Ecology

For science and sustainability

Studying nature for knowledge and sustainability

Ecologists investigate the relationships between organisms and their environment. As a master’s student you will study how nature works both as an aim in itself to understand and explain why the world looks like this as well as to develop the tools to predict and combat problems caused by pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change. You will study Ecology from a plant, animal and systems perspective. Moreover, ecological processes are investigated from the molecular level on to the regional and global scale, where field observations and experiments are used to identify ecosystem patterns and functions.

The VU masters’ programme in Ecology and Evolution has an explicit research-oriented character and is designed to provide its students the knowledge, skills and insights to operate as an independent professional scientist in the fields of ecology and evolution and to become a promising candidate for a subsequent PhD position or other research-related function in a fundamental or applied ecological field.

The Master’s programme in Ecology and Evolution is a joint master’s programme of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam. The track offers the same programme to students of both universities. Teachers from VU and UvA participate in each course. Students of both universities are automatically registered as a ‘bijvakstudent’ (external student) at the other university.
The two-year programme is full-time, covering 120 ECTS. Courses are mainly scheduled in the first semester. The remainder of the each year is spent on two research projects and a literature thesis. The programme has the following four components:

Components of the programme 

Compulsory courses (18 ec)
• Experimental Design and Analysis (VU, 6 ec)
• Soil-Plant-Animal Interactions (VU, 6 ec) or Current Trends in Evolution (UvA 6 ec)
(depending on the year of arrival)
• Masterclasses in Ecology and Evolution (VU, 3 ec)
• Scientific Writing in English (VU, 3 ec)

Elective courses (select 12-18 ec from the list below)
• Soil-Plant-Animal Interactions (VU, 6 ec)
• Current Trends in Evolution (UvA, 6 ec)
• Evolution of Species Interactions (UvA, 6 ec)
• Spatial Processess in Ecology and Evolution (UvA, 6 ec)
• Ecosystem Services and Scientific Advocay (VU, 6 ec)
• Microbial Ecology (UvA, 6 ec)
• Environmental Genomics and Adaptation (VU, 6 ec) 

Extracurricular courses
Students are allowed to take ecological courses from other master’s programmes instead of the elective courses offered in the Ecology and Evolution programme. These must be ecological courses or courses otherwise fitting to their profile (and need to approval by the Examination Board).

Research projects (72-78 ec)

Students carry out two research projects/internships. Depending on the number of credits points the student obtains in elective courses both internships together will cover 72 or 78 ec. The minimum duration of a research project is 30 ec.

The first internship has to be carried out at the VU or UvA. Though not obligatory, students are encouraged to complete the second internship elsewhere, at another university or research institute in the Netherlands or abroad. Both projects focus on an ecological and/or evolutionary subject, which can range from using a molecular, ecophysiological, behavioural to theoretical or ecosystems approach, or a combination thereof. Societally oriented projects performed elsewhere, dealing with an ecological problem are accepted, provided that they include sufficient academic level, clear research questions and proper supervision.

Literature thesis (12 ec)
Students are required to write a literature thesis of 12 ec. The literature thesis can focus on a fundamental ecological question, but may also take a more applied or societal approach.

Detailed descriptions of all these components can be found at: Study guide Ecology
 
Degree
Students who are registered at VU Amsterdam and have successfully completed the Ecology and Evolution programme will obtain an MSc diploma in Ecology with a specialization in Ecology and Evolution, those registered at UvA will obtain an MSc diploma in Biological Sciences, with a specialisation in Ecology and Evolution.

Double degree - International Master in Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolution
After a successful first year (60 ec) during which you follow our regular programme at VU, you have to option to do your second year (60 ec) of courses and an internship at either:;
- University of Århus (Denmark),
- University of Göttingen (Germany)
- University of Rennes (France)
After successful completion of these two years, you will receive a double degree, meaning that you receive a diploma from VU MSc Ecology as well as the partner university MSc degree. For more information about this international master’s programme: http://www.imabee.eu

Contact
Mastercoordinator: Dr. J. M. Koene, +31- (0) 20-5987095

Ecology courses in study guide.

As a Master’s graduate in Ecology, you have a wide range of career options. The demand for ecologists is considerable these days. About 50 percent of our graduates continues their studies, pursuing a PhD project.
Others (10-15%) find jobs as researchers in applied environmental sciences and the remaining in societally related fields. They deal with topics such as:
• Nature management, conservation and restoration
• Landscape planning
• Plant breeding
• Environmental consultancy
• Teaching
• Nature education and scientific communication
• Policy supporting research, development, and  implementation
• Environmental toxicologist

For more information about the professional careers of Ecologists/Biologists in the Netherlands, please visit the Netherlands Institute for Biology.

 

The Master’s programme in Ecology at VU Amsterdam is characterized by the following aspects:

  • We study the ecology of all forms of life: animals, plants, fungi, microbes.
  • We integrate research at all levels of organization: from genes to individuals to populations to ecosystems.
  • Ecology is central for modern day issues such as climate change, biodiversity, evolution, nature conservation, ecosystem functioning, which are all important issues in our programme.
  • We have excellent research facilities and innovative labs to teach you state-of-the-art techniques.
  • We investigate problems of fundamental and societal relevance using manipulative experimental setups, comparative methods or modeling, both in the field as well as in the laboratory.

International Setting

  • We offer an international programme in English and our students come from all over the world.
  • We have a highly-skilled team of lecturersof international reputation with a world-wide network of collaborations.

Teaching environment

  • All courses are interactive in nature.
  • Students work in small groups under supervision of our academic teaching staff for assignments and essays.
  • The programme regularly receives praise for its flexibility and student orientation.
  • We offer an inspiring learning environment where interaction and personal attention are key concepts.

The organizers

The teaching programme is organized by the Department of Ecological Science of the VU Amsterdam and the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics of the University of Amsterdam.

Together these groups form a highly skilled and internationally respected team of researchers and lecturers, with outstanding publication records, world-wide networks of collaboration and great enthusiasm for this Masters’ programme.

Michiel Blaas

Student

“The Ecology and Evolution programme offers many opportunities to do your own research abroad with interesting, fun and challenging internships. The cooperation between the VU Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam makes it possible to take courses at both universities and meet twice as many people! The small scale brings a very cosy and intimate atmosphere between both students and lecturers. I recommend the programme to anyone who wishes to become a researcher in the field of ecology.”

Overview Ecology

Language of instruction

English

Duration

2 years

Application deadline

15 July for Dutch students. 1 April for EU/EEA and non-EU/EEA students.* * EU/EEA students with an international degree who do not need housing services through Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam can still apply until 1 June.

Start date

1 September

Study type

Full-time

Specializations

Ecology & Evolution

Admission requirements

Field of Interest

Natural Sciences

Lies Leewis

MSc Ecology

“The informal atmosphere of the Ecology department made me feel at home straight away. The research periods on one of the Frisian Islands and the fieldwork in Lapland were two fantastic experiences.”

60-65% of the Master’s programme consists of two research internships. This allows the student to participate actively in a current research project, put newly-acquired knowledge and research skills into practice, gain valuable work experience and obtain a good impression of the future field of action. Moreover, it forms the starting point of a future professional network. An extensive guideline is available to help organize and complete internships.

Some recent research projects in Ecology and Evolution

• Climate change and food web interactions on salt marshes
• Impact of urbanization 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
• Modeling: The interplay between individual life history and population dynamics

• Effects of population density on male accessory reproductive organs 

and many, many others in divergent ecological and evolutionary fields (details about topics for future research projects are available via the VU’s Institute of Ecological Science).


• Systems Ecology. Will ecosystems feed back into climate change, for example through carbon dioxide or methane emissions? Plant traits and flammability in a warming world. Opportunities for agriculture in saline areas.

• Biodiversity. Will biodiversity loss have any real effect on the functioning of ecosystems? Do different ecosystems respond differently to changes in biodiversity?

• Environmental Chemistry and Ecotoxicology. Can we predict the responses of plants and animals to pollution through molecular ecological tools? How do we use this information to predict systems’ responses? What are the effects of chemicals in the environment on wildlife and human health?

• Evolution. How does cooperation between species (mutualism) evolve and persist? How does sexual selection work in hermaphrodites? How fast can species adapt to a rapidly changing world?

• Animal Behaviour. Can we link animal behaviour to gene expressions identified through molecular ecology?How do animals choose their mating partners? How sensitive are competitor and  predator-prey interactions environmental change? How flexible are animals in response to changes in their environment?

My name is Romilde Cnoops and I am now in my second year of the master Ecology at the VU Amsterdam. For my master internship I had the opportunity to conduct a research at the territorial behaviour of the African civet in south Africa.

Leshiba Nature Reserve, South Africa

Africa This study was carried out within Leshiba Nature Reserve. Leshiba nature reserve is situated in the western Soutpansberg Mountains in most northern providence of South Africa. The reserve is situated in a buffer zone of the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve and has been declared as Natural Heritage Site. At Leshiba a wide variety of animals occur, from large herbivores like the white rhinoceros to carnivores like the African civet and leopards. It is a stunning place to stay and with all the wild animals around me, I had an unforgettable time.

Never a dull moment

For three and a half months I walked around the reserve looking for civet latrines and conducting my experiments. Their was never a dull moment in the time I spend at Leshiba. You would never know what kind of animals you would see during the day, or what kind of situations you would find yourself in. It was wonderful to walk between giraffes, zebra’s and other big herbivores and spot a honey badger or mongoose on your way. Even at the end of my stay I was looking forward to go in to the field every day. Their was so much to do and see that I had not much time to miss something from back home. All the people who work at Leshiba where really nice and helpful. The three and a half months  were over before I knew it. At the end of my stay I did not even want to go back home to the Netherlands. I still miss it every day.

To go to Africa or other remote places was one of the reasons why I wanted to study Ecology.
Before my master research I already went to south Africa and visited Leshiba. After my visit it was clear to me that I wanted to do one of my master internships at this beautiful place. So I was really exited when it all came together and I could go and live their for a few months. 

Exciting time in Africa

To see all the African mammals up close was really wonderful.  The most impressive thing I did was camping in the Kalahari dessert in Botswana. To sleep in a tent in such a remote place and hear al the noises at night was a little scary but also exciting. There were no facilities (toilet, shower or shop) or other people close by. The nearest exit gate (and other people) was 80 kilometres away.

An internship abroad in a remote location is not suitable for everybody. There are not a lot of facilities and it can be lonely sometimes. It takes a lot of preparation and perseverance to conduct a research in such a location. But the beautiful things you do and see make it an unforgettable time. A study like Ecology makes it possible to live such an adventure.

The Master’s degree in Ecology ultimately offers access to a number of PhD degree programmes.
 
PhD programmes are organized within a number of research schools within the faculty:

  • Graduate School Neurosciences Amsterdam (ONWA) 
  • Graduate School and Research Center BioCentrum Amsterdam 
  • Inter University Centre for Geo-ecological Research (ICG) 
  • School for Atmospheric and Maritime Research (SAMO)  

The PhD programme always consists of a research project, leading to a PhD thesis/dissertation, and of several compulsory or optional course modules. For more information on PhD programmes and Research Schools please check:

Research schools
Department of Ecological Sciences 

Sunu Hardiyanta

MSc Ecology, Indonesia

“Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers very good laboratories and the faculty members are really capable, displaying solid theoretical knowledge and rich research initiatives. I have chosen the correct place for my studies.”

Prospective students

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application. 

In order to gain admission to one of our Master’s programmes, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent. We do not require a GRE or GMAT test score. 

Admission requirements for the Ecology and Evolution programme.

In general, you can be admitted to the Ecology and Evolution programme if you have completed a Bachelor’s degree in Biology in The Netherlands. If you have a Bachelor’s degree from outside the EU and/or in another subject, the Admission Board will decide whether you can be admitted. In addition to relevant course and lab-work, students from outside the EU should also possess the following:

  • Average grades in the top 30% for coursework in subjects relevant to Ecology and Evolution.
    7 or higher for Dutch grades, 14 or higher in the French system, B or A for the USA or UK and 2 or 1 for German grades.

In all cases, the final decision for admission will be based on the evaluation of these requirements in combination with a judgment of the scientific quality of the applicant’s Bachelor’s programme.

Contact information for questions regarding eligibility for both specializations:
If you do not have a BSc in the appropriate discipline, if you have aDutch HBO/HLO degreeor if a period of more than 5 years has elapsed since you received your Bachelor’s diploma, you are strongly advised to contact the coordinator of the MSc Ecology programme before you start the online application in order to evaluate your chances of being admitted by the Admission Board. Send an e-mail to coordinator Joris Koene:joris.koene@vu.nl.

Note that no rights can be derived from the reply given by the coordinator regarding your admission. Only with the “admission email” you will be officially notified about your conditional or unconditional admission.

Contact information for questions regarding programme content:
Joris Koene: joris.koene@vu.nl

Language Requirements
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam also requires all applicants to take an English test. You can, however, begin your application without having the test results. Please be aware of the fact that it can take a long time to receive the results of English proficiency tests, so plan your test on time! In case you have not taken a test yet, we advise you to plan a test date as soon as possible. Deadlines for submitting the test results are as follows:

Students who require a visa: June 1
Students who do not require a visa:
August 30

Below you will find the minimum English test scores for the Ecology programme:

IELTS (academic):
Minimum Overall Band Score 6.5
- Minimum Sub-score Listening 6.0
- Minimum Sub-score Reading 6.0
- Minimum Sub-score Writing 6.5
- Minimum Sub-score Speaking 6.0

TOEFL:
Paper-based test 580
- Minimum Sub-score Listening Comprehension 58
- Minimum Sub-score Structure and Written Expression 59
- Minimum Sub-score Reading Comprehension 58

Internet-based test 92
- Minimum Sub-score Reading 18
- Minimum Sub-score Listening 19
- Minimum Sub-score Speaking 19
- Minimum Sub-score Writing 24


Cambridge English:
Cambridge Advanced Exam A, B, C
Cambridge Proficiency Exam A, B, C

Copies of your English test results can be sent to the following addresses:

Please refer to the Language Requirements webpage for the general requirements regarding language proficiency.

If you have read the admission criteria and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required.

Step 1: Meet admission criteria

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online

Please prepare the following documents. You can find an explanation of each document on the application page. All documents should be provided in English.

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (only for EU residents)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Letter of Motivation
  • Transcript (Provide a certified translation if it is not in Dutch or English)
  • A description of the relevant courses you have taken during your previous higher education
  • A list of all the main literature used during your previous higher education
  • BSc Thesis  (or another sample of academic writing)
  • 2 Letters of Recommendation

The above documents should provide a clear and comprehensive description of the following:

  • The statistical methods and analyses you are acquainted with;
  • The ecological, evolutionary and genetic concepts/theories you are acquainted with;
  • The textbooks that have been used for the above subjects;
  • Detailed information on your BSc thesis, internships and working experience, if applicable;
  • The experience you have with lab work;
  • The address of the webpage where the Admission Board can find further information regarding the content and learning objectives of the courses in your Bachelor’s programme;
  • Your current position/profession.

After having prepared the required documents, please follow the online application procedure. Once you have completed the application, our international student advisors will contact you via email.

Step 3: Await decision on admission

The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about four weeks, but it might take longer during busy periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you are admitted, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. That is the point when you can start planning your move to Amsterdam! 

Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam!

Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. Here you will find an explanation about what to proceed after admission. When all conditions of your admission have been met, you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!

As an international incoming student you can read more about practical matters and starting your studies in the Netherlands in our ‘Getting Started’ guide.

Further information is also available about:

Scholarships
Accommodation
Visa
Tuition fees

For further information about admission to the programme and other question related to the content of the programme you can contact the master coordinator. 

Dr. Joris M. Koene

VU Amsterdam
Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences
De Boelelaan 1085, room H-142
1081 HV Amsterdam
T +31 (0)20 59 87046
E joris.koene@vu.nl

For Dutch students, for general questions about admission you can contact the Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences Education Office:

Onderwijsbureau Bèta
E: toelating.beta@vu.nl

For International students: questions regarding your application, registration or general inquiries, please contact the Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences International Student Advisor:
Sandra van Daalen
T: +31 (0)20 59 87459
E: admissionsfels@vu.nl

General information about VU University Amsterdam
Please phone us at +31 (0)20 59 85000 (Monday-Friday 10:00 to 12:00). You may also email us at study@vu.nl.


Master day: 11 maart

International students

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application. 

In order to gain admission to one of our Master’s programmes, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent. We do not require a GRE or GMAT test score. 

Admission requirements for the Ecology and Evolution programme.

In general, you can be admitted to the Ecology and Evolution programme if you have completed a Bachelor’s degree in Biology in The Netherlands. If you have a Bachelor’s degree from outside the EU and/or in another subject, the Admission Board will decide whether you can be admitted. In addition to relevant course and lab-work, students from outside the EU should also possess the following:

  • Average grades in the top 30% for coursework in subjects relevant to Ecology and Evolution.
    7 or higher for Dutch grades, 14 or higher in the French system, B or A for the USA or UK and 2 or 1 for German grades.

In all cases, the final decision for admission will be based on the evaluation of these requirements in combination with a judgment of the scientific quality of the applicant’s Bachelor’s programme.

Contact information for questions regarding eligibility for both specializations:
If you do not have a BSc in the appropriate discipline, if you have aDutch HBO/HLO degreeor if a period of more than 5 years has elapsed since you received your Bachelor’s diploma, you are strongly advised to contact the coordinator of the MSc Ecology programme before you start the online application in order to evaluate your chances of being admitted by the Admission Board. Send an e-mail to coordinator Joris Koene:joris.koene@vu.nl.

Note that no rights can be derived from the reply given by the coordinator regarding your admission. Only with the “admission email” you will be officially notified about your conditional or unconditional admission.

Contact information for questions regarding programme content:
Joris Koene: joris.koene@vu.nl

Language Requirements
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam also requires all applicants to take an English test. You can, however, begin your application without having the test results. Please be aware of the fact that it can take a long time to receive the results of English proficiency tests, so plan your test on time! In case you have not taken a test yet, we advise you to plan a test date as soon as possible. Deadlines for submitting the test results are as follows:

Students who require a visa: June 1
Students who do not require a visa:
August 30

Below you will find the minimum English test scores for the Ecology programme:

IELTS (academic):
Minimum Overall Band Score 6.5
- Minimum Sub-score Listening 6.0
- Minimum Sub-score Reading 6.0
- Minimum Sub-score Writing 6.5
- Minimum Sub-score Speaking 6.0

TOEFL:
Paper-based test 580
- Minimum Sub-score Listening Comprehension 58
- Minimum Sub-score Structure and Written Expression 59
- Minimum Sub-score Reading Comprehension 58

Internet-based test 92
- Minimum Sub-score Reading 18
- Minimum Sub-score Listening 19
- Minimum Sub-score Speaking 19
- Minimum Sub-score Writing 24


Cambridge English:
Cambridge Advanced Exam A, B, C
Cambridge Proficiency Exam A, B, C

Copies of your English test results can be sent to the following addresses:

Please refer to the Language Requirements webpage for the general requirements regarding language proficiency.

If you have read the admission criteria and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required.

Step 1: Meet admission criteria

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online

Please prepare the following documents. You can find an explanation of each document on the application page. All documents should be provided in English.

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (only for EU residents)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Letter of Motivation
  • Transcript (Provide a certified translation if it is not in Dutch or English)
  • A description of the relevant courses you have taken during your previous higher education
  • A list of all the main literature used during your previous higher education
  • BSc Thesis  (or another sample of academic writing)
  • 2 Letters of Recommendation

The above documents should provide a clear and comprehensive description of the following:

  • The statistical methods and analyses you are acquainted with;
  • The ecological, evolutionary and genetic concepts/theories you are acquainted with;
  • The textbooks that have been used for the above subjects;
  • Detailed information on your BSc thesis, internships and working experience, if applicable;
  • The experience you have with lab work;
  • The address of the webpage where the Admission Board can find further information regarding the content and learning objectives of the courses in your Bachelor’s programme;
  • Your current position/profession.

After having prepared the required documents, please follow the online application procedure. Once you have completed the application, our international student advisors will contact you via email.

Step 3: Await decision on admission

The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about four weeks, but it might take longer during periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you are admitted, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. That is the point when you can start planning your move to Amsterdam! 

Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam!

Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. Here you will find an explanation about what to proceed after admission. When all conditions of your admission have been met, you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!

As an international incoming student, you can read more about practical matters and starting your studies in the Netherlands in our ‘Getting Started’ guide.

Further information is also available about:

Scholarships
Accommodation
Visa
Tuition fees

There are several possibilities for obtaining funding. Among them are:

  • VU Fellowship Programme (VUFP)
  • Holland Scholarship Programme (HSP)
  • Orange Tulip Scholarship (OTS)
  • Fulbright scholarship
  • STUNED Scholarship Programme
  • Indonesia Endowment Fund of Education (LPDP)
  • Netherlands Fellowship Programme (NFP)
  • Direct Loan Programme 
Information about scholarships, fellowships and grants

For further information about admission to the programme and other question related to the programme you can contact the master coordinator. 

Joris M. koene

VU Amsterdam
Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences
De Boelelaan 1085, room H-142
1081 HV Amsterdam
T +31 (0)20 59 87046
E joris.koene@vu.nl

For questions regarding your application, registration or general inquiries, please contact the Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences International Student Advisor:

Sandra van Daalen
T: +31 (0)20 59 87459
E: admissionsfels@vu.nl

General information about VU Amsterdam

Please phone us at +31 (0)20 59 85000 (Monday-Friday 10:00 to 12:00). You may also email us at study@vu.nl.

Contact another international student!

Would you like to speak to another international student (maybe from your own country)? Click here


Master’s day: 4th of November 2017 and 10th of March 2018