Estelle Bruni

My research interests focus on soil microbial diversity and biogeography, specifically targeting terrestrial free-living soil protists and testate amoebae. By integrating morphological, molecular, and modelling techniques, I aim (1) to further expand our understanding of soil protist distribution at multiple scales, (2) to investigate their dispersal capabilities and limitations, especially with regards to isolated islands, and (3) to assess their extinction risks due to climate change.

I started my PhD thesis as a doctoral researcher and teaching assistant in the Laboratory of Soil Biodiversity in February 2019. I supervised by Prof. Edward Mitchell (thesis director) and Dr. Guillaume Lentendu (thesis co-director).



  • 02.2019-present

Doctoral researcher in microbial biogeography and teaching assistant, Laboratory of Soil Biodiversity, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland
 - Conducted and managed three own research projects
 - Shared outcomes through scientific publications, at international conferences, and by organizing public outreach
 - Collaborated on the ‘Biodiversity and biogeography of soil protists in continental and oceanic islands’ SNSF project (grant 182531 awarded to Prof. Edward Mitchell, 2019-2024)
 - Acquired sampling permit, ensured compliance with the Nagoya Protocol, and managed fieldwork
 - Mentored student, supervised 2 Master theses, and taught 280+ hours of practical courses

  • 8.2017-9.2018

Research assistant, Limnological Station, University of Zurich, Kilchberg, Switzerland (Prof. Thomas Posch)
 - SNSF project ‘Bacteria-protists interactions illustrated by the amoebae Nuclearia spp. and their bacterial symbionts’ (grant 159842 awarded to Prof. Thomas Posch, 2015-2018)
 - SNSF project ‘Co-occurrence networks in aquatic food webs: ciliates as models’ (grant 160603 awarded to Prof. Thomas Posch, 2015-2018)

  • 11.2014-05.2015

Student assistant, Bioavailability Group, UFZ Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany (Dr. Lukas Wick)
 - Internship on bacterial biodegration of organic contaminants (PACs) in soil



  • 04.2023-present

Visiting PhD student, Ecospat - Spatial Ecology Group, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Remote collaboration in species distribution modelling with Prof. Antoine Guisan and team.

  • 02.2019-present

Doctoral researcher and teaching assistant, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland
PhD thesis under the supervision of Prof. Edward Mitchell (thesis director) and Dr. Guillaume Lentendu (thesis co-supervisor), Laboratory of Soil Biodiversity.
Topics: diversity and distribution of soil protists along elevation gradients; assessment of long-distance dispersal and dispersal limitations of testate amoebae at global-scale using species distribution modelling.

  • 09.2015-06.2017

Master of Science in Biology (option Microbiology), University of Zurich, Switzerland
Master thesis under the supervision of Prof. Thomas Posch, Limnological Station.
Topic: effect of lake warming on seasonal successions of ciliates

  • 09.2011-09.2014

Bachelor of Science in Biology, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland



Teaching assistant at the Institute of Biology, University of Neuchâtel, for the following courses:

  • Protistology practical courses (3BL1209)

Course co-leader during autumn semesters 2019, 2020, 2021
56h/semester, 50-60 students

  • Soil Biology practical courses (3BL2168)

Course co-leader during spring semesters 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022
20h/semester, 15-20 students

  • Introductory excursions (3BL1205)

Speaker during excursions, autumn semester 2022, 2023
8h/semester, 50-60 students

  • Scientific methods (3BL2286)

Course assistant during autumn semester 2022
18h/semester, 15-20 students


Master theses co-supervision

Roxane Gualino (2023-present, MSc in Biogeosciences): ‘Diversité des protistes le long de gradients d’élévation dans les Açores et les Alpes: étude comparative dans la litière de Calluna vulgaris’ (provisory title; main supervisor : Prof. Edward Mitchell)

Joris Weber (2019-2020, MSc in Biogeosciences): ‘Biodiversité et distribution des amibes à thèque du sol le long de gradients d’altitude dans différentes régions du monde’ (main supervisor : Prof. Edward Mitchell)


Awards and grants

2nd best PhD presentation award, ISTA10 (10th International Symposium on Testate Amoebae), Madrid, Spain, 2-6 October 2023.

Grant “Subvention égalité” awarded by the Equal Opportunity Commission of the University of Neuchâtel,
Switzerland. Proposal: ‘Casting light on testate amoeba diversity using a single-cell DNA-barcoding approach’.



My research in the media

Mission nature on my research topic in La Salamandre by Sofia Matos [in French] – to be published soon

Interview of Prof. Edward Mitchell in CQFD (RTS): Micro-organismes face au changement climatique, 27th October 2023 [in French]. Podcast available online: https://www.rts.ch/audio-podcast/2023/audio/micro-organismes-face-au-changement-climatique-26952091.html

Short article in 20 minutes : ‘Les micro-organismes du sol peinent avec le changement climatique’, 27th October 2023 [in French]. Available online: https://www.20min.ch/fr/story/les-micro-organismes-du-sol-peinent-avec-le-changement-climatique-337443032242



Bruni, E.P., Lorite, J., Peñas, J., Mulot, M., Fournier, B., Vittoz, P., Mitchell, E.A.D. & Lentendu, G. (in review). Higher spatial than seasonal beta diversity of soil protists along elevation gradients. Frontiers of Biogeography.

Bruni, E.P.*, Rusconi, O.*, Broennimann, O., Adde, A., Jauslin, R., Krashevska, V., Kosakyan, A., Armynot du Châtelet, E., Alcino, J.P.B., Beyens, L., Blandenier, Q., Bobrov, A., Burdman, L., Duckert, C., Fernández, L.D., Gomes e Souza, M.B., Heger, T.J., Koenig, I., Lahr, D.J.G., McKeown, M., Meisterfeld, R., Singer, D., Voelcker, E., Wilmshurst, J., Wohlhauser, S., Wilkinson, D.M., Guisan, A. & Mitchell, E.A.D. (2024). Global distribution modelling of a conspicuous Gondwanian soil protist reveals latitudinal dispersal limitation and range contraction in response to climate warming. Diversity and Distributions, 30(2), e13779. https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.13779

Praeg, N., Steinwandter, M., Urbach, D., Snethlage, M. A., Alves, R. P., Apple, M. E., Britton, A. J., Bruni, E. P., Chen, T.-W., Dumack, K., Fernandez-Mendoza, F., Freppaz, M., Frey, B., Fromin, N., Geisen, S., Grube, M., Guariento, E., Guisan, A., Ji, Q.-Q., …, Seeber, J. (2023). Biodiversity in mountain soils above the treeline. BioRxiv preprint, 2023.12.22.569885.

Lentendu, G., Bruni, E. P., Ah-Peng, C., Fujinuma, J., Kubota, Y., Lorite, J., Peñas, J., Huang, S., Strasberg, D., Vittoz, P., & Mitchell, E. A. D. (2023). Soil filtration-sedimentation improves shelled protist recovery in eukaryotic eDNA surveys. Molecular Ecology Resources, 23(6), 1361–1371. https://doi.org/10.1111/1755-0998.13808

Posch, T., Pitsch, G., & Bruni, E. P. (2022). Protists: Ciliates. In Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, Second Edition, Volume 1 (Eds.: Mehner, T., Tockner, K.). Elsevier, Amsterdam, 639-649. link Pröschold, T., Rieser, D., Darienko, T. Nachbaur, L., Kammerlander, B., Kuimei, Q., Pitsch, G., Bruni, E.P., Zhishuai, Q., Forster, D., Rad-Menendez, C., Posch, T., Stoeck, T. & Sonntag, B. (2021). An integrative approach sheds new light onto the systematics and ecology of the widespread ciliate genus Coleps (Ciliophora, Prostomatea). Scientific Reports, 11, 5916. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-819166-8.00001-3

Forster, D., Qu, Z., Pitsch, G., Bruni, E.P., Kammerlander, B., Pröschold, T., Sonntag, B., Posch, T. & Stoeck, T. (2021). Lake Ecosystem Robustness and Resilience Inferred from a Climate-Stressed Protistan Plankton Network. Microorganisms, 9(3), 549. https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms9030549

Qu, Z., Forster, D., Bruni, E.P., Frantal, D., Kammerlander, B., Nachbaur, L., Pitsch, G., Posch, T., Pröschold, T., Teubner, K., Sonntag, B. & Stoeck, T. (2021). Aquatic food webs in deep temperate lakes: Key species establish through their autecological versatility. Molecular Ecology, 30(4), 1053-1071. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.15776

Šimek, K., Grujcic, V., Nedoma, J., Jezberová, J., Šorf, M., Matoušu, A., Pechar, L., Posch, T., Bruni, E.P., & Vrba, J. (2019). Microbial food webs in hypertrophic fishponds: Omnivorous ciliate taxa are major protistan bacterivores. Limnology and Oceanography, 64(5), 2295-2309. https://doi.org/10.1002/lno.11260

Pitsch, G., Bruni, E. P., Forster, D., Qu, Z., Sonntag, B., Stoeck, T., & Posch, T. (2019). Seasonality of Planktonic Freshwater Ciliates: Are Analyses Based on V9 Regions of the 18S rRNA Gene Correlated With Morphospecies Counts? Frontiers in Microbiology, 10, 248. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2019.00248

Otto, S., Bruni, E. P., Harms, H., & Wick, L. Y. (2017). Catch me if you can: dispersal and foraging of Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus 109J along mycelia. ISME Journal, 11(2), 386-393. https://doi.org/10.1038/ismej.2016.135

Estelle Bruni

Assistante doctorante



+41 (0)32 718 31 16

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