Specialisation Evolution and biodiversity

In this specialisation, the system of biodiversity from a evolutionary perspective is the main focus point.

What will you learn?

You make reconstructions of evolutionary relationships and learn to make taxonomic analyses using molecular data sets. Also, you dive deeper into your genetic background and concepts that play a role in evolution. Think about selection, heredity, or the evolution of characteristics. You learn about the interactions of evolving populations with the environment. You can also interpret genetic analysis. And you learn how the genotypic, phenotypic and molecular evolution of populations can be mapped.


Within this specialisation you follow the courses Advanced biosystematics (BIS) and Population and Quantitative Genetics (GEN). The first course focuses on phylogenetic relationships and how they can be inferred and used to test evolutionary hypotheses. In addition, the current practice of taxonomic research is addressed. The second course is about the genotypic, phenotypic and molecular evolution of a population. Terms such as genetic variation, mutation, and genetic drift are addressed in this course.

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:

  • Isolation-by-distance in the microsnail Gyliotrachela hungerfordiana, expanding the population genetic analysis (National Museum of Natural History, Naturalis);
  • Analysis of the genetic differences between the Alpine plant species Cerastium uniflorum and Cerastium latifolium (Institüt für Systematische Botanik, Universität Zürich).

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

  • Climate induced biodiversity shifts in freshwater ecosystems

Chair group Biosystematics

  • Early evolutionary history of the flowering plant familie Annonaceae: steady diversification and boreotropical geodispersal
  • Inferring speciation from phylogenetic patterns in the diverse South African Cape genus Pelargonium (Geraniaceae)

Chair group Environmental systems analysis

  • Effects of climate change on ecosystems and biodiversity
  • Scenarios for global biodiversity in the 21st century

Chair group Forest ecology and forest management

  • Vegetation development during secondary succession in the Netherlands - a chronosequence approach
  • Lianas diversity, distribution patterns and functional ecology in a Central African tropical rain forest

Chair group Genetics

  • Gene function beyond the single trait natural variation, gene effects, and evolutionary ecology in Arabidopsis thaliana
  • On the ecology and evolution of fungal senescence

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 Phytopathology

  • What is the evolutionary relation between Botrytis species?
  • Evolutionary dynamics of mating-type loci of Mycosphaerella spp. occuring on banana

Chair group Resource ecology

  • Role of traditional enclosures on the diversity of herbaceous vegetation in a semi-arid rangeland
  • Biodiversity and agricultural sustainability: from assessment to adaptive management

Chair group Soil quality

  • Molecular diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in onion roots from organic and conventional farming systems in the Netherlands
  • Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning below-ground