CfR: Workshop on Niche Construction and Other Mechanisms in Ecology & Evolution (Bielefeld University, July 2-3, 2020)

Submitted by Rose Trappes (Bielefeld University).


Workshop: Niche Construction and Other Mechanisms in Ecology & Evolution

2-3 July 2020, Bielefeld University

Evolutionary and ecological theories have been developed separately, often concerning different phenomena and time scales, and with different explanatory goals. Yet the many points of connection between the two fields call for cooperation and integration between ecologists and evolutionary biologists and for integrative philosophical reflection. For instance, niche construction theory has been developed by evolutionary biologists to describe how changes made by organisms to their environments can cause evolutionary change. Niche construction is evidently just as much an ecological as an evolutionary mechanism, yet its meaning and relevance for ecology and for evolution has yet to be assessed.

This workshop brings together philosophers, ecologists, and evolutionary biologists interested in niche construction, mechanisms, fitness, and function. Our goal is to clarify the concept of niche construction and to discuss in how far it can be distinguished from related concepts, such as the extended phenotype. Niche construction (as well as niche choice and niche conformance) seems to be a paradigmatic example of an ecological (or ecological-evolutionary) mechanism. We will thus use this case to discuss more generally how the concept of a mechanism, developed primarily in regard to fields such as molecular biology and neuroscience, can be applied to the ecological and evolutionary context. Furthermore, we will examine the roles that concepts of fitness and function play in studies of niche construction mechanisms. We hope that thinking about niche construction in terms of mechanisms, fitness and function will contribute to overcome some of the challenges of integrating ecology and evolutionary biology.
This workshop takes place as part of the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Centre at the University of Münster, Bielefeld University and Jena University “A Novel Synthesis of Individualisation across Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution: Niche Choice, Niche Conformance, Niche Construction (NC³)”.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Jan Baedke (Ruhr University Bochum)
  • Tina Heger (University of Potsdam)
  • Arnaud Pocheville (Paul Sabatier University and University of Sydney)
  • Lynn Chiu (University of Bordeaux and St. Andrews University)
  • Viorel Pâslaru (University of Dayton)
  • Grant Ramsey (KU Leuven)
  • Etienne Roux (University of Bordeaux)
  • Joachim Kurtz (University of Münster)

Student bursaries
We offer a limited number of travel grants (up to 250 EUR for travel and accommodation) for students and PhD students to participate in the workshop. If you want to apply, please include a brief letter of motivation and your CV with your registration for the workshop.

Registration and further information
For more information and the full programme, check the website.
To register, contact Rose Trappes at


  • Marie I. Kaiser (Bielefeld University)
  • Rose Trappes (Bielefeld University)
  • Ulrich Krohs (University of Münster)
  • Behzad Nematipour (University of Münster)