A few words about me...

Curriculum vitae
  Well, I thought it could give some humanity to this Biomapper web site if you could get some information about its author... Here it is:

My name is Alexandre Hirzel and I was borne on the 25th of March 1970 in Lausanne, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland (and thus, French is my primary language, although my family is originated from the German-speaking part). To make short a long story, my trajectory was not the most direct one toward theoretical ecology research: after several workshops about matters as various as, e.g., haploid genome fusion, bipedal locomotion and French literature (1970-1981), I begun classic studies, learning Latin and ancient Greek (1981-1987), before being interested in scientific matters as astrophysics and natural sciences; somehow I managed in high school (1987-1990) to link classical and scientific studies, which allowed me to start university in physics, at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland (1990). Arrived in the 2nd year, I finally understood that physics was  more or less applied mathematics and as it was not much appealing to me, I switched to biology. But all tortuous as it is, this snaky trail gave me the opportunity to gather a lot of interesting experiences along the way, all of which have proved useful some time.

University of Lausanne (Switzerland)

  At first, my goal was to be science teacher but when I arrived in my last undergraduate year, in 1995, I discovered theoretical ecology in the courses of Jacques Hausser, Roger Arditi, Nicolas Perrin and Jérôme Goudet. Since my teen-age, being too old to play Lego, I had been writing programs and simulation softwares as a hobby, and suddenly I understood there was an opportunity to make a living of it and to put my computer skills at the service of Science. At least, I had to try it! There would ever be the possibility to revert back to teaching if research was not satisfying...

  And thus, in 1996-1997, I did a Masters at the University of Lausanne, Institute of Zoology and Animal Ecology, under the supervision of Jerzy Michalski and Roger Arditi. I learned a lot of things with them and I had a great time playing on the computer with  communities structured in complex recycling food webs. This was an enthusiastic experience; teaching could wait a little more, and anyway, I could satisfy my taste for knowledge propagation during practicals, supervised exercises at the Institute, and at the unforgetable marine biology course in Roscoff (Brittany, France); therefore, I signed in for a PhD.

Oceanographic Station of Roscoff (France)

  Owing to the genius I had for a supervisor, Prof. Nicolas Perrin, my PhD years (1997 - 2001) were still more enriching (in knowledge and experience!) and enthusiasting than my Masters. My research was made in the framework of the brand new Laboratory of Conservation Biology, funded by a grant of the Federal Office of Environment, Forests and Landscape. During these years I was confronted to goals as varied as writing a user-friendly decision-support software for the management of Ibex (Capra ibex) populations, exploring the most beautiful world of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), developping an ecologically-oriented GIS toolkit (Biomapper, you probably see what I mean ;-) ) and linking all these pieces together in a landscape-explicit population dynamics model inspired from cellular automata (HexaSpace). All of this is gathered in my PhD report.

My map-management executive

  Then I joined my new guru, Raphaël Arlettaz, and his brand new team of the Conservation Biology Division, Institute of Zoology, University of Bern (Switzerland) as a post-doc. During  this year (2001-2002), I developped new tools for Biomapper and applied them to compute the ecological niche and habitat suitability map of the bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) in the Swiss Alps.

University of Bern (Switzerland)

  In 2002-2003, I did a second post-doc at the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California - Santa Barbara (USA), with the Prof. Roger Nisbet and Bill Murdoch. Here I studied the effect of landscape heterogeneity on predator-prey dynamics. That was a great post-doc were I learned a lot, thanks to these to guys who were very kind and helpful with me.

University of California, Santa Barbara (USA)

  Then I came back to Switzerland were I'm now parting my time between the university of Bern (with Raphaël Arlettaz) and Lausanne (with Nicolas Perrin, Antoine Guisan and Jérôme Goudet).

  2007 was a formidable year for me as I got married to the smartest and most beautiful woman on earth. We passed our honey moon sailing through the Antarctic waters on board the square-rigged ship "Europa".

University of Lausanne (Switzerland)

  Currently, I have a junior group leader position at the University of Lausanne, Department of Ecology and Evolution. This position is ending at the end of 2008 and I am now looking for my next job.

Scientific interests

  My research interests aim at understanding how individuals select their habitat and how their populations maintain themselves. This is affected by abiotic factors – the environmental part of the ecological niche –, by interactions with other species (e.g. competition or predation) and by genetic factors (e.g. inbreeding). I believe that space has a strong effect on these dynamics. Accordingly, my research pertains to three aspects of spatial ecology: ecological niche modelling, metapopulation dynamics and metacommunity dynamics:

Ecological niche modelling

  Species select, or are selected by, their environment. There is thus a direct link between the environmental conditions where individuals are living and their ecological requirements, i.e. their ecological niche. The goal of this research axis is, on the base of species observations and environmental maps (e.g. topography, climate, landscape metrics, etc.), to model the ecological niche of the species and to use it to predict a habitat suitability map (GIS application BIOMAPPER). Beyond mapping species potential distribution, this approach allow testing hypotheses on species ecological requirements, finding areas suitable to reintroduction, delineating areas potentially threatened by an invasive species.

  Beyond its theoretical aspects, this research axis has been applied to several conservation issues (e.g. bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) reintroduction, red-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) conservation, alpine Ibex (Capra ibex) management, etc.).

Metapopulation dynamics

  Most species live in patchy environments where “islands” of suitable habitat are separated by extents of inhospitable areas (the “matrix”). How does this spatial structure affect population dynamics and genetics? What is the importance of the matrix for population persistence? Does the nature of the matrix important? We address most of these questions by means of simulations (programs ECOGENETICS and HEXASPACE I) but we have recently started an empirical approach on the Firebug (Pyrrhocoris apterus).

  This research axis has also led to several practical applications (e.g. Ibex (Capra ibex) management (program SIM-IBEX), Rhone-valley metapopulation assessment, etc.).

Metacommunity dynamics

  The two first axes focused on species relationships with their environment. However, species do not live alone and their behaviour, survival and fecundity are often affected by other species. How does this affect their dynamics? How do species characteristics (e.g. dispersal, competitivity, fecundity, specialisation) affect the stability of the community, its species composition and richness, food-web complexity (program RHEAGOGATOR)? We address these questions within a spatial context either with consumer-resource systems (program HEXASPACE II) or with single-trophic level competitors (program DEMOPHON).

  My favourite tools are numeric simulations, some statistics and mathematics and geographic information systems (GIS).

  The ultimate goal is to understand the effect of space and landscape structure on population dynamics, how this knowledge can be applied to wildlife management.

 I finally had to admit I was not good at field work...


Where am I currently?
  I'm in Switzerland where I've got a full time position at the University of Lausanne, as junior group leader in modelling and statistics..
List of publications My list of publications, with downloadable PDFs.
Other interests
  Beside science, I have many other interests and hobbies. But rather than writing again a long text about this, it will be more useful to provide you with links toward all these matters. French-speaking web sites are marked with a (F) and English ones with a (GB).


French National Library: Classical books in PDF (F)

Victor Hugo (F)

Patrick O'Brian: The Aubrey/Maturing series (GB)

Cyrano de Bergerac (F)

J.R.R. Tolkien (GB)


Where to look for megaliths (dolmens, menhirs, etc.)  (F)
Latin-French automatic translator (F)
De bello Gallico by Julius Caesar (French and latine versions) (F)
A Middle-Age company (F)
Ship of the sail books by J.Boudriot (F)
Admiral Nelson's ship: HMS Victory (GB)
The Mary-Rose, 16th century British ship (GB)
Aircrafts of the WW I (GB)
Books about WWII submarines (GB)

U-boat complete website

QBasic (GB)
C++ tutorial (GB)
Boost your Delphi application! (GB)
Delphi (GB)
My first steps into 3D-Programming with OpenGL
Physical activities
Historical fencing (F)
Fencing (GB)
Kite flying (GB)
Gliding (F)
Virtual telescope (GB)
SETI: Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (GB)


Car sharing: Mobility (F)
Trottinette (F)


Le Bric-à-brac de Malela (F)

Monster Canapé (F)

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Updated 13.05.2008