Conservation and systems ecology

This specialisation focuses primarily on the fundamental processes that play a role in ecology.

What will you learn?

You learn to interpret the relationships between chemical / physical processes and bio-processes. You also learn to analyse different ecosystems. This knowledge is used in the management and conservation of ecological systems.

You examine the effects of fishing, or you try to make predictions about the impact of management of forests. You can also choose to learn more about the interactions between soil animals and soil. Or learn about interactions between animals – like herbivores - and vegetation.


When you choose this specialisation, you will follow the course Ecology: classics and trends (AEW). You will learn the theoretical background and foundations of ecology, such as biological processes in ecosystems and biodiversity in relation to different ecosystems. Next to that, you choose, depending on your interests, one of the following courses:

  • Biological interactions in soils (SOQ) which among other things you learn about interactions between plants in soil, nutrients and soil animals;
  • Fisheries Ecology (APF) which is about ecology of fish and other aquatic organisms and the impact of fishing on these populations;
  • Advanced forest ecology and forest management (FEM) in which the ecological processes in different forests are explained and you gain knowledge of management techniques;
  • Plants, vegetation and ecology systems (NCP) in which you analyse different ecosystems as part of fieldwork on Terschelling;
  • Animal ecology (REG) in which plant-animal interactions at various levels are discussed. 

Thesis and internship

In the second year you will start your own research (thesis) at one of the following chair groups:

You can find examples of thesis subjects at the bottom of this page.

In the second half of your second year you will go on an internship. This can be a project at a company or organization outside Wageningen University. Recently, students following this specialisation have done the following internships:

  • Analysis of the changes in vegetation composition caused by nitrogendeposition (PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency);
  • Developing a management plan for the rural area in Southeastern Bulgaria focussed on the sustainable use of the Eastern Rhodope (ARK Nature development).

Thesis examples

In the second year of the master's programme you will start your own research (thesis) at one of the chair groups. Beneath you will find examples of thesis subjects.

Chair group Aquatic ecology and water management

  • Analysing the effects of management options for Lake Marken using an ecosystem model
  • Effect of chemicals used in Asian aquaculture on aquatic ecosystems in the tropics

Chair group Aquaculture and fisheries

  • Integrated approach dor a sustainable and healthy freshwater aquaculture
  • Impacts of spatial arrangements and temproal changes of aquaculture and fisheries activities in coastal aquatic ecosystems

Chair group Crop systems analysis

  • Developing selection criteria for improved root system architecture in lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) for organic and low-input agriculture
  • Biodiversity and the natural control of pests and weeds

Chair group Environmental systems analysis

  • Effects of climate change on ecosystems and biodiversity
  • Integrated assessment of multi-functional use of the North Sea and coastal zone

Chair group Soil quality

  • The role of dissolved organic mater in disease suppression of agricultural soils
  • Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning below-ground

Chair group Forest ecology and forest management

  • Predicting plant invasions and invasive success
  • Promoting regeneration of commercial tree species to achieve sustainable forest management in the Brazilian Amazon

Chair group Nature conservation and plant ecology

  • Effects of  fragmentation and management on vegetation and insect biodiversity
  • Persistent negative effects of pesticides on biodiversity and biological control potential on European farmland

Chair group Plant production systems

  • Analysis and exploration of resource management options: Central Rift Valley of Ethiopia
  • Effects of modelling detail on simulated potential crop yields under a wide range of climatic conditions

Chair group Resource ecology

  • Impact of human activities on water level and clarity and underwater light climate of Vallisneria spiralis L. in Poyang Lake, China
  • Effects of burning and herbivory on an East African savanna system