Eivin Røskaft, professor of evolutionary biology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), served as a project leader at CAS during the 2009/10 academic year. His project, Coevolutionary Interactions and Adaptations in a Metapopulation Context, explored what has been described as a ‘coevolutionary arms race between parasites and their hosts’ -- specifically, cuckoos and the birds from other species that are tricked into raising their chicks. 

Røskaft continues to research at NTNU, where he currently coordinates the EU-funded African-European scientific network AfricanBioServices.

He looked back on his stay at the Centre in an interview last month.

Why did you apply to CAS ?

I had learned about CAS in the early 1990s, and I knew it was an opportunity to work on cutting-edge research. I served as the head of the Department of Biology from 2002 to 2009, and I thought a year at CAS would be a good way to wrap up that time and rebuild my connection to my academic field.
I still rank my time at CAS as the best year of my research career. We were surrounded by other scholars who were interested in the same topics, and we had all the time at our disposal to work on what we wanted to work on.

What has happened in your career since your stay?

Our stay surpassed our expectations. We published a book in Norwegian about the cuckoo. We also published a great deal of scholarly articles -- probably 40 to 50 of them. And we attended the International Symposium on Avian Brood Parasitism in China in 2012 and edited a special edition of Chinese Birds [an international journal of ornithology jointly sponsored by Beijing Forestry University and the China Ornithological Society] in 2013.

One of the positive outcomes of my time at CAS was that it helped me refine my ability to write grant applications and select the right contributors. We tried to keep working on the cuckoo project, but we ran into issues securing research funding. Luckily I had other projects to fall back on -- like my work in Africa, which helped me land funding from the EU for AfricanBioServices. Actually, it’s the largest EU-funded project in NTNU’s history.

What advice would you give to future project leaders at CAS?

You have to find the right combination of scholars. I tried to pick people who complemented one another. Don’t just think about academic prestige -- invite some younger scholars as well.

It’s also very important that your stay involves more than just research. We got together outside of the Centre about once a week. We even started a whiskey tasting club. It was actually a good thing that none of us came to the Centre from Oslo. That way we didn’t have any prior obligations that prevented us from participating. Only one fellow brought family members, and they too became a part of our little family at the Centre.