«You have to find the right people in the right places.»

Marta Manser

Prof. Dr. Marta Manser
Biologist, Behavioural Science. Marta Manser is currently researching the communication behaviour of meerkats in the Kalahari.


1988 – 1994 Biology degree, University of Basel
1994 – 1998 Ph.D., University of Cambridge, UK
1998 – 2001 Postdoctoral studies, University of Pennsylvania, USA
2002 – 2007 SNSF Professorship, University of Zurich
2008 - 2015 Associate professorship in Behavioural Biology, University of Zurich  
since 2015  Full professor in Behavioural Biology, University of Zurich  

Prof. Dr. Marta Manser

What made you decide to become an academic?
For my initial vocational training, I completed an apprenticeship as a Biology lab technician at Hoffmann La Roche, which was both fascinating and challenging. During the apprenticeship, however, I realised that the work would involve a great deal of routine. I didn’t like the idea of that. After completing my apprenticeship, I worked in a laboratory for several years, before taking some time out and spending a few months doing volunteer work as a park ranger in the Zion National Park in Utah, USA. By the time I got back, I knew I wanted to study Biology and Journalism. I enrolled at the AKAD and prepared for the Swiss Federal school-leaving certificate while working full time.

What do you like about your job?
I love the research, the international aspect and my role as leader of a highly motivated and enthusiastic team. I’m not just creating something that has already been created by others, I'm working on new ideas and findings. 

Who was your greatest source of support in your professional life? And personally?
From the very beginning, I’ve had to organise my own funding for projects. Thanks to a grant from my former employer, I was able to buy the off-road vehicle I needed to complete my thesis in Namibia. Since then I’ve always been lucky enough to find the right people in the right places.

Did you have any role models who had an impact on your career? If so, who?
When I was eleven, I used to watch documentaries such as “Don't let the Serengeti die" and nature programmes presented by Hans A. Traber. As a child I was completely captivated by Bernhard Grzimek's films. I was sure I wanted to do something like that too.

Do you have any advice for young, ambitious female researchers?
Having an enthusiastic attitude can make a real difference. The most important thing is therefore to know what fascinates you. You then need a great deal of initiative. You shouldn’t take criticism personally, but see it in an objective light and use it to help you improve. And when you’re carrying out field research in extreme conditions, it is absolutely vital that you know yourself very, very well.

Institute of Evolutionary Biology
and Environmental Studies

University of Zurich
Winterthurerstr. 190
8057 Zurich
Tel. +41 635 52 82
marta.manser (at) ieu.uzh.ch