My basic academic training and past research activities have been in systematics and phylogenetics, eco-physiology, sensory ecology, bioacoustics, population biology, behavioural ecology and community ecology. This broad scope of interests is reflected in a diverse publication record. Since my nomination as a full professor of Conservation Biology at the Institute of Ecology & Evolution, Bern University, in 2001, I have re-oriented my research and teaching activities towards conservation biology and restoration ecology.
I now work primarily on societally-relevant biodiversity conservation and restoration issues, systematically applying a problem-solving approach. My current main research focus is on population biology of rare and endangered animal species (insects and vertebrates, especially birds and bats) of temperate, Mediterranean and Alpine biomes, and on community ecology (plants, invertebrates, vertebrates) of agro-ecosystems and Alpine ecosystems (grasslands, vineyards, fruit tree plantations, forests, treeline habitats and floodplain rivers).
One main goal of my research is to understand and rank the factors responsible for population declines and ecosystem degradation so as to eventually formulate sound and cost-effective mitigation and restoration measures that are implementable by conservation practitioners. In our population biological projects, we systematically investigate all aspects that may affect individual's fitness and ultimately population dynamics, such as ecological niche requirements (diet vs food resources, habitat selection, spatially explicit habitat suitability modelling), eco-physiological constraints (disturbance and stress ecology) and life-history strategies (demographic modelling). This allows us to fully appraise the problems faced by threatened populations in the real world and to frame sound management prescriptions. In community-oriented projects within human-managed ecosystems, the emphasis is put on understanding ecosystem functionalities and resilience from the double perspective of biodiversity maintenance (species richness, population abundance, biomass flux and food chain functionalities) and agricultural or sylvicultural production (optimisation of both yield and biodiversity). This again allows the provision of guidelines for ecosystem management that are directly implementable in practice.
A close collaboration with managers and stakeholders from the start of any research programme guarantees that we frame concrete and understandable implementation measures. I consider this involvement of all actors as being an integral part of the conservation process.
In addition to my job as a university professor, I am co-supervising the activities of the field station of the Swiss Ornithological Institute in the Valais Alps. This double mandate (academia and practice) enables me to bridge the gap between conservation science and action: activities at the Valais field station include monitoring programmes of endangered birds and implementation of the management recommendations drawn from our studies at Bern University.
Our research and the related practical activities have led to tangible results for the preservation and management of biodiversity.