Animal Ecology

How do animals and their (natural) environment interact with each other? In this specialisation the focus lies on wildlife, grazing animals, marine animals and aquatic organisms.

Specialisation in a nutshell

The specialisation Animal Ecology focuses on the interaction between animal populations and their wider environment, the ecosystem. The environment can be natural or affected by human intervention, i.e. an agro-ecosystem. Mechanisms that underlie the impact of animals on their environment, by food intake behaviour, by interaction with other animals, are studied to understand animal and aquatic ecological systems.

This specialisation has four thesis tracks:

  • Aquaculture and Fisheries (AFI)

  • Behavioural Ecology (BHE)

  • Marine Animal Ecology (MAE)
  • Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Group (WEC)

Below you can read more about the courses provided in the specialisation Animal Ecology. The online study handbook provides detailed information.

Courses AFI

Marine Resources Management (AFI32806)

Fishing has dominant direct and indirect impacts on marine community and their habitats, but changes occur through other uses as well. You will gain insights in basic fisheries and marine ecological and environmental economic concepts.

Fisheries Ecology (AFI30806)

This course deals with the ecology of fishes and other aquatic organisms in relation to the exploitation of aquatic resources.

Courses BHE

Behavioural Ecology (BHE30306)

This course provides insight in how evolution through natural selection shapes behaviour of animals (domestic or wild, vertebrate or invertebrate).

Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare (BHE31306)

In this course you learn to link concepts of animal behaviour to welfare issues in modern husbandry of livestock and companion animals.

Courses MAE

Life History of Aquatic Organisms (AFI31306)

This course deals with the biology and ecology of aquatic organisms, with an emphasis on life history theory.

Marine Animal Ecology (MAE30306)

This course aims at understanding the functioning, resilience, and health of animals in interaction with their environment, and linking this to management of biodiversity and use of marine animal resources.

Courses WEC

Ecological Methods I (WEC31806)

Students learn how to analyse hypothesis-centred ecological field research projects on plants, animals, and their environment, with emphasis on the appropriate choice and application of statistical techniques for the analysis of ecological data.

Check with your study adviser which course fits best in your MSc programme, choose (at least) one of these courses:

Animal Ecology (WEC30306)

The course will provide a deeper understanding of animal-animal, animal-food and animal-environment interactions at various levels.

Disease Ecology (WEC33306)

The overarching aim of the course is to offer a current and comprehensive view of the causes and consequences of infectious disease at the levels of individuals, populations, communities, and ecosystems.

Thesis and Internship

A thesis or internship project for the specialisation Animal Ecology is conducted at the AFI, BHE, MAE or WEC chair group and results in a scientific report and a presentation. A thesis project usually links up with ongoing research at one of these research groups or is conducted in cooperation with commercial or (non-)governmental organisations. At the websites of the different chair groups, you can find more information about research topics.

AFI chair group

BHE chair group

MAE chair group

WEC chair group


If you have any questions about the specialisation Animal Ecology, you can contact the programme director dr. René Kwakkel at

Specialisations of MSc Animal Sciences