The second part of the 19th century saw the emergence of several marine stations worldwide, including the Station Biologique de Roscoff (SBR) in France. Their creation was motivated, among several factors, by zoologists’ desire to make zoology not only a descriptive field but an experimental discipline as well, as was already the case for physiology. In keeping with this idea, the organization of courses in experimental biology has been a long tradition at the SBR and has always involved the implication of resident and external researchers.

1999 - 2001

In 1999, André Adoutte (Gifs/Yvette, 1947-2002) and Jo Van den Biggelaar (Utrecht University) introduced a new advanced course in Evolutionary Developmental Biology at the SBR with the support of the European Commission through a Training and Mobility of Researchers (TMR) programme. In essence, the course aimed to provide to students with an intense (5-week+) practical experience covering the different techniques available to address biological questions in evolutionary developmental biology, as well as present current research in this field. It was not restricted to marine and metazoan organisms, and certain modules were dedicated to classical organisms (ex: Drosophila, C. elegans) and algae. The first edition of this course was co-organized with resident researchers Robert Bellé and Patrick Cormier, and thanks to EU funding, this course ran for three consecutive years.

2004 - 2008

After this first initiative, a new Experimental Developmental Biology course on marine invertebrates began in 2004, focusing more specifically on marine and invertebrate organisms (sponges, cnidarians, acœls, echinoderms, and ascidians). It was organized collaboratively by Volker Schmid, Brigitte Galliot, Stefano Piraino, Patrick Cormier, and Xavier Bailly. While the course remained intensive, its duration was reduced to two weeks, which was already deemed a sufficient amount of time for students to grasp the methods and concepts. Sadly, Volker Schmid passed away in 2008 and, in a paper retracing the life of this great zoologist, S. Piraino, B. Galliot and W. Gehring (*) proposed to rename the course The Volker Schmid Training Course (STC) in his honor.

2008 – present

Since 2008, the STC has evolved while keeping similar objectives and outlines. As the wide diversity of organisms presented in the STC now spans the eukaryotic tree (and even beyond), the evolution of mechanisms, processes, and structures is still covered but the research topics have diversified to include regeneration and stem cells, life cycle complexity, neurobiology, fertilization and cell-cycle regulation, control of cell shape involving physical cues, and modelling of organism growth. The mission of the different researchers and contributors involved in this course is also to present the various tools for functional approaches that are currently applied to their favorite organisms as well as the latest genomic data.

After the TMR programme, the course received financial support locally (SBR) as well as from the Swiss Foundation, the different institutes and universities of the contributors, the lab of Heinrich Reichert (1949-2019), and more recently from Simon Sprecher’s lab. The course also received a grant from EuroMarine (European Marine research Network) in 2015. Since 2012, the scientific and logistical coordination of the course has been ensured by Agnès Boutet, a resident researcher at the SBR.

With the aim to free up time for practical lab work at the marine station and to increase opportunities for students’ interaction with the different instructors to tackle conceptual questions related to academic research, an online companion resource for the STC is currently in development: the DigitalMarine platform. The learning content provided by this platform is unveiled to students several weeks before the beginning of the STC and allows them to familiarize themselves with the different marine organisms and topics through asynchronous online modules. They are thus given greater autonomy in their learning experience and substantial preparation in order to dedicate more in-class time to applying theoretical knowledge through experimentation, observation, and discussion.

The development of this hybrid format for the STC (partially off-campus distance learning via the platform, partially on-campus learning at the marine station) is supported by the European Commission through the strategic partnership Erasmus programme with financing from 2019 to 2021. It is also important to note that the development of a hybrid learning experience is the fruit of careful reflections on how we use digital tools to enhance teaching and learning. In this case, the amount of interacting time spent by instructors and students is not reduced, but modified to provide students with a theoretical background before starting the concrete and practical activities of the course.

The Schmid Training Course is currently part of several Master Course Programmes

SU (Sorbonne Université)

Master BMC – specialty "Développement et cellules souches"

Master BIP – specialty “Biologie et Bioressources Marines”  

UNISALENTO (University of Salento, Lecce)

Master Biological Sciences specialty “Biologia sperimentale degli organismi marini”

University of Fribourg

Master in Developmental and Neurobiology

*Volker Schmid (1939 – 2008). In memoriam. The International Journal of Developmental Biology. W. Gehring, B. Galliot and S. Piraino.

Present contributors

Maja Adamska, Xavier Bailly, Stephanie Bertrand, Agnès Boutet, Jean-Philippe Chambon, Bénédicte Charrier, Patrick Cormier, Salvatore D’Aniello, Sébastien Darras, Alexander Ereskovsky, Eve Gazave, Hans-Jürgen Osigus, Julia Morales, Stefano Piraino, Nicolas Rabet, Bernd Schierwater, Simon Sprecher, Stefano Tiozzo

Past contributors (non exhaustive list):

Maria-Ina Arnone, Jaume Baguña, Loriano Ballarin, Bernard Billoud, François-Yves Bouget, Matteo Cammarata, Daniela Candia Carnevali, Elisabeth Christians, Bertrand Cosson, Win Damen, Jean Deutsch, Cristiano Di Benedetto, Dario Fassini, Marie-Anne Felix, Brigitte Galliot, Walter Gehring, Adriana Giangrande, Volker Hartenstein, Andreas Hejnol, Peter Holland, Samuel Iglesias, Kay Kamm, Sven Leininger, Maria Leptin, Sylvie Mazan, Laurent Meijer, Emmanèle Mouchel-Vielh, Ricardo Neves, Claus Nielsen, Angela Nieto, Omid Paknia, Roberta Pennati, Eric Queinnec, S. Reber-Müller, Heinrich Reichert, Emili Salo, Christian Sardet, Volker Schmid, Ralf Sommer, Diethard Tautz, Muriel Umbhauer, Karolin von der Chevallerie.