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EBC / Fundamentals of Evolution, Biodiversity and Conservation



Prof. dr C.J. ten Cate


The world is an incredible place. It harbours the most wonderful and weird organisms. In addition to the known diversity, modern genomics are turning up unsuspected diversities of unicellular organisms in all imaginable (and even in unimaginable) habitats.
What are the processes that give rise to this enormous variety?
How can we explain how new life forms emerge?
What are species anyway?
What affects their distribution in space and time?
How can we conserve biodiversity in the face of global and local environmental changes?
How can we manage our resources in a sustainable way?

This broad-ranging 8 week ‘basics’ course provides an introduction to such questions. It consists of 4 modules:
In the first one, students will use the changes in the famous Lake Victoria system to discover how this can give rise to a wide variety in research questions on all sorts of topics and disciplines.
The next module ‘Fundamentals of evolutionary change’, will introduce students to the wide variety of processes that give rise to evolutionary changes.
The module ‘Richness of the world’ introduces the problems and concepts related to describing, studying and understanding biodiversity.
The final module, ‘Fundamentals of conservation biology’, concentrates on the relationship between biodiversity and society, and deals with questions related to its conservation and sustainability.

The full course will provide students with a broad kaleidoscope of subjects providing a background for later specialization.

Methods of instruction

This compulsory course is based on lectures, assignments and self study, using primary literature. Teachers from the various institutes will be involved. The time schedule will be provided at the start of the course.

Study material

Primary literature (articles). Presentations on Blackboard.


Testing will be done by various assignments (essay, oral presentation, etc.), which will vary by module. Participation in discussions might also contribute to the final mark.

Course objective

The aim of this course is to provide students with an overview of the whole area covered by the MSc-track; to introduce them to various subjects and approaches; to stimulate them to formulate research questions, think critically, discuss concepts and ideas, and to present their views in various ways.


This course is compulsory for students in the EBC-track and should, if possible, be done in the first year of their degree.

Use of DLO

Blackboard will be used.