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Biology: Biodiversity and Sustainability

The information on this page is subject to change for 2020-2021

This research-oriented master specialisation offers students in-depth knowledge on relationships between biodiversity and society. The critical importance of biodiversity and the services provided by nature for our society is increasingly endorsed by national and international conventions. However, to implement the right policy measures for creating a sustainable society, a much better understanding of the biological processes involved is essential. This master specialisation aims to discuss and answer societal relevant biological questions for instance on the amount of biodiversity we need to ensure that nature functions well and how we can optimize ecosystem functioning and biodiversity for a sustainable society. By using ‘sustainability’ as a guiding principle, the programme provides students with an academic attitude by stimulating reflective, independent and creative thinking to support, conserve and manage biodiversity and sustainable ecosystem services. This master specialisation prepares students for a PhD programme and/or for research positions at universities or research institutes and for positions at governmental organisations and consultancy agencies.

Coordinator: Prof dr. P. van Bodegom


Website Instituut Biologie Leiden

For a description of the full programme click the more information button!

This MSc specialisation will start on Monday 31 August, 2020 at the Sylvius Laboratory, with an information lecture.


Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2

Compulsory elements:

Orientation on Biodiversity and Sustainability 2
Advanced Statistics 4
Genomic Architecture 6
Human Impacts on Biodiversity 6
Systematics and Biodiversity 6
Research Project Min. 60

At least one of the following courses is compulsory:

Ecosystem Services 6
Ecotoxicology (2021-2022) 6

Specialisation related electives

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2
Advanced Academic Skills Elite Course 6
Biogeochemistry of System Earth 3
Book exam 6
Metabolomics 6
Paleobiology 3
Pharmaceuticals from Plants 5
Plant Families of the Tropics 5
Top Lectures in Biology 3

Courses organized by the Faculty of Science or LUMC (please check with the organizing Educational programme whether you can join the course):

Tropical Biodiversity and Field Methods south East Asia (next course in 2021-2022) 6
Advances in Data Mining 6
Computational Molecular Biology 6
Science Methodology (SCM) 4
Science and the public: contemporary and historical perspectives 6

Other electives

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2
Animal Cognition 6
Advanced Cell Biology 4
Advanced Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology 3
Bird species in animal experimentation 2
Development and Evolution 6
Fish species in animal experimentation 2
Innate Immune systems 6
Mechanisms of Disease 6

Courses organized by the Faculty of Science or LUMC (please check with the coordinator of the course whether you can join the course):

Image Analysis with Applications in Microscopy 6
Model organisms in cancer drug discovery and development 4
Multiscale Mathematical Biology (BM) 6
Other approved electives 1-6

Study and Career Orientation


Education Office Biology


During the master several meetings and activities concerning Study and Career Orientation will be organized in collaboration with the Science Career Service. Through lectures, information meetings, individual and / or group assignments, students are encouraged to plan a future professional career.

Learning goals

Study and Career Orientation aims to get students to think about his or her choices during the masters degree in biology and to encourage students to plan their future career. Topics covered include:

  • Thinking about your own career wishes and potentials;

  • Orientating yourself in the job market and examining job opportunities for biologists;

  • Developing your skills such as writing your CV, writing a job application letter and presenting yourself;

  • Being aware that a social/professional network can help you;

  • Preparing yourself for interviews and application procedures including psychological tests and assessments.

End terms:
After having followed this course, a student can, on the basis of their personal profile and individual and group orientation, make a motivated choice for a future career.


Various meetings and activities per year. The timetable can be found under ‘files’


More information about Study and Career Orientation can be found on Brightspace ‘Teaching programme BSc and MSc Biology’ / Master

More info

Programme (120 EC)
The MSc specialisation consists of:

  • a theoretical part (30-60 EC)

  • one or more research projects (60-90 EC).

The programme includes some compulsory components and can be expanded with a wide choice of elective elements. The mandatory components in the 1st semester aim to provide students with the theoretical and practical background needed for an efficient start of the Research Project at the end of this semester. The Research Projects are the actual core of the MSc programme. Students will be member of a research group of their choice and work full time on a specific project. Each project will be finished with a MSc thesis written in the form of a manuscript for an international scientific journal. At least one but preferably two Research Projects are part of the study programme.
The Specialisation Research Project has to be done within the theme of the specialisation at the CML, Naturalis, the IBL, other departments of the Faculty of Science, the LUMC or NIOO. Prior to the start of the Research Project, the Board of Examiners has to approve the individual study plan of the student and the Research Project agreement.

Compulsory components
Each MSc-programme consists for at least 36 EC of theoretical components and the Research project(s) contribute at least 60 EC. The specialisation Research Project should be minimally 36 EC, and a second Research Project should be at least 30 EC. A single research project cannot exceed 60 EC. A “Fish specific animal experimentation course (2 EC) or a “Bird specific animal experimentation course (2 EC) is obligatory in case of a research project that involves handling or experimental use of fish species or birds species.

Electives/optional elements
The optional part of the programme can consist of either additional courses, or an extension of the duration of a research project. A list of approved elective courses is available in the e-guide. For courses outside the Leiden University biology programme, prior approval of the Board of Examiners is required.
Note: No more than 12 EC of optional theoretical elements of level < 400 are permitted and at most 15 EC of non-biology courses.

Approval of programme
The individual study programme consisting of choices of courses and one or two research projects must have prior approval of the Board of Examiners.

Short description of the courses
Courses cover a broad range of relevant subjects and provide in-depth theoretical knowledge as well as training in practical skills and advanced research tools. The course Orientation on Biodiversity and Sustainability provides a state of the art overview of the scientific research and research methods used in the departments participating in this MSc specialisation.
The course “Genomic Architecture” aims at training students to become “genome-enabled” biologists by giving an overview of the structure, function and evolution of genomes as tools for biomonitoring, and an introduction into bio-informatics. The interface between biodiversity and sustainability is taught in ‘Ecosystem Services’ and ‘Human Impacts on Biodiversity’. In addition, students are trained in ‘Advanced Statistics’ and ‘Biodiversity and Sustainability', providing the methodological tools for their training in scientific research during the Research Project(s).
A variety of additional courses from other MSc specialisations in Biology and from other MSc programmes at the Faculty of Science can be chosen as electives. For details (description, literature, exam dates and further calendar events) about the different courses see the e-prospectus and Brightspace.