Master of Science in Biology: Ecology and Biodiversity

The graduation option Ecology and Biodiversity allows you to gain experience in the research methods used to study the ecology, evolution and conservation of organisms found in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems. You'll be introduced into ecological research by means of practical field training and excursions in Belgium and abroad. 

You are being prepared for a career in fundamental or applied research, nature conservation and management, environmental management and policy at different levels (regional, national, international). 

In this graduation option we propose three tracks with different sets of recommended elective courses. However, you are free to diverge from these tracks. Students can mix and match and pick courses from different tracks, and beyond, to assemble their own programme.

Track: Ecology and Evolution

This track is ideal for students with a broad range of interests who want to keep their options open.

It emphasizes general courses and a broad training as a biologist with expertise in ecology, evolution and biodiversity. You'll get courses about different ecosystems in courses as ‘Marine Ecology’, ‘Freshwater Ecology’ and ‘Terrestrial Ecology’ as well as courses that explain the dominant processes that structure populations and ecosystems such as ‘Animal Behavior’, ‘Evolutionary Ecology’ and ‘Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution’.

Track: Global Change

This track includes specific courses that are essential to understand the current challenges of global change in terms of climate, land use and pollution.

With courses such as ‘Biogeochemistry’ and ‘Global Change Biology’, you learn exactly how global ecosystems are changing. However, you also get courses that explain how anthropogenic activities can be combined with biodiversity and ecosystem services. For instance, in ‘Agroecology’ you will investigate the sustainability of current agricultural practices. In the course ‘Sustainability: an interdisciplinary approach’ you learn which leverage points exist to fuel a transition towards a more sustainable society.

Track: Herpetology

Herpetology is the study of amphibians and reptiles and, as a result, this track caters for students that are fascinated by these animals.

Because our department has a rich history of groundbreaking research on these organisms, our programme has a number of unique herpetological courses. For instance, you will follow ‘Natural History of Amphibians’ and ‘Natural History of Reptiles’ and you will study the evolution of frog poisons and snake venom in ‘Toxins in Amphibians and Reptiles’. In addition, you will get the opportunity to develop a thesis project on these animals.

Programme structure

Compulsory: 42 ECTS

Electives: 48 ECTS
Can be chosen from 3 groups
- Conceptual Courses
- Applied Courses
- Practical & Technical skills

Master's Thesis: 30 ECTS


"I am a freshwater ecologist and I attended the MSc in Biology: Environment, Biodiversity and Ecosystems. My time at the VUB was very important for my formation. I learned a lot about every single process that characterises the research in general, and moreover I gained expertise in oral skills and presentation techniques. I appreciated the multidisciplinary approach offered by the faculty: a vast choice of electives ensures a dynamic learning process of many different subjects, allowing you to build up a general knowledge and to link different scientific areas. An applied approach to ecology ensures that you gain skills during the field work, and the excursions offered by the MSc were inspiring, intense and enjoyable. Furthermore, students from different MSc programmes join the excursions. This ensures real sharing of theoretical and practical knowledge.”
Pierluigi Colangeli

"I am Italian and after my Bachelor I decided to go abroad for a Master. After visiting several universities in different European countries, I came across the VUB. One of the first things I noticed, is the close and nice relationship among students and professors. I like it very much as it creates the perfect environment for studying and growing. The programme of 'Environment, Biodiversity & Ecosystems' offers a wide choice of fields of study, and gives everyone the opportunity to find his own path in the world of science."
Silvia Lechtaler

"I was drawn to the Master of Biology by its internship option and the numerous opportunities to engage in field excursions. In this academic field, practical work is as crucial as theoretical work, and the VUB offers a superb balance. Studying in the heart of the environmentally progressive European Union offered me the opportunity to observe and learn among students and professors who share a similar passion for conservation. The VUB’s approach to education also guarantees that professors have ample personal time for you. Thus, real kinships are developed with your instructors. I am glad I used this chance to acquire and develop the scientific skills needed to succeed in the real world."
Karan Prakash