Qualification components

The study programme is constructed in a modular and flexible way: Doctoral candidates in the RTG 2300 must collect 24 ECTS. The module catalogue includes obligatory and elective courses. The programme consists of a broad spectrum of lectures, seminars, advanced methodology courses, workshops, colloquia, and field excursions. Courses are concentrated in winter terms to avoid time conflicts with their intense fieldwork during the vegetation period. The study programme consists of five qualification components:

It aims to prepare common ground for all research projects, to provide PhD students with a general understanding of the overall research questions of the RTG and of the specific role of their subproject therein. Therefore, it consists of a kick-off event, a joint excursion, a course on good scientific practice and a retreat as well as an introductory week with lectures of various topics of common interest like ecosystem functioning, forest management and history in Germany, as well as workshops on study design and data management in the RTG.

Central to the qualification programme are the expert knowledge courses providing students with topical information on forest ecosystems and advanced methods. Each of the PIs or groups of PIs offers one of these courses and introduces the PhD students to their field of research and the methods used. The courses foster the interdisciplinary approach of the RTG by providing PhD students with a better understanding of their peers’ theories and methods. Courses include the following topics:

  • Ecology of mixed forests and methods of ecophysiological research on trees
  • Concepts and tools for collecting and analyzing spatial data in animal ecology
  • Use of stable isotope technologies in forest ecosystem research
  • Molecular methods in ecology
  • Statistical modelling and advanced regression analyses
  • Applied programming of forest growth and yield modelling in Java (1st cohort)
  • Methods of biodiversity-ecosystem functioning research (2nd cohort)
  • The economics of mixed forests (2nd cohort)

This part has been designed to increase the doctoral researchers’ competitiveness in (inter-)national job markets – both inside and outside of academia – and intends to convey key qualifications in scientific analysis and writing. PhD students are given flexibility to choose between courses offered by the RTG itself and courses organized by the graduate schools for forest and agricultural (GFA), social (GGG) and natural sciences (GAUSS), or other institutions. PhD students are also encouraged to attend summer schools and to take courses offered by other universities (abroad). The only obligatory course in the method component is an introduction to BExIS, the joint data management system used for storing and sharing data in the RTG.

Each PhD student is obliged to regularly attend and actively participate in both colloquia offered by the working group of their supervisor and in the annual RTG research seminar (status seminar), mandatory for all RTG members (both PhD students and PIs). By doing so they learn to present and defend their research in both a disciplinary and interdisciplinary setting and to critically reflect and discuss their fellow PhD students’ research projects. The RTG’s annual research seminar fosters interdisciplinary discussions and joint projects and analyses.

This component consists of a of a lecture series in which attendance is compulsory. In addition, a presentation at an international conference or a meeting with a potential employer can be selected. Each of the PhD students organizes one internationally visible scholar’s visit and chairs their talk and discussion in the guest lecture series. This component has been designed to convey important skills for the PhD students’ future careers by providing them with experiences in engaging in the academic and related fields and important knowledge in science management.

An overview of the study program can be found here.


Each PhD-student is supervised by a thesis committee (TC) of three authorized examiners according to rules of the examination regulations of the GFA. They meet 6, 18 and 30 months after the start of each cohort to evaluate the PhD research plan and progress and to discuss these issues with the student. Thereby, the TC ensures, that the overall three-year time horizon of a PhD project can be met.
On the one hand the concept of supervision aims to guide PhD students strictly and caringly towards completion of the degree, and on the other hand to provide them with enough freedom to independently develop ideas and own initiatives.


As part of the qualification program, we organize career talks with alumni and other forest scientists working in different professional fields.

  • preparing (PhD) students for the life after graduation by fostering the discussion between Alumni and PhD students about career options and necessary qualifications

  • supporting the Alumni network and strengthening the ties and exchange between Alumni and current (PhD) students

Previous talks

Contribute to our series of career talks!
You graduated from one of the faculties involved in the RTG and you have an interesting job or professional experiences you want to share with us? Please contact our scientific coordinator, we are always looking for additional speakers for our series of career talks.