Gabor Herczeg


Curriculum Vitae



Personal data and contact information


Name: Gábor Herczeg

Date and place of birth: 28. 06. 1978., Budapest, Hungary

Gender: male

Nationality: Hungarian

Work address: Ecological Genetics Research Unit, Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, PO Box 65, FIN-00014, Finland



Education and degrees


1., MSc in Applied Zoology (Szent István University, Budapest, Hungary, 2001).

Title: Distribution and ecology of the Snake-eyed skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii fitzingeri Mertens, 1952) in Hungary

Main subject:

The Snake-eyed skink is a strictly protected and potentially endangered endemic vertebrate of the Carpathian Basin that represents a unique element in the European herpetofauna. Despite this, its ecology and actual distribution were virtually unknown in Hungary. I described its current Hungarian distribution, listed the factors threatening its local populations, and carried out a detailed ecological survey in one typical population.


2., PhD in Ecology (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary 2006)

Title: Behavioural thermoregulation in reptiles: a cost-benefit approach

Main subject:

Reptiles are known to actively regulate their body temperature by behavioural and physiological adjustments in order to maintain it in an often narrow and high range. The cost-benefit model of reptilian thermoregulation predicts variation in the optimal behavioural strategy according to the thermal environment and the costs and benefits of the behaviour. I tested the model’s predictions by studying the thermoregulatory strategy of reptiles living in thermally extreme habitats and conducting laboratory experiments. I also studied the relationship between thermoregulation and other fitness-related physiological and behavioural mechanisms.


Language proficiency examination:

  • middle grade in English (National Language Examination Committee, Hungary)
  • elementary grade in German (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary)






I started active independent research during my Master’s degree. Since then, I have been involved in a wide variety of projects from applied conservation biology through behavioural ecology and evolutionary ecology to quantitative genetics and functional genomics. The diversity of work I have conducted resulted in experience including fieldwork with various taxa (from vipers to sticklebacks) and laboratory experiments (from behavioural assays to complex breeding designs) coupled with several different statistical/analytical tools. I think that the broad range of my former and current interests is truly beneficial and aids in having a multidisciplinary approach. During these projects I have been cooperating with many researchers in several research groups, taken part in supervision of many students in different countries under different conditions.


Full-time positions:

  • 2001-2006: PhD student in the Behavioural Ecology Group, Department of Systematic Zoology and Ecology, Eötvös Loránd University (Hungary)
  • 2006- : Postdoctoral researcher in the Ecological Genetics Research Unit, Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki (Finland)


Research philosophy


I am among the lucky few who made the decision about their future early, following their deep interest towards a certain field. I was not more than six years old when I declared that nothing else interests me than nature, and especially the living creatures in it. This attitude did not change much during the last decades, so practically, I can hardly separate my work from my hobby.


Perhaps this is the reason why I believe that one should not bind him/herself to a certain limited subfield in biology, especially not based on mastering one particular methodology, being it analytical or statistical, or one particular model species / system. Being involved in as many projects of different fields as one can handle is the key to develop a broader view and the capacity to connect results from fields that interact far too infrequently. This is especially important nowadays, when specializing into some very limited area of research is not uncommon. I strongly believe that the great advances in understanding how nature functions often comes from multidisciplinary approaches and attempts to connect previously unconnected fields where advanced knowledge is available.


Research ethics


Doing research with animals sometimes must include capturing animals from the wild and studying them in lab, breeding animals in lab and in some cases killing animals. I cannot say that all these could be avoided; but researchers working with living creatures must respect them, and must design their work so that it causes the possible minimal stress to the absolute minimum number of animals. I think it is important, because many researchers, especially those working with hundreds or thousands of lab bred individuals might unintentionally look at their study animals as objects.


A completely different but similarly important ethical issue is about handling data and results. I think that for the sake of advance in science, one should not hide data or results for strategic or whatsoever reasons. I think the more connections are made between research groups or researchers (luckily, nowadays geographic distance is not a significant problem anymore), the higher quality science can be achieved – quicker. I know and had experienced that collaborations are not always as efficient as they should be, and am aware the constraints imposed by our highly competitive profession, but also believe that being open, ready to discuss and cooperate will pay off in the long run.




Experience in teaching


I have been involved in teaching taxonomy, ecology and behavioural ecology in the Eötvös Loránd University (Budapest, Hungary). I have lead practical (lab) courses in taxonomy covering the whole animal kingdom, and summer field courses focusing on taxonomy and biodiversity. In ecology, I gave practical courses on interspecific interactions (competition, predation). Finally I gave lectures in behavioural ecology for advanced students focusing on different aspects of sexual selection. I prepared all teaching material needed.


I am able to give lectures in English and Hungarian.


Experience in tutoring


I have supervised seven master students in four universities, and am currently involved in the supervision of seven PhD students in three universities.


Teaching philosophy


Before one can start independent research, a relatively large amount of background knowledge is necessary. I think that the added value of a teacher on top of the knowledge that is available from textbooks or similar material is on ‘selling’ the given topic, i.e. waking up the students’ interest, but even more importantly, by giving practical courses and special seminars in order to pass personal experience and views that are not available otherwise, and to provoke the students’ active contribution (other then pure learning). In short, I believe that the teacher starts where the textbooks end.


In my vision, the most important thing (assuming students who already did gather the necessary background knowledge of their fields of interest) in becoming a successful scientist is the acquirement of scientific thinking. Scientific thinking (for both basic or applied science) includes the assessment of the potential impact of a planned study on the scientific field / community, the consideration of available resources and facilities (i.e. being realistic), the designing of studies that properly address and test the question raised, and the understanding of the importance of getting the results widely known / available (i.e. publication). Hence, I believe that courses specifically aiming fields that are semi-independent of the specific scientific area, like research planning, literature search, methodology of publication and grant application, statistics in general are extremely important for a good start.


Besides these courses, the first step in conducting independent science as MSc or PhD students can also have a serious, sometimes almost irreversible effect on one’s whole future carrier. Students should be prepared to understand the importance of the research group and research topic they pick to join to / pursue in their future. Being a good supervisor is perhaps the largest challenge in terms of teaching dimensions for a senior scientist. The key is to find the delicate balance of providing enough support (so that the student does not waste time and energy due to easy-to-avoid mistakes) and independence (so that the student is not degraded to an ‘assistant who even writes the papers’).

Latest publications

  1. Deciphering the genomic architecture of the stickleback brain with a novel multilocus gene-mapping approach

    Li, Z., Guo, B., Yang, J., Herczeg, G., Gonda, M. A., Balazs, G., Shikano, T., Calboli, F. C. F. & Merilä, J., Mar 2017, In : Molecular Ecology. 26, 6, p. 1557-1575 19 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

  2. Effects of perceived predation risk and social environment on the development of three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) morphology

    Ab Ghani, N. I., Herczeg, G. & Merilä, J., Jul 2016, In : Biological journal of the Linnean Society. 118, 3, p. 520-535 16 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

  3. On plasticity of aggression: influence of past and present predation risk, social environment and sex

    Herczeg, G., Ab Ghani, N. I. & Merilä, J., Jan 2016, In : Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 70, 1, p. 179-187 9 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

View all (69) »

Latest activities

  1. 13th International Behavioral Ecology Congress

    Gabor Herczeg (Speaker: Presenter)

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesOrganisation and participation in conferences, workshops, courses, seminars

  2. 7th International Symposium on the Lacertids of the Mediterranean Basin

    Gabor Herczeg (Speaker: Presenter)

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesOrganisation and participation in conferences, workshops, courses, seminars

  3. Amphibia - Reptilia (Journal)

    Gabor Herczeg (Reviewer)

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

View all (54) »

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