Back to search


IRSAE - International Research School in Applied Ecology

Awarded: NOK 22.9 mill.

The mission of the International Research School in Applied Ecology (IRSAE) is to advance the quality of PhD education within various research fields coupled to Applied Ecology, thereby producing responsible future scientists and managers that can progress the present-day front in applied ecology further. In addition, IRSAE will facilitate and improve recruitment of PhD-candidates, and make the research education more effective through collaboration between institutes with similar research profiles. IRSAE attempts to achieve its mission by: (1) establishing a national and international interactive network of contacts, including collaboration among PhD students, supervisors, researchers and managers; (2) supplying PhD-students with advances in ecological theory, enable them to employ this theory in tackling applied research and management issues; (3) facilitating the exchange of information between parties involved regarding PhD courses, seminars, research funding, career opportunities etc., and (4) creating new PhD courses, workshops, and meetings. IRSAE was established in 2009 with 11 partner institutes from Europe, and was funded by the Norwegian Research Council in 2013. We have established a website (, which is continuously updated with information about partners, PhD-students, theses defences, courses, conferences, workshops, and available positions. IRSAE also has a Facebook group: IRSAEnetwork. The 4th IRSAE summer school at Aarhus University in 2013 focused on how to link ecological research and natural systems. IRSAE arranged a special seminar on future challenges in Applied Ecology in October 2014, were professor E.J. Milner-Gulland (UK), professor C. Krebs, professor S. Boutin and professor R. Boonstra, (the two last ones from Canada), gave their personal view on the future of applied ecology. The event was streamed to our website. The 5th IRSAE Summer School was held at Telemark University College with the title "Methods to evaluate the effects of climate change on ecosystems and populations" with PhD students from 10 of the IRSAE partners participating. The steering board decided to include three new partners to the network at the board meeting in Telemark: the Arctic University, University of Aberdeen and the Agricultural University of Iceland. The 6th summer school was held at Karlstad University in 2015, with the title ?Effective communication in research and management?. This summer school took on the task of promoting transferable skills and cooperated with four experts in communication, whose work aims at facilitating communication and interaction among scientists as well as between scientists and the rest of the society. 25 PhD candidates from 12 different IRSAE partners participated. In late 2016, the IRSAE board decided to establish five research groups (theme groups) within IRSAE, and all PhD candidates and researchers in the network go the opportunity to propose topics for the research group. The five research themes that were established were: 1) Movement and population Ecology 2) Ecosystem services 3) Understanding and Managing Biodiversity conflicts 4) Freshwater Ecology 5) Climate Change Ecology The board decided that future summer schools should be organised as a mini conference for all the five research themes. The 7th IRSAE summer school was held at Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences in 2017, and gathered 42 PhD students and 16 researchers from the network. The research themes presented their activity plans for the IRSAE board for the first time. The 8th IRSAE summer school was held at Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences in 2018, were 41 members from the IRSAE network participated. IRSAE organized and financed several PhD courses in 2018, including Academic Writing and Proposal writing. The 9th IRSAE summer school was held at Hôlar University in Iceland in 2019, and gathered 60 PhD candidates and 14 researchers, from 22 different Institutions, and 20 different nationalities. One of the most memorable talks given at the summer school was the inspirational talk given by Dr. Dan Tyers from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, US Forest Service. Dr. Tyers shared his research experience, and what he consider good science and a what makes a great scientist/person. The 10th IRSAE summer school should have been held at Fondazione Edmund Mach in Italy in July 2020, but was cancelled due to the corona pandemic. The 2021 summer school was completed digitally with 140 participants. From 2013 to 2021, IRSAE has supported several PhD-courses, workshops, research projects and seminars in part or as a whole. IRSAE has assigned mobility grants for PhD candidates from the network to attend courses, conferences and workshops, both nationally and internationally. IRSAE currently has 250 PhD members. IRSAE has received funding from Sparebankstiftelsen to operate 4 more years.


In this research school we connect fragmented national and international environments of PhD-students who have a typical profile associated to applied ecology. We define ecology as the interactions that determine the distribution and abundance of organism s, and we are particularly concerned with how humans and natural processes change these patterns through time and space. The PhD-study in Applied Ecology focuses on the application of ecological concepts, theories, models and methods to address current re al-world problems, with the ultimate aim to develop candidates that will improve research and management practices of biological resources. Hence, we will provide an understanding of how we can sustainably use and manage biological resources based on the principles of ecological theory. The core area in focus will be the application of ecological theory and methodology to develop comprehensive mitigation measures for the sustainable use, commercialisation and management of biological resources. To validat e the desired effect of mitigation efforts we need effective and long term monitoring of the natural environment. Hence, the bulk of our research and education is focused towards the application of ecological principles for the mitigation, use and monitor ing of biological resources. With a granted research school we will primarily focus on improved supervision, in particular of technical topics such as statistics and population modelling, linguistic support and the production of PhD-courses and networking . We believe such a research school will close the gap between researchers and managers.

Funding scheme:


Funding Sources