BSc minor Biodiversity: Genetics & Life Histories (WUWLB)

The minor Biodiversity: Genetics & Life Histories focusses on the relation between genetic variation and ecology of life histories, from individuals, populations, and species to communities. Worldwide, the biodiversity of mammals, birds and fish is threatened by fragmentation and loss of habitat, human intervention and climate change.

Continue to an overview of the courses in this minor

Traditionally, attempts at conservation of biodiversity focussed on understanding ecological constraints and restoring of habitats. Management of genetic diversity was seen as the exclusive domain of zoos, WWF and rare breeds protection initiatives. However, there is increasing awareness that conservation of biodiversity requires a thorough understanding of the relation between genetic variation and ecology of life histories, from individuals, populations, and species to communities. This minor aims to bridge these two domains by introducing students into the concepts of conservation biology.

Biodiversity is the result of the evolutionary process of speciation and (lack of) adaptation to changes in ecological constraints. In this minor, students learn about two fundamental and related concepts that are involved in speciation: life history theory and natural selection Life history theory is fundamental for understanding animal decision making and trade-offs throughout various life stages.

Life history decisions are very fundamental for wildlife biology as they affect fitness and thus animal biodiversity through natural selection. Understanding the consequences of genetic variation for fitness is fundamental not only for understanding genetic diversity but also for the development of management plans aimed at genetic conservation of animal populations and species. In this minor these concepts will be used to describe and explain biodiversity in wild and extensively managed populations of mammals, birds and fish.

Learning Outcomes

After successful completion of this minor students are expected to be able to:

  • understand the trade-offs animals have to make throughout various life stages;
  • understand how natural selection acts on life history strategies;
  • understand the ecological consequences of large-scale global changes and human interventions;
  • understand the importance for biodiversity of the relation between genetic variation and ecology, from individuals, populations, and species to communities;
  • recapitulate different strategies aimed at prioritizing species or populations for conservation and (re-)introduction;
  • formulate solutions for problems related to the erosion of genetic diversity;
  • evaluate the importance of principles of conservation biology for society, including nature conservation and ecosystem services.

Target group

This minor is interesting for WUR-students of the BSc programmes:

  • BAS Animal Sciences
  • BBI Biology
  • BBN Forest and Nature conservation

Also for BSc students in biology from VHL and from other universities with an interest in wildlife biodiversity and conservation biology or other, related programmes.

Assumed knowledge

PEN10503 Ecology I and PEN20503 Ecology II.




Second semester (period 4, 5 and 6)

Programme or thematic

Thematic minor