Institut für Evolution und Ökologie

PhD student Retreat

PhD Retreat 2018

Pfälzerwald 18-20 October

To start the new semester with a good mood, an adventurous and interesting weekend in Pfälzerwald was organized by EVEREST students, for EVEREST students. 15 of us took part and enjoyed the sun, the nature and each other’s company at its fullest.


We started off our weekend with an intensive hike in the Dahner Felsenland where we discovered the intriguing sandstone formations, which are well-known in the region, as well as its beautiful nature. In the late afternoon we drove up to the Hohe List, the house of a forester, offering cozy rooms for us to spend the night in the middle of a forest. At our arrival, we directly teamed up to cook for the whole weekend. After extensive amounts of food found its way into our bellies, we continued with a science pub quiz. Due to our interest towards each other’s research, discussions already came up when we were just presenting ourselves and our research. This ended up taking up most of our evening but ensured getting to know each other quite well.


On Friday we headed out for two excursions. The main topic for the day was the local ecology, including the fauna and flora we encountered, and nature conservation. In the morning we visited the Biosphärenhaus Pfälzerwald/Nordvogesen. Here, the museum explaining what these biospheres are, their background and what they mean for the region.
Not only learning was done in this place, all of us survived the treetop path and ended the adventure with a ride down the slide! Before moving on to our next destination, we had lunch, enjoying the perfect weather.


For our second excursion we went to one of the actual biosphere reserves. Accompanied by a guide, we learned   about the history of these reserves and how the modern viticulture interacts with these biospheres. Also, the implications for the future of this interaction was discussed. Our different backgrounds made this guided tour even more interesting as everyone brought in different information on the topic.


After a whole day outside, we retreated to our cozy house in the forest and played silly games and shared some good discussions. The next morning, after a copious breakfast it was already time to head back home, say goodbye, pack the leftovers and get back to work with a refreshed mind. 

Nina Van Schepdael and Laura Limmer

PhD retreat 2017

5.-7 Oct 2017, Burg Derneck, Hayingen

16 PhD students from EVEREST arrived at the late afternoon at the Castel Derneck near Hayingen, situated on top of a hill in the Lauter Valley and includes castle ruins and a guest house. In absence of modern heating in the guest quarters the wood burning ceramic heaters kept it nice and warm!

Dinner preparation and funny games took up our evenings, providing excellent ways to get to know each other. In three teams we played “guess what I am drawing” to explain our PhD topics and a trivia with questions all around our work. Questions included calculations, identifying human ancestors,designing experiments, coloring, and more.

The trivia game was a resounding success, as good discussion followed almost every question. On Friday the winner Team 2 (Julia S., Deike, Peter, and Gillian) earned certificates and, most importantly, chocolate as prizes.

Friday and Saturday both included excursions focusing on evolution and ecology. On Friday we had the opportunity to visit the former military training base in Münsingen in a 4 hour guided tour. This area belongs to the UNESCO Biosphärengebiet of the Swabian Alb. We walked 8 km in lovely sun and heavy rain, alternating within minutes, and heard lots of interasting facts and stories of this area. The tour was very interesting because it related to each of our work.

Saturday’s excursion included a tour of Karlshöhle and Bärenhöhle, two connected caves near the town of Sonnenbühl that are famous for their extensive paleontological deposits.

The retreat ended Saturday afternoon at the Sommerbobbahn in Erpfingen, only a few kilometers from the caves. Some of us rode the bobsleds while others enjoyed the sunshine. We gathered together with snacks and drinks at the bobbahn café for some final discussion before we parted and headed home. Overall, the retreat was an excellent beginning to the new semester and an important time to build bonds with other PhD students in the Everest program.

Gillian Wong, Anna Kirschbaum, Ronja Ratzbor