MSc Internships - Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation


Coordinator Rúna Magnússon
Supervisors Lecturers of PEN; supervisor of the Internship Provider (IP)
MSc courses Restricted Optional for MBI-D and MFN-B. Free choice for other students
Codes and duration For MFN: PEN7224 (16 weeks). Extension to 30EC possible. For other programmes or internships of > 36EC, contact your study adviser or consult your learning plan.
Admission requirements See MSc programme for programme-specific requirements. For internship at PEN specifically: Restoration Ecology or Plant, Vegetation & Systems Ecology. Discuss exceptions with the internship coordinator beforehand.
Character Working experience outside WU at a professional academic level
Internship Providers Any professional organization at an academic level in the field of Nature Conservation and Ecology.

Learning outcomes

  • Orientation in the future professional environment of research, policy or management.
  • Application of gained knowledge and skills.
  • Extension of knowledge by working in a new environment on new subjects
  • Deepening of theoretical knowledge and broadening skills.
  • Job perspective improved by initiating a professional network.
  • Personal growth. Development of the ‘Wageningen University & Research’ graduate profile: increased knowledge, self-reliance, motivation, global view, awareness of socio-ecological basis of conservation problems.


Preparatory phase


Start your preparations at least 6 month in advance, especially if you still need to take into account prerequisite courses or intend to go abroad for your internship. Visit internship information meetings organized by chair groups, your MSc programme or student associations. Read this instruction and other documentation. Establish your own internship profile by answering ‘why, how, when and where’ questions for yourself; i.e., what do you want to get out of an internship experience? Consider a minor thesis outside Wageningen University & Research, or a “Research Practice” at one of the WUR chair groups as an alternative for an internship.


Once you’ve oriented on internship possibilities and, ideally, contacted potential internship providers for available projects, you can contact the PEN internship coordinator. Discuss your profile, the internship possibilities you have found, prerequisite knowledge and timeline. The coordinator will help you select a supervisor within PEN, and help you complete the internship registration in OSIRIS. If you go abroad for your internship, also register your destination and travel dates in OSIRIS to ensure you are covered by WUR's insurance during your internship.


Select your project and Internship Provider (IP). You can use your own network, ask alumni or teachers for advice, search the internet or professional social media, etc. If you do not know where to begin, the internship coordinator can support you. Generally, these are types of IPs that students at PEN select:


Universities, institutes, agencies, consultancy bureaus, larger management organisations.

Conservation Management

Governmental and non-governmental organisations; commercial firms and private organisations: Conservation policy and education: Global, continental, national and local organisations (UNEP, FAO,WWF, IUCN, Greenpeace; EU, ECNC, LNV, Provinces, Communities, NGO’s

Commercial internship brookers (e.g. Experience International) are expensive. Volunteer programmes offer mainly routine work, which is below your academic level.


Discuss a subject with the IP supervisor and prepare a concept working plan (e-mail, telephone and arrange a personal contact if possible). Discuss the suitability and feasibility of the plan with your PEN supervisor. Your research plan will provide the basis for the “learning agreement” you will fill out in OSIRIS, in consultation with the IP supervisor and PEN supervisor.


You can find the course guide, internship contracts and assessment criteria for an internship at WUR on the ESA Portal. Here you can also find guidelines for the learning agreement.

You can initiate the internship registration via, where you will also see the help pages for OSIRIS.


Complete and sign an internship contract, including a brief description of the approved working plan. We advise that you use the UNL contract (provided by the internship coordinator). If your IP supervisor asks you to sign an alternative contract, or an additional contract or non-disclosure agreement, run it by the internship coordinator first. Upload the signed contract to OSIRIS. It is important to have an internship contract signed by all parties before you start working at or for the IP, so especially in cases where the IP requires the use of their own contract or non-disclosure agreement, plan ample time.

    Practical aspects

    Practical aspects should be arranged timely and carefully: driving licence, language courses, visum, ticket; reservations, bank accounts, health (vaccinations, medicins), insurances for risks not covered by WU or IP, special body wear and care products, travel schemes, Dutch public transport card cancelling (DUO), address list for PEN supervisor and relatives. Also make sure to register your travel dates in OSIRIS in case (part of) the internship takes place abroad.

    Internship phase

    Working plan

    In your learning agreement, you have specified your internship tasks and learning goals. You can also add other arrangements, such as access to facilities or frequency of meetings with your IP supervisor and WUR supervisor. You may make changes to the working plan as you go along, but be sure to communicate major changes to your supervisors.


    We advise that you discuss problems and progress primarily with your IP supervisor (weekly, or more frequently). You PEN supervisor will mainly act as an academic advisor and as an assessor for your thesis report. We advise to keep your PEN supervisor updated regularly (e.g. email update twice a month, meetings as necessary). In case of serious problems or conflicts contact him/her and the coordinator immediately.


    Participate in meetings and activities of the IP and the IP-supervisor for orientation and social reasons. Present and discussresults and products during your internship.

    Progress Evaluation

    In your learning agreement, you specify a date to do a “progress evaluation” with your IP supervisor and WUR supervisor. OSIRIS provides a template, that you first fill out with your IP supervisor and then run by your PEN supervisor (via OSIRIS). Plan the progress evaluation relatively early in the internship process; once you have had the time to adjust to the activities, but before the mid-way mark, to ensure that you have time to incorporate any necessary changes and feedback.


    The report must be finalized before the end of the internship according to the schedule. The draft should therefore be sent to the PEN supervisor timely. If necessary, your PEN supervisor will also appoint a second reader to grade your report. We advise that you keep a logbook, make photos and store data safely using back-ups. Depending on whether you do a research internship or professional internship, your report will either be a research report (with typical methods – results – discussion structure), or a context report (with a description of the context of your project, your project deliverables such as reports, tools or datasets, and a discussion of the deliverables). In addition to your internship report, you will write a brief personal reflection report that will be graded by your PEN supervisor with a pass/fail. Refer to the internship course guide for further details. If necessary, the internship coordinator can provide example questions for the reflection report or answer questions about the different types of reports. Be sure to also consult the rubrics, to make sure you know what criteria you will be assessed for.


    You may present your internship at the host institute. In this case, please ensure that your PEN supervisor receives a recording or can attend (online), so you can be graded for the presentation. Alternatively, you may present your internship activities at the weekly PEN student colloquia as a 20min presentation, on Tuesdays between 9:00 and 10:00.

    Evaluation phase


    After submitting your draft internship report to the PEN supervisor (and IP supervisor in case they are also available to give feedback) and incorporating their feedback, you can hand in your final internship report and reflection report via OSIRIS. Your PEN supervisor appoints two assessors to grade your report and performance (based on the recommendations of your IP supervisor). Once they have filled in their assessments, the examiner (usually your PEN supervisor) finalizes the grade during a final reflection meeting. The PEN supervisor will provide a template for the IP supervisor to grade your performance during the internship.

    Evaluation criteria

    Major criteria for the evaluation and marking follow the WUR rubrics, available from the ESA Portal. The criteria include:

    • Professional skills (motivation, initiative, self-supporting ability, efficiency, data analysis, implementation of comments, planning);
    • Report quality (scientific quality, use of available data, justification of conclusions, readability.
    • Presentation quality (oral presentation during the internship and at NCP)
    • Final meeting: quality of the defense of the internship product by the student



    Major costs are travelling, accommodation and meals. The IP usually provides for accommodation and working costs. Some IPs offer a modest additional salary or compensation.


    Several funds supply grants to cover travelling costs, e.g. an Erasmus+ grant.


    The collective Wageningen University & Research travel and accident insurance applies to internship students going abroad. Register your travel dates before departure through OSIRIS. Accident and liability risks during internship working hours should be covered by the IP. In case you have used the UNL internship contract, you are generally well covered against risks. If you have used an alternative contract and you have doubts about risks and liabilities, you can consult with the internship coordinator and contact WUR legal support for advice.

    Additional courses

    If you want to combine an internship with academic courses: see


    -Should I conduct my internship after or before my MSc thesis?

    Usually after. Unless ‘orientation’ is your major objective. Your professional skill and value for the IP is higher and your contribution more valuable after having completed your MSc thesis.

    - When should I start my preparations?

    Plan your intake and registration at least 6 months before your departure, especially if you intend to do an internship abroad.

    - Are suitable Internship providers hard to find?

    No, unless you start searching too late. BSc graduates from Wageningen University are - generally speaking- ‘wanted’. Exploit your strength: high quality labour for a low price.

    - Are travel grants hard to find?

    Yes. Demand exceeds supply. So, act as an early bird.

    - What are common levels of indemnities?

    This differs a lot, some internship providers do not provide compensation, others may offer compensations of several hundred to up to 700eu/month. Also note that the cost of living and meals may differ in your country of destination in case you travel abroad.

    - Can internships fail?

    Yes, but fortunately they very seldom do. Careful preparation reduces the failure risk. Make back-up plans and an urgency scenario. Allow enough time to write your report within the 16 week internship period.

    - Do students get their first job at their IP?

    Sometimes, if their internship is conducted as a last part of the MSc just before graduation. But also without getting ajob, products and networks deriving from your internship remain valuable components on your CV.

    - Are internships interesting, instructive, useful or dangerous?

    All qualifications may apply. It basically depends on you. More specifically, it depends on your initiative, preparation and commitment. Many students from Wageningen University remember their internship as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience. It is important to define your own learning goals to help you find an appropriate internship. Particularly, take into account your ambitions (inside or outside academia) and previous experience (perhaps you have already had a job in the field of ecology?) to help you determine whether you want to do a professional internship, a research internship or research practice (within WUR). Additionally, take into account the different types of IPs, such as NGO’s, municipalities and consultancies.

    - I have another question!

    Check the resources on the right side of this page, the documentation on the ESA portal (particularly the course guide) and on the OSIRIS help pages to see if those answer your question. If not, don’t hesitate to consult your WUR supervisor or the PEN internship coordinator!