild birds; (ii) to investigate the role of developmental plasticity and microevolution in explaining changes in phenotype, reproduction and survival; (iii) to test for transgenerational effects by exploring whether the natal climatic condition experienced by the mother and/or father explains variation in their offspring’s life histories; (iv) to address the debate between quantitative geneticists and demographers in how to generate reliable predictions for responses to climate change by applying those different approaches in the same study system.

Stress Under the Skin: Although medical research has now well demonstrated that exposure to stress, especially early in life, can have persuasive effects on the health and, in turn, reproduction and survival of animals, most remains to be done to demonstrate how anthropogenic stressors (e.g. climate change, chemical or light pollution) influence the health of wild birds. Using the Alpine swift, the white-throated dipper and the barn owl as main study systems, our aim is to gain new knowledge on the role of following physiological and molecular mechanisms at linking stress to reproduction and survival in birds: (i) changes in mitochondria function; (ii) telomeres erosion and resistance to oxidative stress; (iii) alternation of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis and circulating levels of the stress hormone CORT.

POP's and metal trace elements: Human activities frequently lead to the introduction of contaminants into natural environments that can affect the health, reproduction and survival of wild birds. These contaminants include persistent organic pollutants (POPs) commonly found in man-made compounds such as solvents, pesticides and industrial chemicals, but also heavy metals and trace metalloids that are naturally present at low levels in the environment but are now often released at high levels into the environment due to human activities. Using the Alpine swift and the white throated dipper as the main study systems, our key research goals are: (i) to provide guidance on how to best monitor exposure to pollutants in wild birds; (ii) to better understand how wild birds become exposed to pollutants; (iii) to bring new knowledge on the short and long-term effects of pollutants on the health, reproduction and survival of wild birds; (iv) to explore birds’ evolutionary adaptive responses, such as tolerance, to pollutants.

Importance of cognition in a changing world: Cognitive abilities should be beneficial for individuals to optimize decisions when facing environmental changes in the wild. However, we still know very little about inter-individual variation in cognitive abilities and the consequences of this variation. Using wild passerines as study system, the proposed project aims at (i) exploring the roles of additive genetic factors, early growth conditions, and environment in shaping cognitive traits in birds, (ii) testing the benefits and costs of being ‘smarter’, and in turn how selection acts on cognitive trait.

Here is the list of current PGR and PhD researchers and their project titles that I supervise as principal or co-supervisor

Post-Doctoral Researchers

2021-24 Dr Giulia Masoero: Marie Curie fellow. Title: Effects of climate change on adult body size: towards an integrative approach to understand the underlying mechanisms, the consequences across the lifespan, and improve our predictive ability. CO-I: Prof Julien Martin, Uni Ottawa.
2021-23 Dr Roger Colominas: Marie Curie fellow. Title: Understanding the origins of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) exposure in wild bird migratory birds and their health consequences. CO-I: Dr François Criscuolo, CNRS Strasbourg.
2018-24 Dr Laure Cauchard: Canadian SNF fellow, Marie Curie fellow, ANR-PDR. Title: Testing the importance of oxidative stress and dietary antioxidants in linking cognitive traits and fitness in free living animals. CO-I: Dr Blandine Doligez, CNRS Lyon.


Ph.D. students

2023-26 Anne-Caroline Heintz: Joint supervision with Bettina Almasi, Swiss Ornithological Institute. Title: Effects of artificial light at night on the biology of a nocturnal bird of prey, the barn owl.
2021-25 Héloïse Moullec. Joint supervision with Sophie Reichert, University of Turku. Title: How are ageing rates shaped? Identifying the underlying causes and mechanisms of ageing in wild vertebrates.
2021-25 Alexandra Brighten. Joint supervision with Thomas Bodey, University of Aberdeen. Title: Linking individual eco-physiology to lifetime fitness in an animal athlete the Alpine swift.
2020-24 Michela Dumas. Joint supervision with Julien Martin, University of Ottawa. Title: Sexual selection in an apodiformes bird with little apparent sexual dimorphism.
2019-24 Francesca Gray. Joint supervision with Rory Doherty, University of Belfast, & Christoph Meier, Swiss Ornithological Station. Title: Flying sentinels: using a long-distance migratory bird to assess exposure to POPs over two continents and their health consequences.
2019-23 Christina Biamis. Joint supervision with Gary Hardiman, University of Belfast, & Paul Thompson, University of Aberdeen. Title: Epigenetic mechanisms in the actions of endocrine-disrupting chemicals.


  • Canada, University of Ottawa – Prof Julien Martin >> various collaborative research projects looking at topics such as ageing, sexual selection, or genetic trait architecture in wild animal populations.
  • Finland, University of Turku – Dr Sophie Reichert >> research project investigating the factors shaping the rate of ageing in natural bird populations.
  • France, CNRS Strasbourg – Dr François Criscuolo, Dr Jean-Patrice Robin, Dr Antoine Stier, Dr Vincent Viblanc >> multiple collaborative research projects investigating (i) the effects of social environment, heat stress and parasites on the biology of king penguins, and (ii) the roles of telomere dynamics and (iii) mitochondrial function in shaping bird life histories.
  • France, CNRS Lyon – Dr Blandine Doligez >> multiple collaborative projects investigating (i) the importance of cognition for birds to buffer fast changes in their environment through behavioural innovations and learning using, and (ii) the impact of trace metal elements on the biology of the dipper.
  • United Kingdom, University of Aberdeen – Dr Thomas Bodey, Dr Ana Payo-Payo, Dr Davina Derous, Prof Paul Thompson >> various projects looking at carry-over effects and at pollutants in natural bird populations.


I am deeply grateful to the following major external funders for their financial support of my research as principal or co-investigator. More information on some of the projects and the funders can be found on my ORCID profile.


2022 - Head of Research on “Anthropogenic Effects”, Swiss Ornithological Institute, Sempach
2013 - 2022 Senior Lecturer, University of Aberdeen, UK
2008 - 2013 Group leader, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
2005 - 2008 Post-doctoral Research Fellow, University of Glasgow, UK.
2004 - 2005 Post-doctoral Research Associate, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.
2000 - 2003 Ph.D. University of Berne, Switzerland.
1999 - 2000 M.S. University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
1996 - 1999 B.S. Biology, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland.


For a complete and up-to-date list of my publications, please see my profile on Google Scholar.