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Ecology: where Science meets Sustainability

Expertise of two universities is combined

This Master's programme in Ecology combines the expertise of two universities: the VU and the UvA (University of Amsterdam). The VU organises half of the courses, the UvA the other half. Lecturers from both universities are involved in all courses. You will carry out two research projects and create your personal scientific profile dependent on the courses and specialization you choose.

You will be taught in English. The two-year programme offers you a broad package of courses and research projects, forming the theoretical foundation of the  Master's degree and providing you with the necessary professional skills.  You’ll share classes with students from the partner university. The teachers are enthusiastic  and will motivate you and tell you about their field with a lot of passion. Due to the small scale of the programme, there is a lot of personal contact between teacher and student.

Students of each university are automatically registered as ‘bijvakstudent’ (external student) at the other university. 

Degree
If you have registered at the VU and successfully complete the programme, you will obtain an MSc in Ecology. If you’ve registered at UvA, you’ll obtain an MSc in Biological Sciences. In both cases, the specialisation that you have chosen will be indicated on your degree, for example Research Specialisation in Ecology & Evolution.

The two-year programme is full-time, covering 120 EC (European academic credits); it has four components: 

1. Compulsory courses (18 EC) 
These include experimental design, statistical analysis and training in scientific writing as well as masterclasses. 


2. Elective courses
(12-18 EC from the list in the handout/study guide) 
Detailed descriptions can be found in the Study Guide Ecology. You can also consult this handout and/or the year schedule for an overview of all these courses.

Instead of these elective courses you can opt for courses from other Master’s programmes that have an ecological or evolutionary focus or otherwise fit your profile; these will need to be approved by the Examination Board. 


3. Research projects
(total: 72-78 EC, depending on your credit points from the elective courses) 
You’ll carry out two research projects/internships, with a minimum duration of 30 EC. The two research internships account for 60-65% of the Master’s programme. By actively participating in a current research project, you’ll be able to put your newly acquired knowledge and research skills into practice. You’ll also gain valuable work experience and obtain a good impression of the future field of action; this will also form the starting point for a future professional network. You will have access to extensive guidelines to help you organise and complete your internships. 

To ensure quality, your first internship will be carried out at the VU or the UvA. While it is not obligatory, we encourage you to complete the second internship at a university or research institute elsewhere, either in the Netherlands or abroad. Both projects should address an ecological or evolutionary issue. You might want to focus on a project that takes a molecular approach for example, or an ecophysiological or behavioural approach, or one that is theoretical, or based on ecosystems; or a combination of different approaches. A socially oriented project is also possible, as long as it deals with an ecological or evolutionary problem, and conforms to the required academic level, including clear research questions and proper supervision. 

4. Literature thesis (12 EC) 
You’ll write a literature review that focuses on a fundamental ecological question; this may take a more applied or societal approach.

The start date of this programme is September 1st.

General year

After the first year, you choose your specialisation. Most coursework takes place in the first five months of each academic year; the rest you’ll spend writing a literature review and carrying out two research projects – all focusing on topics within your own area of scientific interest.

Which specialisation do you choose?

Next to the specialisations Ecology & Evolution and International Master Biodiversity, Ecology & Evolution (IMABEE), you can also choose for:
- Science Communication
- Science in Society
- Science Education

Summary

This two-year specialisation has an explicit research-oriented character. You will gain the knowledge, skills and insights to operate as an independent professional scientist in the fields of ecology and evolution. You will also be a promising candidate for a subsequent PhD position or other research-related function in a fundamental or applied field of ecology or biology.

You can read more about the programme and course descriptions in the studyguide.

Summary

This specialisation is a two-year research-oriented programme. If you’re interested in understanding biodiversity, ecology and evolution in all their facets it could be for you. It’s a joint programme between four European universities:

- VU, the Netherlands

- University of Rennes, France

- University of Göttingen, Germany

- University of Aarhus, Denmark

You will spend your first year at the VU Amsterdam. In the second year, you’ll choose one of the three partner universities. When you’ve completed your degree you will have a ‘double degree’ i.e. an Msc in Ecology from the VU and an Msc from the partner university.

You can read more about the programme and course descriptions in the studyguide.

Summary

Bridge the gap between science and society

Many of the societal challenges that require research and innovation cannot be addressed by scientists alone. And at a time when ‘the facts’ are being questioned, scientists need to engage with the public more openly. Take, for instance, public health issues like the coronavirus pandemic. Scientists conduct numerous studies on the best preventive measures, but those measures need to be understood and adopted by the public in order to be effective. And when it comes to climate change, many members of the public are still resistant to believing the scientific data, which makes them reluctant to change their behaviour in ways that protect the environment. On these and other issues, how can scientists engage with members of the public in thoughtful and productive ways? 

This specialisation provides you with the relevant knowledge, skills and practical experience to help shape meaningful conversations about science in public. You will not only learn how to inform and educate the public about science, but you will also learn how to engage the public in addressing societal issues together with scientists and innovators. After completing this specialisation, you will have an in-demand skills set. You can work, for instance, as a science journalist at a newspaper, a communications advisor at a biomedical company, a content manager at a science museum, or as a public relations manager at an environmental organisation. The specialisation is open to students of both VU Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

The Science Communication specialisation immerses you in the world of science communication through five courses and an internship. During the first semester, you will to follow two compulsory courses: Research Methods for Analyzing Complex Problems (6 EC) and Science and Communication (6 EC). You will also choose (at least) two out of three elective courses in science communication (18 EC total): Science Journalism (6 EC), Science in Dialogue (6 EC) and Science Museology (6 EC). The third course is an elective. This could be an elective course from your Master’s programme. Visit Studiegids for an overview of elective courses of your Master's programme.

During the second semester, you will conduct an internship in which you apply the knowledge and skills you have acquired in the courses (30 EC). You can choose between a reflective practice internship (only if you follow this specialisation in the second year of your master’s programme) or a research internship. With a reflective practice internship, you will work at a science communication company and apply the knowledge you have acquired to professional practice (21 EC). You will also write a reflection on professional practice (9 EC). If you choose a research internship, you will conduct research in the field of science communication.

Please register for your Science Communication courses individually on VUnet using the course codes in the study programme at least four weeks before the semester starts.

Summary

Bridge the gap between science and society

There is an urgent need for professionals with an academic background in the natural and life sciences, who have knowledge of policy, management and entrepreneurship. The Science in Society specialisation prepares you for working, for instance, as a consultant, policymaker, researcher or entrepreneur at the interface of science, technology and society. It provides you with tools and strategies for understanding and addressing complex societal problems related to scientific, technological or medical developments. 

During the specialisation, you will learn to analyse and create policy advisory reports and to improve on aspects of management such as leadership styles and motivation techniques. The specialisation is open to students of both VU Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

The Science in Society specialisation teaches you how to identify, analyse and manage complex societal problems. 

During the first semester, you will follow three compulsory courses:

  • Research Methods for Analyzing Complex Problems (6 EC)
  • Analyzing Governmental Policy (6 EC)
  • Communication, Organization and Management (6 EC).

You will also choose two or three elective courses (12 EC total). You can find an overview of all elective courses you can choose from here

During the second semester, you will conduct an internship in which you apply the knowledge and skills you have acquired in the courses to professional practice (30 EC).

Please register for your Science in Society courses individually on VUnet using the course codes in the study programme at least four weeks before the semester starts.

Summary

Motivate & inspire students as a teacher in the STEM disciplines - This specialisation is taught in Dutch. 

During the specialisation Secondary Education Teacher Training for STEM Disciplines, you will learn how to transfer your knowledge and motivate and inspire students in your field of study, whether it is Geography, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry or Biology. For computer science, there is another route: the one-year teacher training programme. The courses for this teacher training specialisation are taught in Dutch and your teaching qualification will be valid in the Netherlands.

As a teacher, you make an important contribution to the future of young people, society and education in the Netherlands. In our knowledge economy, specialists in the area of knowledge transfer are indispensable. With an abundance of jobs in secondary education, obtaining a teaching qualification guarantees job security and—flexibility—because in addition to being a teacher, you are also a scientist in your field.

The teacher training programmes at VU Amsterdam are unique because of their modular structure that is built around 20 themes (core practices). You will apply these teaching practices directly in the classroom, as you will be working in a school for more than 50% of your study programme. At VU Amsterdam, personal attention and individual guidance are top priority. You will have a mentor from VU Amsterdam and a workplace supervisor who is an experienced first-degree subject teacher.

With this specialisation, you will obtain a specialist Master's degree in a STEM discipline and a first-degree teaching qualification (eerstegraads lesbevoegdheid).  This means that in two years, you will be qualified to teach both lower and upper secondary vocational education (HAVO/VWO) and pre-university education (VMBO) in the Netherlands. All teachers in the STEM disciplines are also qualified to teach the STEM elective NLT (Nature, Life and Technology). 

The teacher training specialisation in the STEM disciplines starts every academic year in September and February, unless you are following a Master's programme in Ecology, Earth Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, or Biomedical Technology and Physics. Within these Master's programmes, you can only start the specialisation in September.

Second year

What makes you unique as a STEM teacher? We explore your strengths as a teacher while focussing on personal attention, customisation and guidance. You will follow an integrated programme, which includes a practical component (internship) in secondary education and didactic theory at VU Amsterdam. You will be taught general didactics related to core practices as well as specific subject-related didactics for your school subject. The theory is always applied and tested in practice at the school where you conduct your internship. You will start immediately with the practical component. Internships are arranged by VU Amsterdam.

Secondary Education Teacher Training for STEM Disciplines courses

  • Research specialisation: Ecology & Evolution

    Summary

    This two-year specialisation has an explicit research-oriented character. You will gain the knowledge, skills and insights to operate as an independent professional scientist in the fields of ecology and evolution. You will also be a promising candidate for a subsequent PhD position or other research-related function in a fundamental or applied field of ecology or biology.

    You can read more about the programme and course descriptions in the studyguide.

  • Research Specialisation: International Master Biodiversity, Ecology & Evolution (IMABEE)

    Summary

    This specialisation is a two-year research-oriented programme. If you’re interested in understanding biodiversity, ecology and evolution in all their facets it could be for you. It’s a joint programme between four European universities:

    - VU, the Netherlands

    - University of Rennes, France

    - University of Göttingen, Germany

    - University of Aarhus, Denmark

    You will spend your first year at the VU Amsterdam. In the second year, you’ll choose one of the three partner universities. When you’ve completed your degree you will have a ‘double degree’ i.e. an Msc in Ecology from the VU and an Msc from the partner university.

    You can read more about the programme and course descriptions in the studyguide.

  • Science Communication

    Summary

    Bridge the gap between science and society

    Many of the societal challenges that require research and innovation cannot be addressed by scientists alone. And at a time when ‘the facts’ are being questioned, scientists need to engage with the public more openly. Take, for instance, public health issues like the coronavirus pandemic. Scientists conduct numerous studies on the best preventive measures, but those measures need to be understood and adopted by the public in order to be effective. And when it comes to climate change, many members of the public are still resistant to believing the scientific data, which makes them reluctant to change their behaviour in ways that protect the environment. On these and other issues, how can scientists engage with members of the public in thoughtful and productive ways? 

    This specialisation provides you with the relevant knowledge, skills and practical experience to help shape meaningful conversations about science in public. You will not only learn how to inform and educate the public about science, but you will also learn how to engage the public in addressing societal issues together with scientists and innovators. After completing this specialisation, you will have an in-demand skills set. You can work, for instance, as a science journalist at a newspaper, a communications advisor at a biomedical company, a content manager at a science museum, or as a public relations manager at an environmental organisation. The specialisation is open to students of both VU Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

    The Science Communication specialisation immerses you in the world of science communication through five courses and an internship. During the first semester, you will to follow two compulsory courses: Research Methods for Analyzing Complex Problems (6 EC) and Science and Communication (6 EC). You will also choose (at least) two out of three elective courses in science communication (18 EC total): Science Journalism (6 EC), Science in Dialogue (6 EC) and Science Museology (6 EC). The third course is an elective. This could be an elective course from your Master’s programme. Visit Studiegids for an overview of elective courses of your Master's programme.

    During the second semester, you will conduct an internship in which you apply the knowledge and skills you have acquired in the courses (30 EC). You can choose between a reflective practice internship (only if you follow this specialisation in the second year of your master’s programme) or a research internship. With a reflective practice internship, you will work at a science communication company and apply the knowledge you have acquired to professional practice (21 EC). You will also write a reflection on professional practice (9 EC). If you choose a research internship, you will conduct research in the field of science communication.

    Please register for your Science Communication courses individually on VUnet using the course codes in the study programme at least four weeks before the semester starts.

  • Science in Society

    Summary

    Bridge the gap between science and society

    There is an urgent need for professionals with an academic background in the natural and life sciences, who have knowledge of policy, management and entrepreneurship. The Science in Society specialisation prepares you for working, for instance, as a consultant, policymaker, researcher or entrepreneur at the interface of science, technology and society. It provides you with tools and strategies for understanding and addressing complex societal problems related to scientific, technological or medical developments. 

    During the specialisation, you will learn to analyse and create policy advisory reports and to improve on aspects of management such as leadership styles and motivation techniques. The specialisation is open to students of both VU Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

    The Science in Society specialisation teaches you how to identify, analyse and manage complex societal problems. 

    During the first semester, you will follow three compulsory courses:

    • Research Methods for Analyzing Complex Problems (6 EC)
    • Analyzing Governmental Policy (6 EC)
    • Communication, Organization and Management (6 EC).

    You will also choose two or three elective courses (12 EC total). You can find an overview of all elective courses you can choose from here

    During the second semester, you will conduct an internship in which you apply the knowledge and skills you have acquired in the courses to professional practice (30 EC).

    Please register for your Science in Society courses individually on VUnet using the course codes in the study programme at least four weeks before the semester starts.

  • Secondary Education Teacher Training for STEM Disciplines

    Summary

    Motivate & inspire students as a teacher in the STEM disciplines - This specialisation is taught in Dutch. 

    During the specialisation Secondary Education Teacher Training for STEM Disciplines, you will learn how to transfer your knowledge and motivate and inspire students in your field of study, whether it is Geography, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry or Biology. For computer science, there is another route: the one-year teacher training programme. The courses for this teacher training specialisation are taught in Dutch and your teaching qualification will be valid in the Netherlands.

    As a teacher, you make an important contribution to the future of young people, society and education in the Netherlands. In our knowledge economy, specialists in the area of knowledge transfer are indispensable. With an abundance of jobs in secondary education, obtaining a teaching qualification guarantees job security and—flexibility—because in addition to being a teacher, you are also a scientist in your field.

    The teacher training programmes at VU Amsterdam are unique because of their modular structure that is built around 20 themes (core practices). You will apply these teaching practices directly in the classroom, as you will be working in a school for more than 50% of your study programme. At VU Amsterdam, personal attention and individual guidance are top priority. You will have a mentor from VU Amsterdam and a workplace supervisor who is an experienced first-degree subject teacher.

    With this specialisation, you will obtain a specialist Master's degree in a STEM discipline and a first-degree teaching qualification (eerstegraads lesbevoegdheid).  This means that in two years, you will be qualified to teach both lower and upper secondary vocational education (HAVO/VWO) and pre-university education (VMBO) in the Netherlands. All teachers in the STEM disciplines are also qualified to teach the STEM elective NLT (Nature, Life and Technology). 

    The teacher training specialisation in the STEM disciplines starts every academic year in September and February, unless you are following a Master's programme in Ecology, Earth Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, or Biomedical Technology and Physics. Within these Master's programmes, you can only start the specialisation in September.

    Second year

    What makes you unique as a STEM teacher? We explore your strengths as a teacher while focussing on personal attention, customisation and guidance. You will follow an integrated programme, which includes a practical component (internship) in secondary education and didactic theory at VU Amsterdam. You will be taught general didactics related to core practices as well as specific subject-related didactics for your school subject. The theory is always applied and tested in practice at the school where you conduct your internship. You will start immediately with the practical component. Internships are arranged by VU Amsterdam.

    Secondary Education Teacher Training for STEM Disciplines courses

Recent research projects in Ecology & Evolution

• Climate change and food web interactions on salt marshes
• Impact of urbanisation on natural and sexual selection pressures
• Effects of invasive plants on insect communities
• Ecotoxicology of nanoparticles in the soil
• Mutualism: Tricks and cheats in plants and their symbionts
• Fire Ecology: Plant traits and flammability
• Arctic Ecology: Plant communities under global change
• Modelling: The interplay between individual life history and population dynamics
• Effects of population density on male accessory reproductive organs 

Other projects have covered a wide range of ecological and evolutionary fields. You can find details of future research projects through the VU’s Department of Ecological Science, where you can also find the department’s current research topics. These include topics in Systems Ecology, Biodiversity, Environmental Chemistry and Ecotoxicology, Molecular Ecology, Evolution, and Animal Behaviour.

Change your future with the Ecology programme

Change your future with the Ecology programme

You’ll be able to choose from a wide range of career options; you could continue your study by pursuing a PhD, or become a researcher in applied environmental sciences or in a societal field. Or you could take up a governmental or advisory position. You could also become a science teacher; if this appeals to you, you should opt for the specialisation Science Education.

Explore your future prospects

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