Master of Science in Biology: Herpetology

Studying Amphibians and Reptiles
Studying Amphibians and Reptiles
Studying Amphibians and Reptiles
Studying Amphibians and Reptiles
Studying Amphibians and Reptiles
Studying Amphibians and Reptiles
Studying Amphibians and Reptiles

Some of the world’s finest herpetologists have joined forces to organise a two-year Master specialisation in Herpetology, the study of amphibians and reptiles. The Master programme in Herpetology addresses students with a Bachelor degree in Biology and prepares them for an active professional role in herpetological research. Although this specialised Master is organised in the capital of Europe, ecological and herpetological field courses in European and tropical countries form an important part of this programme. As a student, you will be in a stimulating environment, with fellow students and visiting top scientists sharing your passion for amphibians and reptiles. The goal of this programme is to prepare you in a unique way for a professional career in herpetology, but due to the integrative approach and embedding of this master in a standard Biology programme, this degree also leaves doors open for any other career in Biology.

 

Programme structure

Compulsory course units: 45 ECTS (1st year) + 30 ECTS (2nd year)
Elective course units: 15 ECTS to be chosen from any master programme after approval of the examination commission
Master's thesis (2nd year): 30 ECTS

An overview of the course programme of the graduation option Herpetology can be found here.

Click here to take a look at an example timetable.

> Pim Arntzen
> Franky Bossuyt
> David Gower
> Philippe Kok
> Frank Pasmans
> Kim Roelants
> Ines Van Bocxlaer
> Raoul Van Damme
> Miguel Vences
> Mark Wilkinson

 

 

 


Pim Arntzen
Senior Researcher
Terrestrial Zoology
Naturalis - National Museum of Natural History
Leiden, the Netherlands
https://science.naturalis.nl/en/people/scientists/pim-arntzen/

The research interests of Pim Arntzen are in Systematics, Biogeography and Evolutionary Biology, to which he mostly employs European amphibians as study objects. Some of his work has a taxonomic basis, including revisions of Cave Salamanders (genus Proteus), Newts (genus Triturus) and Midwife Toads (genus Alytes). He is also working on the expression of master control (Hox) genes in Triturus newts, with Prof. M. Richardson at the Biological Institute of Leiden University. Another interest is in Biogeography and Hybrid Zones. A current focus of his work is on the effect of the quality of the terrestrial habitat on dispersal / gene-flow in metapopulations of pond-breeding toads.

Course
> Population and Conservation Genetics

 

 


Franky Bossuyt
Research Professor
Amphibian Evolution lab
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
www.amphibia.be

Franky Bossuyt is the head of Amphibian Evolution Lab and the initiator of this Master program in Herpetology. His research is focussing on many aspects of amphibian evolution, but mainly focussed on the Indian subcontinent. He described several new frog species and genera, and co-discovered the purple frog, a frog that belongs to a new family. Franky is interested in the use of molecular phylogenies to elucidate evolutionary patterns, and the processes that produce them, in amphibians. He considers science to become real fun with an integrative approach, in which tempo and mode of evolution are linked to biogeography, speciation, morphological diversification, or biochemical communication. He has published multiple herpetological papers in high-ranking journals such as Nature, Science, and PNAS.

Courses
> Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution
> Systematics, Phylogeny & Natural History of Amphibians

 

 


David Gower
Researcher
Department of Zoology,
Natural History Museum
London, UK

David Gower co-leads with Mark Wilkinson the Herpetology Research Group of the Natural History Museum of London. He is primarily an evolutionary and systematic biologist with a particular focus in collections-based organismal biology. Taxonomically his work is focused on caecilian amphibians and burrowing and aquatic snakes, but with substantial expertise also in Triassic archosaurs. He is a member of the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group, Editor for snakes and caecilians for the journal Zootaxa. Editor-in-Chief of the UK Systematics Association, and a leader in both research and graduate student training. He has supervised five PhD students and published more than 100 research papers, on topics as varied as palaeontology, mitogenomics, phylogenetic methods, ecology, anatomy, biogeography, reproductive biology and conservation.

Course
> Natural History of Burrowing Herpetofauna

 

 


Philippe Kok
Postdoctoral Researcher
Amphibian Evolution lab, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
& Vertebrates Department (Herpetology),
Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
www.philippekok.com

Philippe Kokʼs primary expertise is systematics and taxonomy. He has over 16 years of experience conducting field research in the Neotropics, having led numerous expeditions in northern South America, mostly in previously unexplored areas. He notably received extensive funding from the Belgian Development Cooperation to train Guyanese students in field herpetology, taxonomy and para-taxonomy. He published more than 35 peer-reviewed papers, including a book on the taxonomic study of amphibians, and described more than 20 new taxa, including new genera and a new family.

Course
> Field trip herpetology
 

 

 


Frank Pasmans
Senior Lecturer
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Ghent University, Belgium
Belgium

Frank Pasmans is currently director of the laboratory for veterinary bacteriology and mycology at the faculty of veterinary medicine (UGent). Besides, he is responsible for the medicine and surgery of reptiles and amphibians at the clinic for exotic animals at the same faculty. As such, he is recognized as one of four founder specialists of the European College for Zoological Medicine in the herpetology specialty. Research topics include infectious diseases in reptiles and amphibians and he currently acts as promoter for 16 PhD students. In collaboration with other research teams including the Amphibian Evolution lab, Pasmans and his colleagues recently caught the news by describing a new chytrid fungus that poses an extreme threat to the survival of European salamander populations.

Course
> Amphibian and reptile diseases and conservation

 

 


Kim Roelants
Research Professor
Amphibian Evolution lab
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
www.amphibia.be

Kim Roelants focused his PhD and early postdoctoral research on phylogenetic and biogeographical patterns of diversification in amphibians. He is now complementing his expertise in phylogenetics with transcriptome, peptidome and genome analyses to explore the evolution of antimicrobial and anti-predatory skin toxins. During a three-month visit at the lab of Bryan Fry, Kim participated in the transcriptome screening of toxin glands of over 30 venomous species spread across the Animal Kingdom, including frogs, snakes and lizards. The results of these analyses have been published in journals as diverse as PNAS, Current Biology and PLoS Genetics.

Courses
> Toxins in Amphibians and Reptiles
> Systematics, Phylogeny & Natural History of Reptiles
 

 


Ines Van Bocxlaer
Postdoctoral Researcher
Amphibian Evolution Lab
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
www.amphibia.be

Ines Van Bocxlaer is a postdoctoral researcher at the FWO (Fund for Scientific Research - Flanders). She has worked extensively on historical diversification patterns, with special interest for amphibians of the Indian subcontinent. She recently expanded her research towards understanding biogeographic patterns not only from external factors (climate, land bridges, ...), but also from intrinsic characteristics of amphibians. She is fine-tuning this line of research by combining molecular physiology with patterns of dispersal and diversification.

Course
> Ecological Physiology of Amphibians and Reptiles
 

 

 


Raoul Van Damme
Professor
Department of Biology
University of Antwerp
 

The research of Raoul Van Damme covers a wide range of topics in organismal biology, featuring lizards as main study organisms. He has published over 100 papers on the ecology, morphology, physiological ecology, behavior and evolution of reptiles and amphibians in international journals. He is member of the editorial boards of the journals Functional Ecology and Oecologia. He teaches courses in evolutionary biology, phylogeny, ecological morphology and herpetology at the University of Antwerp, Belgium.

Course
> Functional Ecology of Reptiles and Amphibians

 

 


Miguel Vences
Professor
Evolutionary Biology and Zoology
Zoological Institute
Technische Universität Braunschweig
Braunschweig, Germany
www.mvences.de

Miguel Vences has a long-standing interest in amphibians and reptiles and has mostly worked on the systematics, biogeographic origins, patterns of speciation and natural history of the herpetofauna of Madagascar. He has published over 330 papers, several of them in high-ranking journals such as Nature, Science, PNAS, Systematic Biology or Trends in Ecology and Evolution. His taxonomic work includes by now the description of over 100 species of amphibians previously unknown to science. Vences has been and is teaching courses in evolutionary biology, molecular phylogenetics, and amphibian and reptile biology that have regularly been positively evaluated by the participating students.

Course
> Conceptual and Integrative Taxonomy in Herpetology

 

 


Mark Wilkinson
Merit Researcher
Department of Zoology,
Natural History Museum
London, UK
http://www.bmnh.org/web_users/mw/

Mark Wilkinson co-runs with David Gower the Herpetology Research Group of the Natural History Museum of London, with a special focus on the biology of caecilian amphibians and other burrowing reptiles and amphibians. He is a member of the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group, and world leader in both research and graduate student training in the systematics and biology of caecilian amphibians with internationally recognised expertise in morphological and molecular phylogenetics. Together with David Gower, he has supervised 16 PhD students and published more than 200 research papers, many in highly regarded journals, on topics including palaeontology, mitogenomics, phylogenetic methodologies, ecology, reproductive biology and conservation
.
Course:
> Natural History of Burrowing Herpetofauna

The Herpetology Master programme is open to holders of a Bachelor degree in Biology. For other academic bachelors in science, applied science and life sciences, equivalency will be evaluated based on scientific competences and skills of the students by the Master of Biology Steering Committee.

NOTE: If you haven't completed your Bachelor programme yet, but will graduate this academic year, you can already apply for enrollment in the next academic year. Your acceptance will be provisional on your Bachelor graduation.

In addition, your application will be evaluated based on the following documents, to be submitted during your application:

  • A letter of motivation
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts of your Bachelor years.
  • Proof of English proficiency in the form of one of the following documents:
    - a diploma of primary, secondary or higher education where English was the language of instruction;
    - an official document stating that you have successfully completed at least one school year of secondary education where English was the language of instruction (i.e. a certificate prepared by the school in question);
    - an official document stating that you have successfully completed course units in higher education with a minimum total of 54 ECTS where English was the language of instruction (i.e. a certificate prepared by the college/university in question);
    - a diploma of ASO secondary education in Belgium;
    - a certificate stating that you have successfully completed one of the following language tests:
                    - TOEFL: minimum level 550 paper-based, 213 computer-based, 80 internet-based
                    - IELS: minimum level academic module 6,5
                    - Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE), grade B
                    - Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE), grade C
                    - TOEIC: minimum level: 860
    Note: If you do not have a valid proof of English proficiency at the time of application, you will only get a conditional acceptance. You will need to submit the proof before you can enroll.

For an overview of the different steps in the application procedure, click here.

Applications for 2017-2018 are now being accepted!

If you are interested in joining our Herpetology program, we advise you to apply as soon as possible. If you haven’t completed your Bachelor program yet (but you are on schedule to graduate soon), you may still start your application.

Note the application deadline:
All students (residents of the European Economic Area (EEA) as well as students who require a visa to reside in Belgium) must apply before June 1st 2017.

The following countries are part of the EEA: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

IMPORTANT: Before you apply, you should realise that studying and living in Brussels is not for free:
• The tuition fee for both EEA Students and non-EEA students is 890 EUR per academic year.
• In addition, reserve approximately 500 EUR for the Field Course Ecology in the first year and approximately 2500 EUR for the Field Course Herpetology in the second year. Although the Field Course Herpetology is typically held in December, prepare to have the money available well in advance (by June of the same year).

Application procedure

 

A. Overview

The application procedure consists of the following steps:
 

1. To be well-prepared before you apply, carefully read the info on the following web page: http://www.vub.ac.be/english/infofor/prospectivestudents/howenroll.html
 

2. Prepare the following documents as electronic files (JPEG or PDF format, max. 2 MB):

  • A passport photo (max. 500 kB)
  • A copy of your identity card
  • A copy of your secondary education (high school) diploma
  • A copy of your Bachelor diploma: If you haven’t finished your Bachelor program yet, a statement of forthcoming degree signed by an appropriate official at your current home institution will do. Submit an attested copy of your degree certificate must be submitted after graduation
    Note: if your diplomas are not written in English, French or Dutch, provide official translations made by a sworn translator, in one of these three languages.
  • Your Bachelor transcripts (certified lists of all courses and grades obtained during your Bachelor program)
  • A letter of motivation
  • Proof of English proficiency in the form of one of the following documents:
    - a diploma of primary, secondary or higher education where English was the language of instruction
    - an official document stating that you have successfully completed at least one school year of secondary education where English was the language of instruction (i.e. a certificate prepared by the school in question)
    - an official document stating that you have successfully completed course units in higher education with a minimum total of 54 ECTS where English was the language of instruction (i.e. a certificate prepared by the college/university in question)
    - a diploma of ASO secondary education in Belgium
    - a certificate stating that you have successfully completed one of the following language tests:
                  - TOEFL: minimum level 550 paper-based, 213 computer-based, 80 internet-based
                  - IELS: minimum level academic module 6,5
                  - Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE), grade B
                  - Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE), grade C
                  - TOEIC: minimum level: 860
    Note: If you do not have a valid proof of English proficiency at the time of application, you will only get a conditional acceptance. You will need to submit the proof before you can enroll.

Non-EEA candidates also need the following:

  • A proof of statute: a copy of the student residence permit applied for in the relevant embassy or consulate in your home country. Most likely, such permit can only be obtained if you present your letter of provisional acceptance. For more information, and a list of Belgian embassies/consulates, consult the web page: http://diplomatie.belgium.be/en/services/travel_to_belgium/visa_for_belgium/
     

3. Start your electronic application on the VUB’s application portal: https://aanmelden.cumulus.vub.ac.be/ by:

  • creating your personal account
  • logging in using your newly created account once you received a confirmation email from admissions@vub.ac.be.
  • completing the electronic application form. See below for details on how to complete this form.

See section B for details on how to complete your electronic application.
 

4. In parallel, send an email to herpetology@vub.ac.be to inform us of your application, and attach your motivation letter and short CV. This will allow us to follow up your application while it’s being processed by the VUB’s Admission office.
 

5. Once you have completed your electronic application, you will be asked to pay an application fee of € 50. After receiving the application fee, your file will be screened by the VUB Admission Office. If approved by the VUB Admission Office, your file will be sent to the VUB’s Faculty of Sciences and Bioengineering Sciences. The Faculty will screen your application and decide on its continuation.
 

6. If you got through the first round, you will receive a notification by e-mail and an invitation to send hard copies of your documents to the Admission Office.
 

7. After checking the hard copies of your application documents, the Faculty will screen your application a second time and decide on your admission.
 

8. Finally, you will receive a letter of acceptance or denial by mail and by e-mail.

 

B. Electronic application (step 3)
 

The application form is composed of the following pages:

  • Personal details
  • Privacy preferences
  • Prior education
  • Social services
  • Intake survey
  • Program request
  • Document checklist

A manual on how to complete the application form can be found here:
http://www.vub.ac.be/english/downloads/Program-application-manual-VUB.pdf

In addition to this manual, pay attention to specify/select the following options in the relevant fields:

  • Personal Details: In the field “Statute”, choose “Student restricted duration” from the drop-down menu rather than “Other”, as specified by the manual.
  • Prior Education: If you haven’t completed your Bachelor program yet, specify “No” in the field “Graduated” on the “Higher education” page. Next, specify the year of your planned graduation (i.e., 2015) in the field “Year”.
  • Program request:
    - Select “Day” in the field “Select Day or Evening classes”
    - If you don’t plan to work during your studies in Belgium, select “Not applicable” in the field “Work situation”
    - Select “Not applicable” in the field “Visiting student (including exchange) - Credit contracts”
    - Select “Show the complete list of VUB courses. I register on the basis of admission by file” in the field “Course filter”.
    - Next, select “Full time” in the field “Course load”
    - Select “Academic year 2015-2016 in the field “Registration period”
    - Select “Master’s program” from the drop-down menu in the field “Training level”
    - Select “MA Biology” from the drop-down menu in the field “Program”
    - Finally, select “AR Herpetology” from the drop-down menu in the field “Course plan”
     

C. Questions
 

For further questions about your registration, contact the registrar’s office: application@vub.ac.be
For questions related to the content of the Herpetology program, check the contents of this website or contact us at: herpetology@vub.ac.be