Group Leader

Prof. Alexandre Roulin


I received my PhD from the University of Bern in 1999. Following a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Cambridge (England) and in Montpellier (France), I received a “Professeur Boursier” grant at the University of Lausanne, in Switzerland, from the Swiss National Science Foundation and was hired as Associate Professor in 2008 and then as Full Professor in 2016 in the same university.

I’m interested in all aspects of evolutionary biology. By working with the Barn Owl, I have studied its reproductive biology, social behavior, ecophysiology, its population dynamics, population genetics, genomics, and its conservation biology. This wide field of study enabled me to write a monograph on this particular owl which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2020 (French and German translations forthcoming in 2021). My preferred research areas are evolution, the maintenance and adaptive functioning of color polymorphism based on melanin pigments, as well as the social behaviors amongst siblings.


Dr. Paolo Becciu

Overall, my scientific interests focus on the way in which external factors - such as atmospheric and geographic conditions, as well as the behavior and health status of the partners - influence the movements and the birds’ decisions on different spatial-temporal scales, from looking for food to migrating several thousands of kilometers. I recently began a post-doc within this group to work on several projects using movement data previously collected on Barn Owls. More specifically, I study how reproductive parameters, color polymorphism, and the partner can influence the exploratory behavior - which is mostly rare but increasingly observed - in females during their first clutch of eggs. I received my PhD at the University of Haifa (Israel) where I studied the effects of environmental conditions on the diurnal migratory movements of large birds flying in Israel, Turkey, and Italy. My bachelor’s and master’s studies were completed at the University of Rome “Sapienza” and the University of Turin, respectively.

Dr. Anne-Lyse Ducrest

After working as a medical lab technician, I first studied biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Bern and then I completed my doctoral thesis in molecular biology at the ISREC (Institut Suisse de Recherche Expérimentale sur le Cancer). Interested in the evolutionary aspects of biology, I joined this research group for which I study the genes involved in regulating the melanin-based coloring and their possible associations with other Barn Owl characteristics. At the same time, I manage the molecular biology lab at the Dept of Ecology and Evolution.

Graduate Students

Laurie Ançay

After receiving a Bachelor’s in Biology from the University of Lausanne, I started a Master’s in Behavior, Evolution, and Conservation that I finished in February 2019. I then began my doctoral studies within the group. Notably, I have studied the relationship between color polymorphism, uropygian secretions, and microbial fauna present on Barn Owl feathers.

Diana da Silva Ferreira

I received a Master’s in Biodiversity and Genetic resources from the University of Porto (Portugal) in 2015. In 2016, I completed an internship in Germany, and in 2017, I obtained a doctoral grant from the Faculty of Biology and Medicine from the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) in the research group directed by Luca Fumagalli. I am currently working with data from the Barn Owl Research Group. My doctoral project focuses on understanding the role of the genes involved in adaptive immunity, specifically the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC), on the life history traits of Barn Owls (Tyto alba) like reproductive success, survival rates, and preferences in terms of breeding partners.

Estelle Milliet

Following my Bachelor’s in Biology at the University of Lausanne, I decided to continue my studies with a Master’s in Ecology. I completed my master’s project in Alexandre Roulin’s group, which has been working in collaboration with farmers for many years to install Barn Owl nestboxes on their farms. I then began a doctoral thesis for which I’m focusing on this collaboration between scientists and farmers and the relationship between these two disciplines. This PhD dissertation is co-supervised by Professor Fabrizio Butera, a social psychologist at the University of Lausanne.

Kim Schalcher

I was born in Morges and studied biology at the University of Lausanne. In 2017, I received my Master’s in Behavior, Evolution, and Conservation while working in this group and studying habitat selection in Barn Owls. I have continued my work in the group, first as a field assistant in 2017, and now as a doctoral candidate since 2018. I am studying the ecology of movement in Barn Owls. My research focuses on the way in which these owls adapt their hunting strategies as a function of environmental conditions. Using bio-loggers (accelerometers, GPS, pressure sensors), I am studying the questions connected to flight behavior, the use of space and energy to understand the optimal feeding strategies of Barn Owls.

Maël Theubet

Since my Bachelor's degree in psychology, education and language science at the University of Neuchâtel, I have been interested in animal representations. I then completed a Master's degree in cognitive sciences at the same university where I was interested in the evolutionary and developmental origins of the understanding of death. I joined the University of Lausanne in 2021 to pursue my research on cognition related to the biological world. During my PhD, jointly supervised by Professor Christine Mohr and Professor Alexandre Roulin, I would like to understand how our beliefs about owls and bats can impact conservation projects.

Alexandros Topaloudis

I moved to Lausanne to study in the Master program of Behaviour, Evolution and Conservation. I completed my master thesis in "Population genomics of insular populations of Barn owls" with Prof. Goudet and continued working on the project for a year. Now, I am doing my PhD with Profs Goudet and Roulin on "Genomics and quantitative genetics of the Swiss barn owl population" hoping to learn more about how DNA affects the phenotype of these nocturnal hunters.


Morgane Calvani

I started my bachelor's degree in Biology at the University of Nice, then I moved to Switzerland to do the last two years at the University of Geneva. I continued my studies with the Master in Behavior, Evolution and Conservation at the University of Lausanne by doing a master project in the group of Prof. Alexandre Roulin. This project consisted in studying the influence of the environment on the flight strategies of the Barn owl. Since March 2021, I have been working in the group as a field assistant and am mainly in charge of organizing and actively participating in the field data collection.

Céline Simon

During my university education (double Master’s in Parasite Ecology and in Health Biology, UM2, France), I developed a great interest for lab research. In 2009, I joined the group as a laboratory worker and since then I’ve great enjoyed working amidst such a passionate team. My work is essentially to exploit various molecular biology techniques to answer any questions the team raises about evolution.

Luca Soutter

My main interests are to know and understand the world around us. That's why I started to study biology at the University of Lausanne. After my Bachelor's degree, I turned to a Master's degree in ecology, behavior and evolution. In parallel to my studies I developed an interest in bats and the nocturnal world. Following my master thesis, I joined Alexandre Roulin's group as a field assistant in order to work on the Barn Owl. The latter shares this nocturnal world with bats, which also arouses my curiosity. My goal is to plan and organize all the field trips to collect data on this species. I enjoy improving my knowledge, understanding and studying this species which remains cryptic.

Science communication

Master students

Clara Deillon, Gaëlle Florent, Anna Grangier-Bijou, Alexandre Roland

Collaborators of the Swiss Ornithological Institute

Roxane Allemann

After obtaining a Bachelor's degree in Biology at the University of Lausanne in 2019, I turned to a Master's degree in Behavior, Evolution and Conservation, during which I was able to study the impact of global warming on the reproduction of Barn Owls. With my master's degree completed in February 2021, I have now joined the team of the Swiss Ornithological Institute as a field manager, where I actively participate in the data collection for the Barn Owl project.

Dr. Bettina Almasi

My fascination for nature and its processes motivated me to study biology at the University of Freiburg and Zurich. After my master in zoology, I studied the effects of stress on the barn owl and received a PhD degree from the University of Zurich for this work in 2008. I then worked first as a post-doc and since 2015 as a research associate at the Swiss Ornithological Institute.


The barn owl benefits from the open agricultural landscape and from the nesting opportunities in farm buildings. However, the intensification of agriculture in recent years has also affected the barn owl. In my research on the barn owl, I try to understand how environmental conditions, agricultural management, and anthropogenic disturbances affect behavior, breeding success and survival. To do this, I look at the entire annual cycle of the barn owl to find out what the detailed habitat requirements are, how the barn owl gets through the winter, and what effects severe winters and food shortages have on survival and future breeding success.

Roman Bühler

During my Bachelor and Master’s studies in Ecology and Conservation at the University of Bern, I discovered my passion for birds. Beside my general interest for birds, I am currently trying to shed a light on the behavior and ecology of barn owls during the winter, a difficult period for this raptor not very adapted to the cold. I am doing my PhD in collaboration with the Swiss Ornithological Institute.

Lara de Gianni

After completing my Bachelor's degree in Natural Systems at the University of Neuchâtel, I decided to continue my studies with a Master's degree in Biology. Since February 2020, I have been collaborating with the team of the Swiss Ornithological Institute and the University of Lausanne to collect data on the "Barn Owl" project. Since January 2021, I am a field assistant and I take care of the field organization and the "Smart nestboxes" project, always helping with the monitoring of small mammals and the mapping of the barn owl winter habitat.

Nicolas Sironi

After obtaining a Master in Behavior, Evolution and Conservation at the University of Lausanne in 2018, I was hired as a scientific and field assistant by the Swiss Ornithological Institute for the joint project with the Roulin group on the Barn Owl. During two years, I was responsible for organizing the fieldwork of the Ornithological Station team and certain parts of the project, such as the habitat mapping, the experiments with perches and the monitoring of micro-mammal populations. Since 2019, I am responsible for the monitoring and developing the Octanis project.

Franziska Wolf

Master student University of Zurich

Damien Zurkinden

After obtaining my Bachelor in Nature Management at hepia, I completed it with a Masters in Natural Resource Management. During my studies I specialized in ecological monitoring and this is how I was able to integrate the "Barn Owl" project at the Swiss Ornithological Institute as responsible for the micromammals monitoring. I am also a field coordinator for the mapping of Barn Owl winter habitat and capture season.

Previous group members


Pauline Ducouret (2019—2020) ; Paul Béziers (2018—2020) ; Andrea Romano (2017—2020) ; Julien Gasparini (2005—2008) « Maître de conférence » in Paris (2008—2017) and Professor (2017—) ; Amélie Dreiss (2008—2014 ; 2015—2017); Laura Gangoso (2008—2010); Pauline Charruau (2015); Madeleine Scriba (2015); Carolina Massa (2015); Karin Löw (2013—2020); Luis San-Jose Garcia (2014—2017).

Graduate students

Ana Paula Machado (2016—2021); Robin Séchaud (2016—2021); Vera Uva (2015—2020); Pauline Ducouret (2014—2019); Arnaud Gaigher (2013-2018) (Co-supervision with Dr. Luca Fumagalli) ; Valérie Ducret (2013—2017); Benjamin Homberger (2011—2014) University of Zurich (Co-supervision with Dr. Lukas Jenni) ; Madeleine Scriba (2012—2013) ; Paul Béziers (2012—2017) ; Sylvain Antoniazza (2008—2013) (Co-supervision with Prof. Jérôme Goudet) ; Charlène Ruppli (2008—2012) ; Guillaume Emaresi (2007—2012) ; Valentijn van den Brink (2008—2012) ; Romain Piault (2004—2008) ; Reto Burri (2005—2010) (Co-supervision with Dr. Luca Fumagalli) ; Bettina Almasi (2004—2008) University of Zurich (Co-supervision with Dr. Lukas Jenni) ; Pierre Bize (2000—2003) University of Bern (Co-supervision with Prof. Heinz Richner).

Master Students from Switzerland

Pierre Bize (1998), Paul Monnerat (1999), Mathias Ritschard (2004), Isabelle Py (2004), Alan Juilland (2004), Aurélie Klopfenstein (2006), Caroline Jeanneret (2006), Arnaud Baylon (2006), Kim Stier (2007), Antoine Stocker (2007), Candice Yvon (2007), Sylvain Antoniazza (2008), Céline Fioravanti (2008), Sabrina Joye (2010), Vassilissa Dolivo (2010), Caroline Sonnay (2010), Caroline Frey (2010), Céline Waldvogel (2010), Alia Mafli (2010), Ester Luzio (2011), Esther Gonzales (2011), Frédéric Oberli (2011), Marco Calgagno (2011), Sarah Bates (2012), Raphaelle Flint (2012), Adrian Moriette (2012), Alexandre Chausson (2012), Stéphanie Rochat (2012), Philippe Chatelain (2012), Sébastien Stucki (2012), Estelle Ifrid (2013), Olivier Darbellay (2013), Baudouin des Monstiers (2014), Alice Delarbre (2014), Vanessa Formenti (2015), Karine Vincent (2015), Eva Meyrier (2015), Robin Séchaud (2015), Christophe Sahli (2016), Kim Schalcher (2016), Estelle Mayor (2017), Steve Zurkinden (2017), Céline Plancherel (2017), Jenny Panziera (2017), Raphaël Sartori (2017), Laurie Ançay (2018), Arianna Rusca (2018), Giulia Perroud (2018), Nathan Külling (2018), Sara Ravn (2019), Marie Froehly (2019), Anne-Caroline Heintz (2019), Nathan Gellé (2019), Roxane Allemann (2020), Morgane Calvani (2020), Lisa Hulaas (2020), Nathan Gellé (2020).

Master Students from France

Thomas Letuppe (M2 2008, Univ Rennes); Marine Battesti (M1 2009, Univ Rennes); Hélène Audusseau (M1 2009, Univ Dijon); Alexis Marcadet (M1 2009, Univ Pierre et Marie Curie); Anaïs Edme (M2 2010, Univ Poitiers); Arnaud Da Silva (M1 2010 and M2 2010, Univ Dijon); Olympe Arévalo (M1 2010, Univ Dijon); Marie Foulon (M1 2011, Univ Paris Sud); Mélissa Noll (M2 2011, Univ Dijon); Aurélie Laurent (M1 2011 Univ Dijon); Zoé Demaizière (M2 2012 Univ Dijon); Aurélie Vermunt (M2 2012 Univ Dijon); Héloïse Théro (M1 2012, Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris); Anaïs Edmé (M2 2012 Univ Poitiers); Pauline Ducouret (M2 2013 Sciences et Technologies du Vivant et de l’Environnement AgroParisTech, MNHN, ENS Paris); Lorine Dijoux (M2 2013 Univ Poitiers); Florian Chevalier (M2 2013, Univ Dijon); Nicolas Villain (M2 2013 Agroscope Agrocampus-Ouest Paris); Mélanie Dugas (M1 2014 Univ Dijon); Florence Gaime (M2 2014 Univ Saint-Etienne); Virginie Rossier (M2 2014 Paris 13); Lucile Hernandez (M2 2014 Univ Dijon); Emy Guilbaut (M2 2015 Univ Montpellier II); Tiphaine Quetel (M2 2015 Univ Strasbourg); Justin Dessonet (M2 2015 Univ Dijon); Charlène Gémard (M2 2015 Univ Angers); Clarisse Judes (M2 2015 Univ Paris-Sud); Anastasia Questiaux (M2 2015 Univ Dijon); Kathleen Salin (M2 2016 Univ Tours); Maryline Gaillard (M2 2016 Univ Dijon; Lisa Poncet (DUT Génie Biologie option Génie de l’Environnement 2016 Univ Jean Monnet Saint-Etienne); Aymeric Oliveira-Xavier (M2 2016 Univ François-Rabelais Tours; Auréline Forestier (M2 2017 Univ François-Rabelais Tours); Jessica Jamet (M2 2017 Univ Dijon); Manon Bincteux (M2 2018, Univ Toulouse), Nicolas Moulin (M2 2019, Univ Montpellier), Thomas Laurent (M2 2019, Univ Poitier), Maureen Konrad (M1 2019, Univ Lyon).


Laura Clément — Field Assistant (2012-2013), Baudoin Des Monstiers Merinville — Field Assistant (2014), Robin Séchaud — Field Assistant (2015), Charlène Gémard — Field Assistant (2016), Margherita Corti — PhD (2016-2017), Isabelle Henry — Data manager (2017-2019), Kim Schalcher — Field Assistant (2017), Steve Zurkinden — Field Assistant (2018), Nathan Külling — Field Assistant (2019), Anne-Caroline Heintz — Field Assistant (2020) , Loïc Brun — Lab Technician (2021), Céline Plancherel — Science communicator (2019-2021)