Dr Pierre Bize

Dr Pierre Bize
Dr Pierre Bize

Dr Pierre Bize

Senior Lecturer


School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen

Zoology Building, Tillydrone Avenue, AB24 2TZ

Office: 309



I am an evolutionary biologist with keen interests in physiology, life-history theories and behavioural ecology. I use carefully thought experiments to address proximate and ultimate sources of variation in performance measured at levels ranging from cells to individuals and populations.

Sept 2013      Senior Lecturer, University of Aberdeen

2008 - 2013   Junior group leader, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, with funding from the Swiss NSF to investigate the ‘Importance of mitochondrial uncoupling and telomere dynamics in the free radical theory of ageing’.

2005 - 2008    Post-doctoral fellow in the groups of Prof Pat Monaghan and Prof Neil Metcalfe, investigating telomere dynamics and ageing in birds. University of Glasgow. Fellowship funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

2004- 2005     Post-doctoral research associate in Dr Philipp Heeb’s group, investigating the role of skin UV coloration in parent-offspring interaction. University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

2000 - 2003    Ph.D. University of Berne, Switzerland entitled ‘Costs of parasitism and host anti-parasite strategies: Case studies in the Alpine swift Apus melba in response to infestation by the louse fly Crataerina melbae’ and supervised by Prof Heinz Richner and Prof Alexandre Roulin.

2000                 M.Sci. from the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, in Ecology & Evolution

1999                 B.Sc. from the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, in Ecology & Systematics

External Memberships

Main Society Positions

  • 2014-           Review editors for Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
  • 2010-2014     Secretary of the Swiss Zoological Society

Professional Societies

  • Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour
  • British Ecological Society
  • European Society for Evolutionary Biology
  • Nos Oiseaux, Société Romande pour l’Etude et la Protection des Oiseaux
  • Swiss Zoological Society

Research Overview

  • Ageing
  • Life history theories
  • Metabolism, mitochondrial function & oxidative stress
  • Personality traits & cognition
  • Signalling in sexual and social contexts


Research Areas

Biological and Environmental Sciences

Research Specialisms

  • Ecology
  • Animal Behaviour
  • Evolution
  • Animal Physiology

Our research specialisms are based on the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) which is HESA open data, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

Current Research

The common thread that runs through my different research topics is the mitochondrion.

Mitochondria are small organelles present in most animal cells that are responsible to convert food into cellular energy. Hence, mitochondria functions are vital to support growth, reproduction and body maintenance, and ultimately for a healthy living. My current research aims to better understand (1) the sources of variation in mitochondrial function and (2)their consequences at the phenotypic level.

1. Sources of variation in mitochondrial function

A fascinating aspect of mitochondria biology is that they possess their own genome that is inherited through the mother only, whereas the nuclear genome is inherited from both parents. Because ultimately mitochondrial function relies on a ‘machinery’ with pieces that are encoded both in the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes, key questions are whether some mito-nuclear genome combination leads to more efficient/deficient mitochondria, and whether epigenetic interaction between these two genomes helps resolve conflicts.

To address these questions, I have developed a unique study system of four experimental lines of wild-derived voles with distinct combinations of mitochondrial and nuclear genomes (nuclearmitochondrial: CC, CW, WC, WW). This is allowing me to perform the most comprehensive study so far in a mammal species on effects of these two genomes on traits ranging from epigenetic variation in the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes and mitochondrial functions to the whole organism metabolism and metabolic health.

Main collaborator: Dr Antoine Stier (Turku), Dr Tyler Stevenson (Glasgow)

2. Linking mitochondrial function to the phenotype

Mitochondria & life history theories

Life histories describe how organisms grow, mature, reproduce and age, and substantial evidence has now accumulated that most of the variation in life histories of mammals and birds falls along a slow-fast continuum. Organisms with slow paces of life are characterised by slow growth, delayed maturity, low reproductive investments and extended lifespan, whereas organisms with fast paces of life possess the opposite combination of traits. The absence of alternative combinations of these traits implies constraints on the diversification of life histories. Besides the production of cellular energy vital to ensure growth, reproduction and maintenance, mitochondria are also producing reactive oxygen production (ROS) that can damage the cell and hasten ageing. Hence, variation in mitochondrial function may play a key role in shaping animal life history trajectories.

I am investigating the links between mitochondria, oxidative stress and life history trajectories in various animal species, both in the lab and in the field.

Main collaborators: Dr Antoine Stier (Turku) and Dr François Criscuolo (Strasbourg)

Mitochondria & behavioural and cognitive traits

Inter-individual variation in cognitive abilities, such as learning, has been related to variation in reproductive success in the wild. However, whether learning has a causal influence on reproductive success is an open question. Notably, it remains unclear how ageing, cognition and reproductive performance are inter-connected. Dysfunction in mitochondrial function with age can lead to a gradual accumulation of oxidative damage in the brain and muscles, which in turn may account for a spurious association between cognitive abilities and (reproductive) performance. A causal association between cognitive abilities and reproductive performance can arise through a better exploitation of the habitat. Because dietary antioxidants can mitigate cognitive ageing and improve reproduction, an alternative hypothesis is that cognitive abilities are key attributes allowing individuals to better exploit their habitat, increase reproductive success and live longer and healthier.

I am addressing this topic by measuring mitochondrial function, oxidative stress, cognitive abilities and reproductive performance in wild bird populations.

Main collaborators: Dr Blandine Doligez (Lyon) and Dr Laure Cauchard (Montreal)


Current post-doctoral fellows and PhD students

Post-doctoral fellows

2018-23  Dr Laure Cauchard (2-year fellowship from the Canadian Science Foundation & 2.5-year Marie Curie Fellowship. Project title: Testing the importance of oxidative stress and dietary antioxidants in linking cognitive traits and fitness in free living animals

Ph.D. students, main advisor (3 to 4-year project)

2020-24  Michela Dumas. DTP University of Ottawa. Jointly supervised with Dr Julien Martin, University of Ottawa, Canada. Project title:  Sexual selection and mate choice in a species with little apparent sexual dimorphism, the Alpine swift

2018-22  Francesca Gray. NERC QUADRAT DTP. Jointly supervised with Dr Rory Doherty, Queen's University Belfast, and Dr Christoph Meier, Swiss Ornithological Station. Project title: Flying sentinels: using a long-distance migratory bird to assess exposure to POPs over two continents and their health consequences

2018-22  Christina Biamis. NERC QUADRAT DTP. Jointly supervised with Prof Gary Hardiman, Queen's University Belfast, and Prof Paul Thompson, University of Aberdeen. Project title: Actions of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in seabirds

2018-22  Mark Williamson. BBSRC EASTBIO DTP. Jointly supervised with Dr Cath Jones, University of Aberdeen, and Dr Leighton Pritchard, James Hutton Institute. Project title: Interactions of microbiota and invasive molluscan crop pests: impacts on food security and ecosystem services in a changing world

2018-21  Tracey Hammer. IDEX DTP, Strasbourg. Jointly supervised with Dr Jean-Patrice Robin and Dr Vincent Viblanc, University of Strasbourg, France. Project title: Impact of social and environmental pressures on King penguins’ quality and fitness

2017-21  Alexandra Jebb. BBSRC EASTBIO DTP. Jointly supervised with Dr Julien Martin, University of Aberdeen. Project title:  Effects of early and adult environment conditions on the biology of long-lived species: testing the predictive adaptive response hypothesis.

Past students and post-doctoal researchers

Post-doctoral fellows

2011-14  Dr Vincent Viblanc (one-year fellowship from the Fyssen Foundation, France; two-year fellowship from the AXA Foundation); Vincent is now a permanent researcher at the CNRS, Strasbourg, France

2014-15  Dr Luiza Duarte (one-year fellowship from the CAPES Brazilian Science Foundation)

Ph.D. students

2013-16  Quentin Schull. Doctoral School of Strasbourg. Jointly supervised with Dr Jean-Patrice Robin and Dr Vincent Viblanc, University of Strasbourg, France. Quentin is now permanent researcher at IFREMER, Sete, France.

2011-15  Charlotte Récapet. Doctoral School of Lyon. Jointly supervised with Dr Blandine Doligez, University of Lyon, France. Charlotte is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Pau, France.

2009-14  Mikko Lehto Hürlimann. Swiss NSF. University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Mikko is now a permanent researcher at Agroscope, Switzerland.

Ph.D. visiting student, (1-year project) | 1 student

2014-15  Barbara Henning. One year PhD sandwich from the CAPES Brazilian Science Foundation. Barbara is currently a post-doctoral researcher at State University Campinas, Brazil.

 M.S. students, main advisor (6 to 12-month project) | >40 students so far

B.S. and Hons. students, main advisor (3 to 4-month project) | >40 students so far

Funding and Grants

As Principal Investigator

2019 -23        NERC, QUADRAT DTP, PhD studentship

2018               Carnegie Trust, research incentive grant           

2018               Grants Academy, University of Aberdeen

2015               British Ornithological Union

2015               Percy Sladen Memorial Fund, research grant

2014               British Ecological Society, research grant

2014               Royal Society of London, research grant

2014               Carnegie Trust, travel grant

2013               Fondation Agassiz, University of Lausanne, research grant

2012 - 13        Swiss National Science Foundation, SNF research grant

2009 - 12        Swiss National Science Foundation, SNF research grant

2005 -08         Swiss National Science Foundation, SNF post-doctoral fellowship

Asoociated as Co-Investigator

2021-24         French NSF (ANR Agence Nationale pour la Recherche). PI: B.Doligez, CNRS Lyon 1, France

2020 - 23       EU Horizon 2020, Marie Curie PDR fellowship awared to Dr Laure Cauchard to come to Aberdeen

2019 - 23       NERC, QUADRAT DTP, PhD studentship: PI: G. Hardiman, Queen University Belfast

2019 - 22        International programme to support scientific cooperation (CNRS-PICS) between France and UK. CNRS, France. PI: Dr J.-P. Robin, CNRS-Strasbourg, France

2018 - 22       BBSRC, EASTBIO DTP, PhD studentship: PI: C. Jones, University of Aberdeen

2017 -21        BBSRC, EASTBIO DTP, PhD studentship: PI: J. Martin, University of Aberdeen

2016 - 18       Institut Polaire Français Paul Emile Victor, France. PI: Dr J-P Robin, CNRS-Strasbourg, France.

2015 - 16        Institut Polaire Français Paul Emile Victor, France. PI: Dr J-P Robin Robin, CNRS-Strasbourg, France.

2011 - 14        Institut Polaire Français Paul Emile Victor, France. PI: Dr J-P Robin Robin, CNRS-Strasbourg, France.

2010 - 13        International programme to support scientific cooperation (CNRS-PICS) between France and Switzerland. PI: Dr F Criscuolo, CNRS-Strasbourg, France.

2010                Projets Exploratoires Pluridisciplinaires (PEPS). CNRS, France. PI: Dr B Doligez, CNRS-Lyon, France.


Teaching Responsibilities

Course coordinator

  • BI3810 Field Skills in Animal Behaviour: admin, lecturing, practical, marking
  • BI1512 Diversity of Life: admin, lecturing, practical, marking

Course contributor

  • BI1512 Diversity of Life: lecturing, practical, marking
  • ZO4539 Advanced Behavioural Ecology: lecturing, practical, marking
  • BI4017 Honours Essays: supervision, marking
  • BI4016 Honours Projects: supervision, marking
  • BI5002 MSci Projects: supervision, marking

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