Environmental Biology

5 Tracks:

Plant Biology

This specialisation programme is research oriented and designed for students with a plant ecological or plant molecular biological interest. Students with a molecular biological interest can join the research programmes of the groups Molecular Genetics, Molecular Plant Physiology, Plant-Microbe Interactions or Plant Ecophysiology. Students with an ecological interest can join the research programmes of the groups Ecology & Biodiversity or Plant Ecophysiology. All research groups focus on a variety of fundamental and applied research questions. Depending on your interests, your research training will involve investigations at the level of cells, individual plants, plant populations or ecosystems and may involve field observations in both temperate and tropical/subtropical climate zones. One of the strengths of the specialisation Plant Biology is that knowledge on molecular and cellular mechanisms is placed in an ecological or agricultural context, helping students to bridge the gap between molecular biology and ecology.

Ecology & Natural Resource Management

This specialisation programme aims to serve society by generating and disseminating knowledge on ecological and environmental sciences in order to provide the tools to sustainably manage and protect the Earth’s natural resources. This specialisation programme follows a unique multidisciplinary approach in which you will learn to integrate scientific knowledge of different disciplines and how to use it in practice in a societal context. On the one hand, university teachers from the excellent participating research groups give lectures on the latest developments in the field of Natural Resource Management. On the other hand, guest lecturers from commercial enterprises, or government and non-governmental organisations give examples from their daily practices. This gives you an authentic view of the work field. You will carry out a research project at one of the university research groups and do an internship outside the university in a private company, consultancy firm, governmental institution (ministries, provinces, and municipalities), advisory boards, NGO or applied research centre, either in the Netherlands or abroad.

Behavioural Ecology

This specialization programme is research oriented and is designed for students with an interest in animal behaviour in relation to ecology, social behaviour, conservation and welfare. The Behavioural Ecology programme takes a multi-level approach to understanding the causes and consequences of behaviour, with integration of evolutionary and proximate approaches. Students can join the research programmes of the groups Behavioural Biology (Biology, Utrecht University), Animals in Science & Society (Ethology & Welfare, Veterinary Sciences, Utrecht University), the Netherlands Institute for Ecology (NIOO) and the Centre for Research and Conservation of the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp at Antwerp Zoo. You can work on research topics such as: ‘animal migration and ecosystem connectivity’, ‘social cognition and behaviour’, ‘social learning and animal innovation’, ‘ecology of animal personalities’, ‘animal welfare’, and ‘zoo breeding programs and wildlife conservation’. The program provides a unique multi-disciplinary approach to animal behavioural research, with work covering a variety of taxa (particularly primates, birds, and fish).

Fungal Biology

This specialisation programme is also research oriented and especially suited for students interested in the role of fungi in the environment. Although fungi are less visible, they are key players in the cycling of elements on earth by degrading organic material. Fungi can establish mutual beneficial symbiosis with plants and animals, but they can be devastating pathogens as well.  Because of their role in the production of bio-ethanol, fungi can contribute to the production of environmental friendly sources of energy. Students with a microbiologicalinterest can join the research programmes of the groups Microbiology, Plant-Microbe Interactions, or the Utrecht Fungal Biodiversity Centre. You may work on fundamental research topics such as “How fungi choose from Nature’s menu”, “The fungal protein factory”, “Fungal biodiversity”, or “Control of mushroom diseases”.

Biomarine Sciences & Palaeoecology

In this specialisation programme you can learn more about the potential effects of global climate change that we face today, by studying biotic responses to environmental and climatic change that occurred in the past. The Palaeoecology part of this specialisation programme focuses on the mechanisms and potential effects of global change issues that we are currently facing, by studying biotic responses to environmental and climatic change that occurred in the past. Palaeoecological research is based on the analysis of fossils and molecules recovered from continental and marine deposits and aims to understand the role of biota as monitors, recorders, drivers, and moderators of climatic and environmental change on different temporal and spatial scales. The Palaeoecology and Biomarine Sciences groups, in close cooperation with the Earth Sciences department, offer research topics deciphering natural terrestrial or marine archives to address questions like: “What can we learn from the behavior of biota in relation to past climate change and human impact that triggered dynamic biotic processes such as extinction, migration, and evolution?”

Although oceans cover 70% of the Earth, our knowledge of marine processes and ecosystems is still very limited. Yet, the oceans are a major player in current global issues regarding for example the climate, economy, health, natural hazards, and biodiversity. Understanding marine physical, chemical, biological, and geological processes, as well as deciphering the functioning of marine ecosystems are critical for understanding global ecology, oceanography, and climatology in the past, present and future. In addition, knowledge of the oceans is also vital for a sound, science-based ocean and coastal zone management. The field of Marine Sciences thus occupies a fundamental role in a large variety of current issues facing Mankind on a global scale. Marine Sciences may be subdivided into four interrelated disciplines; physical oceanography, chemical oceanography, biological oceanography and paleoceanography. The Biomarine Sciences part of this specialisation programme is dedicated to understanding past and present ecosystems. Research topics are offered in close cooperation with the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research (NIOZ) and the Earth Sciences department. MSc courses are available in Utrecht and NIOZ, combined with courses elsewhere. With this specialization programme you may opt for the annotation “Marine Scientist of the Netherlands” on your diploma.


Applicants must have:

  • a BSc in biology with knowledge of ecological, behavioural, physiological or molecular aspects of plants, animals, or microbes at a level equivalent to a Utrecht University Bachelor’s in Biology, or
  • a higher education in applied sciences (HLO) diploma in the above-mentioned fields of study, sometimes in combination with the completion of a pre-Master’s programme (30-60 EC).

Higher professional education (HBO) and higher education in applied sciences (HLO) applicants will be assessed on an individual basis. First, previous education will have to relate to the content of the Master’s programme. If it is determined that deficiencies can be addressed by means of a pre-Master’s programme, the student will be invited for an interview. It will then be decided whether the student is required to enter an individually designed pre-Master’s programme (three to six months). This will have to be completed before being admitted to the Master’s programme.

A good knowledge of English is required. Check the precise requirements regarding your proficiency in English at www.uu.nl/internationalmasters

The Admissions Committee may set additional entrance requirements. The level of a foreign BSc-degree will be evaluated according to the Nuffic evaluation criteria.

Ervaring van een student

Ervaringen van studenten Environmental Biology (in het Nederlands)