6th Leibniz-IZW PhD Symposium


Wildlife research: What is still missing?


When: Wednesday, 13th September - Thursday 14th September

Where: Lecture Hall of the IZW, Alfred-Kowalke-Straße 17 in 10315 Berlin, Germany AND online

Registration: Free! Register here: https://forms.gle/WrGME5XdbHD3w6LU7


The PhD symposium organisation committee invites you to the 6th Leibniz-IZW PhD Symposium, the first of the series after a long break due to the pandemic. The symposium is open to any and all who wish to attend, but our topics will be most relevant to students and early career scientists. In order to be accessible as possible, we offer free registration and will have talks on a variety of topics from experts both within the IZW and guest speakers.

Those who attend the symposium will have an opportunity to display posters which can be viewed and discussed during coffee breaks. Two optional workshops will be offered on the afternoons of both days. We offer certificates to all attendees to count towards credit points for those in graduate programs.

The aim is to set a stage to identify and discuss the particular challenges of wildlife research. From the normal workflow (idea, funding, study design, sampling, labwork) the problems will be identified so that a preventable approach is encouraged and solutions can be discussed.

The symposium will be held in hybrid format to be accessible as possible for students around Europe and beyond, but we strongly encourage those who can attend in person to do so!

You can view our preliminary program HERE! All speakers have been confirmed, but many talk titles are still TBC. Poster abstracts can be found HERE!

We have been able to engage individual guests and IZW staff as speakers so far:

Speaker and workshop leader Information

Session 1: Study design

Alexandre Courtiol

Alex is a researcher & lecturer based at the IZW. For the last 12 years, he has been advising members across all IZW departments on how to best analyse wildlife data, while pursuing his own research projects at the intersections of evolutionary biology, ecology and demography. His favourite research projects are those revealing unexpected outcomes about humans, wild mammals or birds

Gudrun Wibbelt

Gudrun is a veterinary pathologist specialized on wildlife and zoo animals. Her main interest are infectious diseases and small mammals. She is also the IZW's animal welfare officer and advises IZW scientists on their animal experiment applications and facilitates their communication with governmental authorities.

Katja Pohle et al.

Coming soon

An Nguyen

Coming soon

Session 2: Data analysis and visualisation

Liam Bailey

Liam is a data scientist and ecologist focussed on using data science skills for conservation outcomes. He recently completed a DFG Eigene Stelle post-doc at the IZW and will be soon starting as a geospatial analyst with WWF Germany. Liam has a particular fondness for data visualisation (link: https://liamdbailey.com/dataviz) and wants to help others communicate their science better through visualisation.

Moritz Wenzler-Meya

Coming soon

Tobias Kürschner

Coming soon

Diogo Guerra

Diogo Guerra is a medical illustrator with an atypical background. He completed a Masters in Veterinary Medicine at the University of Lisbon (DVM), and a doktorarbeit in Veterinary Parasitology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland (dr med vet). He currently works as a freelance medical illustrator and dataviz consultant, after taking several courses in scientific illustration, painting and data visualization. He was part of the graphic department of the VetSuisse Faculty in Zurich (VETCOM) between 2014–2015, and worked as a medical illustrator at the medical communications agency Medicalwriters.com between 2018–2022. His medical illustration portfolio combines his scientific background with the passion to visualize complex ideas, especially at the intersection of Human and Animal Medicines and Wildlife Infectious Diseases.. He also teaches workshops on visual science communication to doctors and researchers. Portfolio at www.diogoguerra.com.

Session 3: Mental health

Ivona Kafedjiska

Ivona did her bachelor studies in Physics at Jacobs University Bremen. After that, she went to Albert-Ludwigs University of Freiburg where she did two master studies, one in Physics and the other one in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. In 2018, she moved to Berlin for her PhD at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin for Materials and Energy Research (HZB). She is a passionate advocate for diversity, equality and mental health in academia - all of which were her main motivators to become a spokesperson of the Helmholtz Juniors and a board member of N2 (the Network of Networks) in 2021. Since January, 2023 Ivona is working as a PV research-strategy and policy consultant at HZB.

Susanne Auls

Susanne has worked as a Medical Technologist in research labs for 30 years now. She enjoys the creative and exciting environment of the scientific workplace, but at the same time perceives the toxic structures of it that lead to inequality and abuse of power. Changing this and creating a work environment that instead promotes diversity, equality and inclusion, and where everyone can work with joy and ease - this is her motivation for her work as Chair of the IZW's Workers' Council. She is convinced that the existing structures must change fundamentally in order to achieve this. That is why she is now also actively involved outside the IZW at the level of the Leibniz Association and beyond.

Until this long-term goal is achieved, she participates in alleviating the problems that the current system creates. These include conflicts and mental health issues. To address this more effectively, she has spent the last 3 years training to become a certified Mediator and Coach.

Caroline Hickman

Caroline Hickman has a background in mental health social work and working with community mental health projects. She is an integrative psychosynthesis psychotherapist who studied with Revision & archetypal & cultural psychology with Thiasos qualifying in 2000. She is a lecturer at the University of Bath researching children and young people’s emotional responses to climate change in the UK, Brazil, The Maldives, Nigeria & USA for 10 years examining eco- anxiety & distress, eco-empathy, trauma, moral injury and the impact of climate anxiety on relationships. She is co- lead author on a 2021 quantitative global study into 10,000 children & young people’s emotions & thoughts about climate change published in The Lancet Planetary Health. A practicing psychotherapist and member of the Climate Psychology Alliance she has been developing a range of therapeutic approaches to ecological distress including a psychological assessment model for eco-anxiety, and delivered workshops in climate psychology, emotional resilience, and mental health internationally.

Session 4: Funding

Rohit Chakravarty and Saba Mottaghinia

Rohit: I am a postdoc at the Nature Conservation Foundation, India engaged in bat research and conservation. Over the past decade, I have studied bats in various parts of India, including the Himalayas for my PhD at the Leibniz-IZW (2018-2023). I am also a co-author of the book, 'The Naturalist's Guide to the Mammals of India'.

Saba: I am a constantly evolving evolutionary virologist currently transposed into CIRI (Centre International de Recherche en Infectiologie) Lyon. My postdoctoral research, funded by the French ANR (Agence Nationale de la Recherche), focuses on deciphering evolutionary and functional implications of bat Protein Kinase R (PKR) gene duplication. I obtained my doctoral degree at the Freie Universität Berlin for my research at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW). My DFG-funded project focused on endogenous retroviruses and specifically Koala retrovirus (KoRV). I studied evolutionary biology at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitat Bonn and completed my master thesis at the Virology Institute Universitätsklinikum Bonn and Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig, working on arboviruses. I obtained my BSc. degree from Juniata College in the USA. I lived in Iran, Switzerland, USA, Germany and France and have more than seven years of non-academic job experience mainly in marketing/sales in Evonik Industries but my passion stays within academia, especially wildlife diseases and transposable elements.

Miriam Brandt and Uli Rockenbauch

Coming soon

Julie Louvrier

From 2015 until 2018 I worked on developping new statistical tools to assess the dynamic spatial distribution of large carnivores in Europe. In 2019 I receievd a first fellowship from the DAAD to pursue postdoctoral research at the Leibniz-IZW in Berlin. During this year I studied the mesocarnivore community of Berlin and their spatio-temporal requirements before and during the SARS-Cov2 lockdown. In 2020 I received a second fellowship from the IPODI at TU Berlin to better study the recolonization of wolves in Germany and assess the future of their population given different conservation scenarios. I have a particular interest in wildlife conservation and I wish to provide scientific foundations to help finding solutions for society in the field of ecology and nature conservation.

Sinah Drenske

Coming soon

Session 5: Panel discussion - building bridges

Bettina Wachter

Bettina Wachter is a behavioural ecologist who works since nearly 30 years on carnivores in eastern and southern Africa. She studied biology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich and did her doctoral thesis on spotted hyenas in the Ngorongogo Crater in Tanzania at the Max-Planck Institute for Behavioural Ecology in Seewiesen, Germany and the University in Berne, Switzerland. Since 2001, she is a scientist at the Leibniz-IZW and runs the Cheetah Research Project in Namibia. She and her team work mainly on free-ranging cheetahs on farmland inhabited by livestock farmers. The team studies the spatial ecology and distribution of cheetahs and develops in close collaboration with the farmers evidence based solutions to mitigate the farmer-cheetah conflict. The team is also interested in the reproduction and health of cheetahs. Their focus lies on the apparent discrepancy between the low genetic variability of the species and its high reproductive performance, potent immune system and good health status.

Session 6: Communication

Jan Zwilling and Steven Seet

Coming soon

Carolin Scholz

Carolin Scholz works as a wildlife biologist and scientist at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research Berlin, where she focuses on the response of wild animals to human influences. In addition to teaching at the University of Potsdam, she supports projects on movement ecology and biodiversity as part of the BIOMOVE research training group. Currently, her research focuses on species conservation-relevant studies, including in the context of bats and wind energy development as well as building refurbishments and bats in urban habitats. She is also a member of the board of Wildlife Detection Dogs e.V. and trains her own detection dogs.

Susana Soares

Susana Soares is a veterinarian that completed her Integrated Masters in Veterinary Medicine (DVM + MSc) at the University of Lisboa, Portugal and a pos-graduation in Exotics Medicine and Surgery at the University Lusófona in Lisboa. She has been practising medicine in several sectors - like small animal clinics, mixed practices, exotics consultations, animal shelters, street medicine, wildlife rescue centers and zoos -  which allowed her to experience on first hand different environments, different conditions to practice medicine and to communicate. She has also participated in conservation projects like the LIFE-Nature Project ‘Enhancing Habitat for the Iberian Lynx and Black Vulture in the Southeast of Portugal’ and Conservation Optimism to name a few. And during the last COVID-19 pandemic, she was part of the vet task force to track and break transmission chains. Currently she is pursuing her PhD at the Leibniz-IZW under the topic of "Long term effects of gastrointestinal parasitism and immunosenescence in wild spotted hyenas".

Daniel Lewanzik

Coming soon


Cara Gallagher

Cara Gallagher is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the BioMove
project at the University of Potsdam. Her research largely focuses on using
agent-based simulation models and physiological theory to understand the
emergence of wildlife population and community patterns, and predict the
impacts of anthropogenic disturbance. Cara is also a graphic art enthusiast
who is passionate about using visual media for science communication.

Kathleen Röllig

Coming soon


The conference will include presentations, a panel discussion, and workshops. We will go to the Tierpark for lunch (at your own expense or bring your own), but snacks and drinks will be available during the shorter breaks. There will be an opportunity to hang posters, but there will not be a dedicated poster session, so feel free to check out the posters and talk to participants during the breaks.


Kindly sponsored by VETRONIC Aerospace GmbH and made possible with donations from Carl Roth GmbH