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Véronique Helfer

Research Interests | Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests

The focal species of my PhD thesis is the black salamander (Salamandra atra), an endemic species from the Alpine arc. Its distribution is well documented, but very little is known about its genetic structure. On this aspect, I will focus on three different geographical scales:

  1. the entire distribution of the species to learn more about its evolutionary history, and highlight different lineages in a perspective of conservation;
  2. a regional scale to quantify the gene flow between distinct populations and evaluate the influence of landscape features on it;
  3. the population level to study the relatedness between individuals in relation to their spatial position.

On the population level, an accent will also be put on population dynamics. Actually, this species is a very cryptic amphibian, whose activity is highly related to climatic conditions. As this species can spend most of its time underground when the conditions are not good, their probability of capture in the field can be highly variable and biases the evaluation of population densities and considerations on the population dynamic that follows. I will perform capture- mark -recapture experiments to evaluate the emigration rates between the subterranean and surface populations and determine which parameters have an influence on it. This will help to improve the monitoring of this species in the future.

This project is sustained by the KARCH (Koordinationsstelle für Amphibien- und Reptilienschutz in der Schweiz) and is funded by the Conservation de la Faune (VD), the Office Fédéral de l'Environnement, des Forêts et du Paysage (OFEFP, CH), the MAVA Fundation, the Agassiz Fundation and the Conférence des Recteurs des Universités Suisses (CRUS).

Curriculum Vitae

Born on August 28, 1976 in Orbe (Switzerland)

2002 -
PhD Thesis in the Laboratory for Conservation Biology at the University of Lausanne, under Direction of Dr Luca Fumagalli (University of Lausanne, Switzerland) & Dr Claude Miaud (University of Savoie, France).

Diploma Thesis at the LBC, University of Lausanne: "Organisation of the mitochondrial DNA in the Adder (Serpentes: Viperidae: Vipera berus) and phylogeographical implications of the control region variability", under the supervision of Dr Luca Fumagalli.

Studies in Biology at the University of Lausanne with some works on modelisation of species distribution: (1) Modelisation of the ecological niche of the Adder (Vipera berus L.) in Switzerland, in collaboration with F. Métral under supervision of Dr Antoine Guisan; (2) Construction of habitat-suitability maps. Comparison and evaluation of the Ecological Niche Factor Analysis (ENFA) and the General Linear Model (GLM) with a virtual species: the marsipulami, in collaboration with F. Métral under supervision of Alexandre Hirzel.


Biophore - CH-1015 Lausanne
Tel. +41 21 692 41 60
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