Specialisation Molecular Ecology

This specialisation focuses on the molecular aspects of ecology.

What will you learn?

You learn about various topics, all related to molecular interactions within a biological system. Think of interactions between plants and viruses or various defense mechanisms. Or the microbial diversity in an ecosystem or the influence of the physical / chemical environmental factors on a population can be topics in this specialisation.

You can learn to work with different genetic and molecular techniques such as DNA fingerprinting. You also learn skills such as being able to perform basic experiments or to interpret genetic analysis. With this information you can generate a prediction about the ecological function to it.


In this specialisation you can choose two from the following courses. Microbial Ecology (MIB), in which you look at the microbial diversity and activity in ecosystems. Molecular Aspects of Bio-interactions (PHP) which addresses the molecular basis of for example the interactions between organisms living in symbiosis. The course Plant-Microbe interactions (PHP) makes you consider for example the defense mechanisms of plants against viruses, and Population and quantitative genetics (GEN), a course in which the genetic and molecular evolution of populations plays a role.    

Thesis and internship

In the second year you will start your own research (thesis) in a chair group. Since you have acquired good molecular and genetic knowledge about ecological topics, you can contact 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 organisation outside Wageningen University. Recently, students following this specialisation have done the following internships:

  • Monitoring reintroduction of the otter using non-invasive DNA-monitoring (Alterra);
  • Molecular characterisation of soil-microbial communities of restored calcareous grasslands (NIOO).

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 Entomology

  • Genetic engineering of terpenoid metabolism attracts bodyguards to Arabidopsis
  • Herbivore-induced indirect defense of Arabidopsis: ecogenomic approach to the role of infochemicals in parasitoid attraction

Chair group Microbiology

  • Development of genetic systems for syntrophic bacteria
  • Exploring microbial diversity of marine sponges using 16S rRNA High-Troughput methods
  • Genomic analysis of symbionts to understand the nature of symbiosis

Chair group Nematology

  • Virulence of soil-borne pathogens and invasion by Prunus serotina
  • A ribosomal DNA-based framework for the detection and quantification of stress-sensitive nematode families in terrestrial habitats

Chair group Phytopathology

  • Characterization of a wheat HSP70 gene and its expression in response to stripe rust infection and abiotic stress
  • Infections of Arabidopsis thaliana by Phytophthora parasitica and identification of variation in host specificity

Chair group Systems and synthetic biology

  • Redefining plant systems biology: from cell to community
  • The logicome of environmental bacteria: merging catabolic and regulatory events with Boolean formalisms

Chair group Virology

  • Structure-function relationship of the baculovirus envelope fusion protein F
  • Transmission of white spot syndrome virus improved-extensive and semi-intensive shrimp production systems: a molecular epidemiology study