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Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

Dr Barbara Tschirren

Dr Barbara Tschirren

Senior Lecturer in Evolutionary Ecology

 +44 (0) 1326214388

 Stella Turk Building F2.06


University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, TR10 9FE


Broad Research Specialisms

I have a broad interest in eco-evolutionary processes in natural populations and how they are affected by environmental change. Current research programmes focus on the ecology and evolution of health and disease, the impact of natural and human-induced environmental change and conservation practice on disease emergence and dynamics, and the evolution of life histories, with a special focus on cross-generational effects. I adopt a highly integrative research approach that combines ideas and techniques from animal ecology, evolutionary biology, ecophysiology, and molecular ecology, that integrates proximate and ultimate perspectives, and spans organizational levels.


Interested in joining the group for a postdoctoral, PhD or MbyRes project? Please get in touch to discuss project ideas and funding options*.

* Previous fellows in my group obtained funding from diverse foundations and research councils, incl. EU Horizon Marie Curie program, Swiss National Science Foundation, Finnish Cultural Foundation and FAN



PhD Biology, University of Bern, Switzerland (2005)
MSc Higher Education, University of Bern, Switzerland (2001)
MSc Biology, University of Bern, Switzerland (2000)


Senior Lecturer of Evolutionary Ecology, University of Exeter, UK (2017 –  present)

Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) Research Professorship Fellow, University of Zurich, Switzerland (2011 – 2016)

SNSF Advanced Postdoctoral Fellow, Lund University, Sweden (2008 – 2010)

Australian Research Council (APD) Postdoctoral Fellow, Macquarie University, Australia (2008)

SNSF & Janggen-Pohn Postdoctoral Fellow, University of New South Wales, Australia (2005 – 2007)

PhD, University of Bern, Switzerland (2005)


Research group links

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Research interests

  • Evolutionary and Behavioural ecology
  • Ecophysiology
  • Molecular ecology
  • Life-history evolution
  • Parental care
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Transgenerational effects
  • Adaptation to changing environments
  • Immunoecology and -genetics
  • Resistance evolution
  • Host-parasite interactions
  • Wildlife disease

Research projects

1) Resistance Evolution in Response to Emerging Pathogens: Evolution in Action in the Wild

A main research focus in my group is on the ecology and genetics of host-parasite interactions and wildlife disease. We combine field-based work in natural mammal and bird populations with genetic and -omic approaches in the lab to address the questions:

-    How selective forces shape the immune system of wild vertebrates

-    Why individual hosts as well as host populations differ in their resistance and tolerance to parasites

-    Why and how disease susceptibility is maintained in populations

-    How enviornmental change (incl. climate, invasive species, etc) influences disease dynamics

Understanding why individual hosts as well as host populations differ in their resistance and tolerance to parasites, and how this affects the evolution of parasite virulence and host life histories are fundamental goals in eco-evolutionary research. At the same time, such insights can contribute to an evolutionary framework for the management of human and wildlife diseases.

Borreliosis, or Lyme disease, is the most common vector-borne illness in the Northern hemisphere. The disease is caused by spirochetes of the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato complex and is transmitted by ticks, in particular Ixodes ricinus. However, humans are infected only accidentally; the natural hosts of Borrelia are wild vertebrates, such as rodents and birds. Due to climate change, Borrelia is currently undergoing a range expansion and during the last decades host populations at higher elevation and latitude have become newly exposed to Borrelia. This provides a unique opportunity to investigate rapid evolutionary changes in host populations in response to an emerging pathogen.

We have set up study sites along replicated, elevational gradients in the Alps, where we monitor and sample rodents, ticks and Borrelia, and record environmental variables. This set-up allows us to compare host populations that have a long co-evolutionary history with ticks and Borrelia, populations that have been newly exposed during the last decades, and populations that are still tick- and Borrelia-free. We genotype rodents, ticks and Borrelia using a combination of candidate gene and next generation sequencing approaches and use these data to test for signatures of recent positive selection in the host genome, identify genomic candidate regions involved in Borrelia resistance, test for host genotype x pathogen genotype interactions, as well as population differentiation and dispersal patterns of host, vector, Borrelia, and their symbionts.

2) Crossgenerational effects: proximate causes and ultimate consequences

A second research focus in my group is on the role of early-life experiences, and in particular of prenatal effects, in shaping an organism’s life. Because the prenatal environment is almost always provided by the mother, we aim at understanding:

-    How (proximately) maternal effects are mediated and why (ultimately) different maternal reproductive behaviours arise and are maintained

-    What the consequences of transgenerational effects are on the level of the individual and the population

-    How environmental predictability and directional and stochastic environmental change influence the adaptive value of cross-generational effects

To tackle these questions, we combine long-term population monitoring and experimental manipulations in natural bird populations with ecophysiological and genomic techniques to obtain an in-depth understanding of the physiological, genetic and transcriptomic basis of maternal reproductive behaviours, as well as their morphological, physiological and long-term fitness consequences for the offspring.

Birds make excellent models for the study of prenatal effects because their embryonic development takes place outside of the mother’s body (i.e. in the egg), which simplifies the monitoring and manipulation of the prenatal environment. By combining long-term monitoring data on reproductive success and survival from wild bird populations with longitudinal ecophysiological measures, we test how natural selection acts on maternal investment and, how temporal variation in the strength and direction of natural selection contributes to the maintenance of variation in reproductive behaviour.

Work on these long-term monitoring programs is complemented by field experiments, in which we manipulate environmental conditions experienced by mothers before reproduction and the environmental conditions experienced by their offspring after birth to experimentally test how environmental predictability influences the adaptive value of cross-generational effects, again on a proximate (physiological) and ultimate (fitness) level.

Studying organisms in their natural environment provides important insights into life history trade-offs and the eco-evolutionary dynamics of populations. Some questions, however, and in particular those concerning the genetic and physiological basis underlying life history variation, are extremely difficult or impossible to address in the wild. To fill these gaps, and to complement our work on natural populations, we have established replicated artificial selection lines for divergent maternal investment in captive Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica). We use these selection lines to quantify the behavioural, physiological and morphological consequences of differential maternal investment for the offspring, as well as the costs associated with high reproductive investment for the parents (see Blog post on PhD student Joel Pick's work).

Understanding the architecture and maintenance of genetic variation in complex life history traits is currently a major focus of ecological and evolutionary genetics research (‘life history genomics’) and the quail system provides a unique opportunity to gain insights into the genomic, transcriptomic and epigenetic basis of variation in reproductive behaviour, and the mechanisms underlying evolutionary trade-offs. We are using next generation sequencing approaches to establish why – on the level of DNA sequence, gene expression and methylation variation – females differ in their reproductive investment. Goal is to link variation at the DNA sequence level to variation in methylation, gene expression, physiological profiles, and, ultimately, the ecological phenotype and reproductive success of individuals with different life history strategies.


2023: NERC Pushing the Frontiers of Environmental Research grant Testing evolutionary hypotheses for the long-term maintenance of balanced immunogenetic polymorphisms in a wildlife model. £980k

2023: SWBIO PhD studentship Non-genetic paternal effects on offspring reproduction and health: mechanisms and evolutionary consequences in a bird model system. £105,506

2020: GW4+ CASE PhD studentship with UKHSA Wildlife disease management and gamebird management: a One Health approach to Lyme disease. £97,176

2019: European Union's Horizon 2020 Direct and transgenerational consequences of divergent reproductive strategies on ageing trajectories of parents and their offspring (MSCA 842085), Ana Romero Haro, €319,400

2017: Stiftung für wissenschaftliche Forschung Research Grant CHF26,766

2014: Swiss National Science Foundation Research Professorship Fellowship extention CHF787,317

2014: University of Zurich Infrastructure Grant CHF47,000

2013: University of Zurich Research Priority Program (URPP) ‘Evolution in Action: From Genomes to Ecosystems’ Research Grant CHF187,000

2013: Fonds zur Förderung des akademischen Nachwuchses (FAN) Research Grant CHF97,804

2011: Baugarten Foundation Research Grant CHF26,766

2010: Swiss National Science Foundation Research Professorship Fellowship CHF1,408,796

2008: Swiss National Science Foundation Advanced Postdoctoral Fellowship CHF102,800

2007: Australian Research Council APD Postdoctoral Fellowship AUS409,201

2006: Janggen-Pöhn Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship CHF40,000

2006: Basel Foundation for Biological Research Grant CHF 7,500

2006: German Ethological Society Research Grant €1,950

2005: Swiss National Science Foundation Early Career Postdoctoral Fellowship CHF42,740

2005: Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) Research Grant £4,400

Total PI grant income: > £3.6M

Research grants

  • 2013 Fonds zur Forderung des akademischen Nachwuchses (FAN)
    Fonds zur Forderung des akademischen Nachwuchses (FAN)
  • 2013 URPP Evolution in Action
    URPP ‘Evolution in Action: From Genomes to Ecosystems’ Research Grant
  • 2013 Swiss National Science Foundation
    Swiss National Science Foundation Research Professorship
  • 2011 Baugarten Foundation
    Baugarten Foundation Research Grant
  • 2009 Swiss National Science Foundation
    Swiss National Science Foundation Research Professorship
  • 2008 Swiss National Science Foundation
    Swiss National Science Foundation Advanced Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 2007 Australian Research Council
    Australian Research Council APD Fellowship
  • 2006 Janggen-Pohn Foundation
    Janggen-Pohn Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 2005 Swiss National Science Foundation
    Swiss National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship

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Journal articles

Romero‐Haro AÁ, Mulder E, Haussmann MF, Tschirren B (2024). The association between age and telomere length is age‐dependent: Evidence for a threshold model of telomere length maintenance. Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological and Integrative Physiology, 341(4), 338-344. Abstract.
Hansford KM, Gillingham EL, Vaux AGC, Cull B, McGinley L, Catton M, Wheeler BW, Tschirren B, Medlock JM (2023). Impact of green space connectivity on urban tick presence, density and Borrelia infected ticks in different habitats and seasons in three cities in southern England. Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases, 14(2), 102103-102103.
Romero-Haro AÁ, Pérez-Rodríguez L, Tschirren B (2023). Increased male-induced harm in response to female-limited selection: interactive effects between intra- and interlocus sexual conflict?. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 290(1997). Abstract.
Hansford KM, McGinley L, Wheeler BW, Tschirren B, Medlock JM (2023). Ixodes ricinus density, Borrelia prevalence and the density of infected nymphs along an urban-rural gradient in southern England. Zoonoses Public Health, 70(4), 304-314. Abstract.  Author URL.
Vedder O, Tschirren B, Postma E, Moiron M (2023). Rapid decline of prenatal maternal effects with age is independent of postnatal environment in a precocial bird. Evolution, 77(11), 2484-2491. Abstract.  Author URL.
Romero-Haro AÁ, Pérez-Rodríguez L, Tschirren B (2022). Intergenerational Costs of Oxidative Stress: Reduced Fitness in Daughters of Mothers That Experienced High Levels of Oxidative Damage during Reproduction. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 95(1), 1-14.
Giraldo-Deck L, Loveland J, Goymann W, Tschirren B, Burke T, Kempenaers B, Lank D, Küpper C (2022). Intralocus conflicts associated with a supergene. Nature Communications, 13 Abstract.  Full text.
Råberg L, Clough D, Hagström Å, Scherman K, Andersson M, Drews A, Strandh M, Tschirren B, Westerdahl H (2022). MHC class II genotype-by-pathogen genotype interaction for infection prevalence in a natural rodent-Borrelia system. Evolution, 76(9), 2067-2075. Abstract.  Author URL.
Hsu B, Pakanen V, Boner W, Doligez B, Eeva T, Groothuis TGG, Korpimäki E, Laaksonen T, Lelono A, Monaghan P, et al (2022). Maternally transferred thyroid hormones and life‐history variation in birds. Journal of Animal Ecology, 91(7), 1489-1506. Abstract.
Hansford KM, Wheeler BW, Tschirren B, Medlock JM (2022). Questing Ixodes ricinus ticks and Borrelia spp. in urban green space across Europe: a review. Zoonoses Public Health, 69(3), 153-166. Abstract.  Author URL.
Romero-Haro AÁ, Morger J, Haussmann MF, Tschirren B (2022). Reproductive Strategies Affect Telomere Dynamics across the Life Course. The American Naturalist, 200(3), 373-382.
Vedder O, Bichet C, Tschirren B (2022). The Effect of Manipulated Prenatal Conditions on Growth, Survival, and Reproduction Throughout the Complete Life Course of a Precocial Bird. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 10
Lemoine M, Cornetti L, Reeh K, Tschirren B (2022). Tick range expansion to higher elevations: does Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato facilitate the colonisation of marginal habitats?. BMC Ecol Evol, 22(1). Abstract.  Author URL.
Hansford KM, Wheeler BW, Tshirren B, Medlock JM (2022). Urban woodland habitat is important for tick presence and density in a city in England. Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases, 13(1). Abstract.
Aivelo T, Lemoine M, Tschirren B (2021). Elevational changes in bacterial microbiota structure and diversity in an arthropod-disease vector. Microbial Ecology Abstract.  Full text.
Tschirren B, Romero-Haro AÁ, Zahn S, Criscuolo F (2021). Sex-specific effects of experimental ectoparasite infestation on telomere length in great tit nestlings. J Evol Biol, 34(3), 584-589. Abstract.  Author URL.
Pick JL, Hatakeyama M, Ihle KE, Gasparini J, Haussy C, Ishishita S, Matsuda Y, Yoshimura T, Kanaoka MM, Shimizu-Inatsugi R, et al (2020). Artificial selection reveals the role of transcriptional constraints in the maintenance of life history variation. Evolution Letters
Aivelo T, Tschirren B (2020). Bacterial microbiota composition of a common ectoparasite of cavity-breeding birds, the Hen Flea Ceratophyllus gallinae. IBIS: the International Journal of Avian Science
Cornetti L, Tschirren B (2020). Combining genome-wide association study and FST-based approaches to identify targets of Borrelia-mediated selection in natural rodent hosts. Molecular Ecology, 29 (7), 1386-1397. Abstract.
EL-Andari R, Cunha F, Tschirren B, Iwaniuk AN (2020). Selection for divergent reproductive investment affects neuron size and foliation in the cerebellum. Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 95, 69-77.
Loukola OJ, Adamik P, Adriaensen F, Barba E, Doligez B, Flensted‐Jensen E, Eeva T, Kivelä SM, Laaksonen T, Morosinotto C, et al (2020). The roles of temperature, nest predators and information parasites for geographical variation in egg covering behaviour of tits (Paridae). Journal of Biogeography
Aivelo T, Norberg A, Tschirren B (2019). Bacterial microbiota composition of Ixodes ricinus ticks: the role of environmental variation, tick characteristics and microbial interactions. PeerJ, 7, e8217-e8217.
Groothuis TGG, Hsu B-Y, Kumar N, Tschirren B (2019). Revisiting mechanisms and functions of prenatal hormone-mediated maternal effects using avian species as a model. Philosophical Transactions B: Biological Sciences
Pick JL, Postma E, Tschirren B (2019). The more you get, the more you give: Positive cascading effects shape the evolutionary potential of prenatal maternal investment. Evol Lett, 3(4), 412-423. Abstract.  Author URL.
Giraudeau M, Ziegler A-K, McGraw K, Okuliarova M, Zeman M, Tschirren B (2018). In ovo yolk carotenoid and testosterone levels interactively influence female transfer of yolk antioxidants to her eggs. Biology Letters, 14(6). Abstract.
Cornetti L, Hilfiker D, Lemoine M, Tschirren B (2018). Small-scale spatial variation in infection risk shapes the evolution of a Borrelia resistance gene in wild rodents. Molecular Ecology Abstract.
Pick JL, Hutter P, Tschirren B (2017). Divergent artificial selection for female reproductive investment has a sexually concordant effect on male reproductive success. Evolution Letters, 1(4), 222-228. Abstract.
Råberg L, Hagström, Andersson M, Bartkova S, Scherman K, Strandh M, Tschirren B (2017). Evolution of antigenic diversity in the tick-transmitted bacterium Borrelia afzelii: a role for host specialization?. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 30(5), 1034-1041. Abstract.
Ihle KE, Hutter P, Tschirren B (2017). Increased prenatal maternal investment reduces inbreeding depression in offspring. Proc Biol Sci, 284(1860). Abstract.  Author URL.
Giraudeau M, Ziegler A-K, Pick JL, Ducatez S, Canale CI, Tschirren B (2017). Interactive effects of yolk testosterone and carotenoid on prenatal growth and offspring physiology in a precocial bird. BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY, 28(1), 31-38.  Author URL.
Ebneter C, Pick JL, Tschirren B (2016). A trade-off between reproductive investment and maternal cerebellum size in a precocial bird. Biology Letters, 12(12). Abstract.
Pick JL, Hutter P, Ebneter C, Ziegler AK, Giordano M, Tschirren B (2016). Artificial selection reveals the energetic expense of producing larger eggs. Frontiers in Zoology, 13(1). Abstract.
Pick JL, Ebneter C, Hutter P, Tschirren B (2016). Disentangling genetic and prenatal maternal effects on offspring size and survival. American Naturalist, 188(6), 628-639. Abstract.
Laine VN, Gossmann TI, Schachtschneider KM, Garroway CJ, Madsen O, Verhoeven KJF, De Jager V, Megens HJ, Warren WC, Minx P, et al (2016). Evolutionary signals of selection on cognition from the great tit genome and methylome. Nature Communications, 7 Abstract.
Tschirren B, Ziegler A-K, Canale CI, Okuliarová M, Zeman M, Giraudeau M (2016). High Yolk Testosterone Transfer is Associated with an Increased Female Metabolic Rate. Physiol Biochem Zool, 89(5), 448-452. Abstract.  Author URL.
Cornetti L, Lemoine M, Hilfiker D, Morger J, Reeh K, Tschirren B (2016). Higher genetic diversity on mountain tops: the role of historical and contemporary processes in shaping genetic variation in the bank vole. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 118(2), 233-244. Abstract.
Pick JL, Hutter P, Tschirren B (2016). In search of genetic constraints limiting the evolution of egg size: Direct and correlated responses to artificial selection on a prenatal maternal effector. Heredity, 116(6), 542-549. Abstract.
Giraudeau M, Ziegler A-K, Tschirren B (2016). Long-term effect of yolk carotenoid levels on testis size in a precocial bird. Biol Lett, 12(4). Abstract.  Author URL.
Tschirren B, Ziegler AK, Pick JL, Okuliarová M, Zeman M, Giraudeau M (2016). Matrilineal inheritance of a key mediator of prenatal maternal effects. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 283(1838). Abstract.
Tschirren B (2015). Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato infection pressure shapes innate immune gene evolution in natural rodent populations across Europe. Biology Letters, 11(5). Abstract.
Tschirren B (2015). Differential effects of maternal yolk androgens on male and female offspring: a role for sex-specific selection?. PLoS ONE, 10(7). Abstract.
Morger J, Råberg L, Hille SM, Helsen S, Štefka J, Al-Sabi MM, Kapel CMO, Mappes T, Essbauer S, Ulrich RG, et al (2015). Distinct haplotype structure at the innate immune receptor Toll-like receptor 2 across bank vole populations and lineages in Europe. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 116(1), 124-133. Abstract.
Giordano M, Costantini D, Pick JL, Tschirren B (2015). Female oxidative status, egg antioxidant protection and eggshell pigmentation: a supplemental feeding experiment in great tits. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 69(5), 777-785. Abstract.
Giordano M, Costantini D, Tschirren B (2015). Sex-specific effects of prenatal and postnatal nutritional conditions on the oxidative status of great tit nestlings. Oecologia, 177(1), 123-131. Abstract.
Giordano M, Groothuis TGG, Tschirren B (2014). Interactions between prenatal maternal effects and posthatching conditions in a wild bird population. Behavioral Ecology, 25(6), 1459-1466. Abstract.
Tschirren B, Postma E, Gustafsson L, Groothuis TGG, Doligez B (2014). Natural selection acts in opposite ways on correlated hormonal mediators of prenatal maternal effects in a wild bird population. Ecology Letters, 17(10), 1310-1315. Abstract.
Morger J, Bajnok J, Boyce K, Craig PS, Rogan MT, Lun ZR, Hide G, Tschirren B (2014). Naturally occurring Toll-like receptor 11 (TLR11) and Toll-like receptor 12 (TLR12) polymorphisms are not associated with Toxoplasma gondii infection in wild wood mice. Infection, Genetics and Evolution, 26, 180-184. Abstract.
Postma E, Siitari H, Schwabl H, Richner H, Tschirren B (2014). The multivariate egg: Quantifying within- and among-clutch correlations between maternally derived yolk immunoglobulins and yolk androgens using multivariate mixed models. Oecologia, 174(3), 631-638. Abstract.
Romero-Diaz C, Richner H, Granado-Lorencio F, Tschirren B, Fitze PS (2013). Independent sources of condition dependency and multiple pathways determine a composite trait: Lessons from carotenoid-based plumage colouration. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 26(3), 635-646. Abstract.
Tschirren B, Andersson M, Scherman K, Westerdahl H, Mittl PRE, Råberg L (2013). Polymorphisms at the innate immune receptor TLR2 are associated with Borrelia infection in a wild rodent population. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 280(1759). Abstract.
Tschirren B, Andersson M, Scherman K, Westerdahl H, Råberg L (2012). Contrasting patterns of diversity and population differentiation at the innate immunity gene toll-like receptor 2 (tlr2) in two sympatric rodent species. Evolution, 66(3), 720-731. Abstract.
Tschirren B, Postma E, Rutstein AN, Griffith SC (2012). When mothers make sons sexy: maternal effects contribute to the increased sexual attractiveness of extra-pair offspring. Proc Biol Sci, 279(1731), 1233-1240. Abstract.  Author URL.
Griffith SC, Pariser EC, Tschirren B, Astheimer LB (2011). Resource allocation across the egg laying sequence in the wild zebra finch Taeniopygia guttata. Journal of Avian Biology, 42(6), 480-484. Abstract.
Tschirren B, Råberg L, Westerdahl H (2011). Signatures of selection acting on the innate immunity gene Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) during the evolutionary history of rodents. J Evol Biol, 24(6), 1232-1240. Abstract.  Author URL.
Jacot A, Romero-Diaz C, Tschirren B, Richner H, Fitze PS (2010). Dissecting carotenoid from structural components of carotenoid-based coloration: a field experiment with great tits (Parus major). Am Nat, 176(1), 55-62. Abstract.  Author URL.
Tschirren B, Bensch S (2010). Genetics of personalities: no simple answers for complex traits. Mol Ecol, 19(4), 624-626. Abstract.  Author URL.
Tschirren B, Postma E (2010). Quantitative genetics research in Zebra Finches: Where we are and where to go. Emu, 110(3), 268-278. Abstract.
Tschirren B, Sendecka J, Groothuis TGG, Gustafsson L, Doligez B (2009). Heritable variation in maternal yolk hormone transfer in a wild bird population. Am Nat, 174(4), 557-564. Abstract.  Author URL.
Bischoff LL, Tschirren B, Richner H (2009). Long-term effects of early parasite exposure on song duration and singing strategy in great tits. Behavioral Ecology, 20(2), 265-270. Abstract.
Tschirren B, Rutstein AN, Postma E, Mariette M, Griffith SC (2009). Short- and long-term consequences of early developmental conditions: a case study on wild and domesticated zebra finches. J Evol Biol, 22(2), 387-395. Abstract.  Author URL.
Pitala N, Ruuskanen S, Laaksonen T, Doligez B, Tschirren B, Gustafsson L (2009). The effects of experimentally manipulated yolk androgens on growth and immune function of male and female nestling collared flycatchers Ficedula albicollis. Journal of Avian Biology, 40(2), 225-230. Abstract.
Tschirren B, Siitari H, Saladin V, Richner H (2009). Transgenerational immunity in a bird-ectoparasite system: Do maternally transferred antibodies affect parasite fecundity or the offspring's susceptibility to fleas?. Ibis, 151(1), 160-170. Abstract.
Ruuskanen S, Doligez B, Tschirren B, Pitala N, Gustafsson L, Groothuis TGG, Laaksonen T (2009). Yolk androgens do not appear to mediate sexual conflict over parental investment in the collared flycatcher Ficedula albicollis. Horm Behav, 55(4), 514-519. Abstract.  Author URL.
Tschirren B, Richner H (2008). Differential effects of yolk hormones on maternal and paternal contribution to parental care. Animal Behaviour, 75(6), 1989-1994. Abstract.
Fitze PS, Tschirren B, Gasparini J, Richner H (2007). Carotenoid-based plumage colors and immune function: is there a trade-off for rare carotenoids?. Am Nat, 169 Suppl 1, S137-S144. Abstract.  Author URL.
Tschirren B, Bischoff LL, Saladin V, Richner H (2007). Host condition and host immunity affect parasite fitness in a bird-ectoparasite system. Functional Ecology, 21(2), 372-378. Abstract.
Tschirren B, Fitze PS, Richner H (2007). Maternal modulation of natal dispersal in a passerine bird: an adaptive strategy to cope with parasitism?. Am Nat, 169(1), 87-93. Abstract.  Author URL.
Fitze PS, Tschirren B (2006). No evidence for survival selection on carotenoid-based nestling coloration in great tits (Parus major). J Evol Biol, 19(2), 618-624. Abstract.  Author URL.
Tschirren B, Richner H (2006). Parasites shape the optimal investment in immunity. Proc Biol Sci, 273(1595), 1773-1777. Abstract.  Author URL.
Tschirren B, Fitze PS, Richner H (2005). Carotenoid-based nestling colouration and parental favouritism in the great tit. Oecologia, 143(3), 477-482. Abstract.  Author URL.
Tschirren B, Saladin V, Fitze PS, Schwabl H, Richner H (2005). Maternal yolk testosterone does not modulate parasite susceptibility or immune function in great tit nestlings. Journal of Animal Ecology, 74(4), 675-682. Abstract.
Tschirren B, Richner H, Schwabl H (2004). Ectoparasite-modulated deposition of maternal androgens in great tit eggs. Proc Biol Sci, 271(1546), 1371-1375. Abstract.  Author URL.
Fitze PS, Tschirren B, Richner H (2004). Life history and fitness consequences of ectoparasites. Journal of Animal Ecology, 73(2), 216-226. Abstract.
Tschirren B, Fitze PS, Richner H (2004). Sexual dimorphism in susceptibility to parasites and cell-mediated immunity in great tit nestlings (vol 72, pg 839, 2003). JOURNAL OF ANIMAL ECOLOGY, 73(4), 814-814.  Author URL.
Fitze PS, Tschirren B, Richner H (2003). Carotenoid-based colour expression is determined early in nestling life. Oecologia, 137(1), 148-152. Abstract.  Author URL.
Tschirren B, Fitze PS, Richner H (2003). Proximate mechanisms of variation in the carotenoid-based plumage coloration of nestling great tits (Parus major L.). J Evol Biol, 16(1), 91-100. Abstract.  Author URL.
Tschirren B, Fitze PS, Richner H (2003). Sexual dimorphism in susceptibility to parasites and cell-mediated immunity in great tit nestlings. Journal of Animal Ecology, 72(5), 839-845. Abstract.


Stier A, Tschirren B, Metclafe N, Monaghan P (2018). Prenatal environment as a modulator of mitochondrial function: new insights from an avian model. Annual Meeting of the Society-for-Integrative-and-Comparative-Biology (SICB). 3rd - 7th Jan 2018.
Giraudeau M, Ziegler AK, Ducatez S, Mcgraw KJ, Tschirren B, Giraudeau M (2017). Interactive and Long-term Effects of Yolk Androgens and Antioxidants in Birds.  Author URL.

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External Engagement and Impact

Administrative responsibilities

Director of Early Career Research, Centre for Ecology & Conservation, University of Exeter, 2022 –

Member of the CEC Management Group 2022 –

Member of the CEC EDI Committee 2022 –

Member of the Faculty of Environment, Science and Economy EDI Committee 2022 –

Member of the CEC Research Committee 2018 –

Deputy Director of Postgraduate Research, Centre for Ecology & Conservation, University of Exeter, 2019 – 2022

Awards and distinctions

Volz Award for best Master thesis in Zoology (2002)

Committee/panel activities

FNRS Belgium, Deciding Panel Member for Exact & Natural Sciences (SEN-4) (2022-)

NERC / BBSRC / MRC Centre for Doctoral Training: Environmental solutions to zoonoses Assessment Panel Member (2022)

NERC Peer Review College Member (2020-)

Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic, Research Evaluation Panel Member (2019-2020)

Editorial responsibilities

Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Associate editor, 2013 –)

Animal Behaviour (Consulting editor, 2011 – 2021)

Functional Ecology (Associate editor, 2011 – 2017)

Journal of Evolutionary Biology (Reviewing editor, 2011 – 2014)

Competitively funded studentships and postdoctoral fellowships

BBSRC SWBio DTP PhD Studentship (2023-), Riona Burke, Non-genetic paternal effects on offspring reproduction and health: mechanisms and evolutionary consequences in a bird model system. £105,506

NERC GW4+ DTP PhD Studentship (2021-), Emile Michels, Wildlife disease ecology and gamebird management: a One Health apporach to Lyme disease. CASE Partner: UK Health Security Agency, £97,176

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (MSCA) (2019-2022), Ana Romero Haro, Direct and transgenerational consequences of divergent reproductive strategies on ageing trajectories of parents and their offspring, €319,400

Finnish Cultural Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship (2016-2018), Tuomas Aivelo, Disease ecology of Borrelia: interaction of hosts, vectors and symbionts, €110,000

Marie Heim-Vögtlin Postdoctoral Fellowship (2014-2016), Mélissa Lemoine, Quantifying the roles of ecology and geography in genetic differentiation along altitudinal gradients: Insights from Borrelia, ticks and rodents in the Swiss Alps, CHF 198,636

FAN Postdoctoral Fellowship (2013-2014), Mathieu Giraudeau, Long-term consequences of prenatal maternal effects on immune function and oxidative stress in a bird model system, CHF 97,804

Competitively won research fellowships

Swiss National Science Foundation Research Professorship (2011-2016), The evolution and evolutionary consequences of prenatal maternal effects - from genes to popualtions. CHF 2,212,039

Swiss National Science Foundation Advanced Postdoctoral Fellowship (2009-2010), Evolutionary consequences of individual variation in host defence - from genes to populations. CHF 105,385

Australian Research Council (APD) Postdoctoral Fellowship (2008), Mother knows best: an integrative study on the causes and fitness consequences of individual maternal strategies. AUS 618,281

Janggen-Pöhn Postdoctoral Fellowship (2006-2007), Prenatal maternal effects on offspring dispersal, CHF 40,000

Swiss National Science Foundation Early Career Postdoctoral Fellowship (2005-2006), Variation in the strength of sexual selection in wild zebra finches: disentangeling the role of genetic, maternal and environmental effects on mate choosiness and plasticity in resource investment. CHF 44,740

External doctoral examining nationally and internationally

Martin Těšický, Charles University Prague, Czech Republic, 2023 (external PhD examiner)

Berta Blanch Lázaro, Deakin University, Australia, 2022 (external PhD examiner)

Bernice Sepers, Wageningen Univeristy, The Netherlands, 2022 (external PhD examiner)

Johanne Martens, Deakin University, Australia, 2020 (external PhD examiner)

Fredrik Andreasson, Lund University, Sweden, 2020 (external PhD examination committee member)

Lucy Ford, University of Edinburgh, UK, 2018 (external PhD examiner)

Lina Maria Giraldo Deck, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen, Germany (PhD committee member, ongoing)

Lucia Mentesana, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen, Germany (PhD committee member, ongoing)

Claudia Vigano, Institute of Evolutionary Medicine, University of Zurich (PhD committee member, 2014 – 2017)

Timothée Bonnet, University of Zurich (PhD committee member, 2014 – 2016)

Justin R. Eastwood, Deakin University, Australia, 2015 (external PhD examiner)

Longfei Shu, EAWAG ETH Zurich, Switzerland, 2014 (external PhD examiner)

Nicholas Horrocks, University of Groningen, The Netherlands, 2012 (external PhD examiner)

Greet de Coster, Ghent University, Belgium, 2011 (external PhD examiner)

Josefa Bleu, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France, 2011 (external PhD examiner)

International recognition, such as international research collaborations, visiting research posts in overseas institutions, involvement at senior levels in international research associations, acting as referee for national and international research councils.

Reviewing research grants

Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF); Australian Research Council (ARC); NERC UK; BBSRC UK; Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO); National Science Foundation (NSF) USA; Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) France; Polish Research Council; Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG); Max Planck Gesellschaft; Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Vlaanderen (FWO)

Reviewing conference abstracts

International Behavioural Ecology Conference 2012, Lund, Sweden

Invited lectures & workshops

2023 Charles University Prague, Czech Republic (invited seminar speaker)

2022 NIOO-KNAW Wageningen, The Netherlands (invited symposium speaker)

2021 ZSL Science and Conservation Event - Why do eggs fail? (invited panelist)

2021 University of Neuchatel, Switzerland (invited seminar speaker)

2020 University of Zurich, Switzerland (invited seminar speaker)

2020 Temperature, energy and life history, Lund University, Sweden (invited symposium speaker)

2019 The European Centre for Environment & Human Health, Truro, UK (invited seminar speaker)

2019 Imperial College, UK (invited seminar speaker)

2019 Cardiff University, UK (invited seminar speaker)

2018 University of Strasbourg, France (invited seminar speaker)

2018 Lyme Disease Action (LDA) conference 2018, Exeter, UK (symposium keynote speaker)

2017 University of Glasgow, UK (invited seminar speaker)

2017 Max Planck Institiute for Ornithology Seewiesen, Germany (invited seminar speaker)

2016 University of Sydney, Australia (invited seminar speaker)

2016 Monash University, Australia (invited seminar speaker)

2016 Deakin University, Australia (invited seminar speaker)

2016 Australian National University, Australia (invited seminar speaker)

2015 European Ornithologists’ Union (EOU) Conference 2015, Badajoz, Spain (symposium keynote speaker)

2015 Biology 15, joint meeting of the Swiss Botanical, Mycological and Zoological Societies, Zurich, Switzerland (plenary speaker)

2015 University of Basel, Switzerland (invited seminar speaker)

2015 Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria (invited seminar speaker)

2014 European Conference on Behavioural Biology (ECBB), Prague, Czech Republic (symposium keynote speaker)

2014 University of Fribourg, Switzerland (invited seminar speaker)

2013 VetSuisse Zurich, Switzerland (invited seminar speaker)

2013 University of Neuchatel, Switzerland (invited seminar speaker)

2012 Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland (invited seminar speaker)

2012 Workshop ‘Immune function in the context of the animal and the environment’, University of Groningen, The Netherlands (symposium keynote speaker)

2012 University of Toulouse, France (invited seminar speaker)

2011 Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) München, Germany (invited seminar speaker)

2011 Swiss Ornithological Institute Sempach, Switzerland (invited seminar speaker)

2011 EAWAG Dübendorf, Switzerland (invited seminar speaker)

2011 Ornithological Institute Radolfzell, Germany (invited seminar speaker)

2011 EAWAG Kastanienbaum, Switzerland (invited seminar speaker)


Refereeing for scientific journals

Reviewer for >50 international journals, incl. Acta Ornithologica, Advances in the Study of Behavior, American Naturalist, Animal Behaviour, Animal Cognition, Auk, Behavioral Ecology, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, Biology Letters, BMC Biology, Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Conservation Genetics, Current Zoology, Ecological Applications, Ecology and Evolution, Ecology Letters, Emu, Ethology, European Journal of Entomology, Evolution, Evolutionary Ecology, Functional Ecology, Gene, Genome Biology and Evolution, Heredity, Hormones and Behavior, Ibis, Immunogenetics, Integrative and Comparative Biology, Infection, Genetics and Evolution, Journal of Animal Ecology, Journal of Avian Biology, Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Journal of Field Ornithology, Journal of Ornithology, Marine Biology, Molecular Ecology, Naturwissenschaften, Oecologia, Oikos, Ornis Fennica, Ostrich, Parasitology, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, PLoS ONE, Proceedings of the Indian National Science Academy B, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B

Top Reviewer Award

Molecular Ecology: 2014, 2015
Animal Behaviour: 2014
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: 2011

Workshops/Conferences organised

Symposium organiser at IOC 2018, Vancouver, Canada: ‘Bird-pathogen Interactions: Selection, Adaptation and Epidemiology’

Symposium organiser at the 15th Congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) 2015, Lausanne, Switzerland: ‘Host defence in a parasitized world: selection, evolution and the maintenance of variation’

Organizer of ‘Women in Science 2012’ seminar series and roundtable discussion, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich

Co-organizer of the 9th PhD meeting in Evolutionary Biology (EMPSEB) 2003, Fiesch, Switzerland

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Teaching philosophy

My teaching is research-based and outcome-focused and implements the principles of constructive alignment. Goals of my teaching are to promote independent, creative and critical thinking, as well as the application of fundamental evolutionary and ecological principles to 'real-world' problems.

I hold a MSc in Higher Education from the University of Bern, Switzerland.

3rd Year Undergraduate Modules

  • BIO3136 Research Project (module lead)
  • BIO3420 Evolutionary Biology of Health and Disease (module lead)
  • BIO3439 Alpine Ecology - Switzerland fiedlcourse (module co-lead)
  • BIO3136 Research Project supervision

MSc / MSci

  • BIOM4046 Evolutionary & Behavioural Ecology: Frontiers & Approaches
  • BIOM4009 MSc Project supervision
  • BIOM052 MSci Project supervision

Management Roles and Responsibilities

  • CEC Diector of ECR 2022 –
  • Member of the CEC Management Group 2022 –
  • Member of the CEC EDI Committee 2022 –
  • Member of the Faculty of Environment, Science and Economy EDI Committee 2022 –
  • Member of the CEC Research Committee 2018 –
  • Deputy Director of CEC Postgraduate Research, 2019 – 2022



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Supervision / Group

Research Fellows

  • Ana Angela Romero Haro (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow)

Postgraduate researchers

  • Wafa Al Arimi (PhD student, co-supervisor, based at CEFAS)
  • Meg Bird (PhD student, co-supervisor, based at the Animal
  • Riona Burke (BBSRC SWBio PhD student)
  • Kayleigh Hansford (PhD student, co-supervisor, based at PHE with Dr Jolyon Medlock and at ECEHH with Dr Ben Wheeler)
  • Chloe Manson (ACCE DTP PhD student, co-supervisor, based at the University of Sheffield with Dr Nicola Hemmings and Dr Alison Wright)
  • Emile Michels (NERC GW4 PhD student)
  • Zuzanna Szczutkowska (MRes student)


  • Dr Tuomas Aivelo (Finnish Cultural Foundation Postdoctoral Research Associate 2016-2018)
  • Connor Bladen (MRes 2019 - 2021)
  • Dr Luca Cornetti (URPP Evolution in Action Postdoctoral Researcher 2015-2016)
  • Dr Marta Giordano (PhD 2011-2014)
  • Dr Mathieu Giraudeau (FAN Postdoctoral Research Associate 2013-2014)
  • Dr Kate Ihle (SNSF Postdoctoral Researcher 2015-2016)
  • Dr Melissa Lemoine (Marie-Heim-Vogtlin Postdoctoral Research Associate 2014-2017)
  • Dr Maja Mattle-Greminger (SNSF Postdoctoral Researcher 2015-2017)
  • Dr Joel Pick (PhD 2012-2015)

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Office Hours:

My office hours are:

Monday 15:00-16:00

Friday 09:30-10:30

Please send me an email to book a 15 min meeting slot.

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