BSc Thesis Wildlife Ecology and Conservation

The lecturers of our group welcome you to carry out your BSc thesis under their supervision.

For more information regarding the rules and orientations for the BSc thesis, consult the website of the BSc theses for Forestry and Nature Conservation students (click here) or for the Biology students (click here). The idea is that you come up with a theme for the content of the thesis yourself, and contacts one of our lecturers asking him or her to supervise you. But whom to contact? They best way is to visit our staff website, and check which of the lecturers’ background overlaps best to your suggested theme, and contact him or her, although you are free to contact any of the lecturers you want.

Choosing a good topic for your BSc thesis is an important first step. We can assist you with that step with these three suggestions:

  1. Have a look at the MSc thesis topics we supervise and the projects of the Staff and PhD researchers. These sites give you a good impression of the projects we carry out and of our scientific focus.
  2. If you click on this link, you will find a short list of BSc Thesis topics that have been written under our supervision; maybe it can help you in finding another topic?
  3. We have some ideas ourselves for themes that could be used for a BSc thesis:

Dr. Ignas Heitkönig

Do trees matter in a savanna? Exploring the limits to sustainable use of tree-grass systems. Sustainable use of natural resources is the attainment of balance between society's increasing demands for products from natural habitats and the preservation of health and diversity of these habitats. This balance is critical to the survival of these natural systems, and to the prosperity of human communities that dependent on them. In savannas, trees are often removed for the production of timber, firewood, or charcoal. Trees in semi-arid systems are thought to influence soil fertility and help in promoting productivity of the land. Once harvested, their nutrient and water pumping activities grind to a halt. This must have consequences for the remaining grass vegetation. But to what extent does tree removal negatively affect the provision of nutrients and water to the grass layer? And would it help to leave some minimum tree density intact? And do shrubs - less attractive for wood supplies - fulfill the same function as trees? After a thorough literature survey, including papers from the managed agricultural and agro-forestry domains, you formulate a conceptual model to clarify the limits to sustainable use of woody plants in savannas. The concepts could also apply to better management of protected savannas.

Livestock - fences - wildlife. Hoewel de meeste natuurgebieden in zuidelijk Afrika omheind zijn, houden hekken niet alle dieren wilde binnen en ook niet al het vee buiten. Vaak zorgt langdurige droogte voor een tekort aan geschikte weidegronden in de omgeving van parken, waardoor herders en vee hekken doorknippen en naar binnen gaan om de in het park aanwezige graslanden te exploiteren. Diezelfde droogte kan ook leiden tot uitbraken van wilde dieren als bavianen en olifanten, die zich tegoed doen aan de opbrengsten op naburige akkers. Dit karakteriseert het wildlife - livestock conflict, dat echter geen uniforme oplossing kent. In deze scriptie diep je de aard van het conflict en de mogelijke oplossingen verder uit.

Dr. Fred de Boer

Spatial Ecology. the influence of movements and distribution of foraging success. There is recently a lot of attention on spatial aspects of foraging. But how important is this for differences in foraging success? Are mathematical models able to predict species distribution and movements based on calculations that aim at optimizing intake? Moreover, new techniques have become available such as GPS collars with 3D accelerometers, how good are these in recording movement and behaviour? Some data analysis is possible in this topic using existing data of projects at our group.

Host-parasite interactions in disease ecology. Wildlife distribution and population fluctuations are not only determined by predators, food or habitat quality, as parasites can also play in role. What is the current knowledge with regard to the impact of parasites on hosts? Is the distribution of wildlife influenced by the presence of parasites or is the distribution of parasites determined by the presence of hosts? What models exists with regard to the spatial changes in wildlife distribution under influence of parasite distribution or activity?

Seed dispersal under influence of elephant foraging. Elephants are known to have a major influence on the vegetation structure, but to what extent seed predation by elephant determines the distribution of plants is unknown. Tree species with large fruit that are selected by elephants could benefit from elephant foraging. Elephants feed on slopes, hills and valleys, but the rest a lot under large trees near rivers. We have data of elephant distribution and data about tree distribution to test the hypothesis that elephant movements influence the distribution of tree species with preferred fruit, expecting a higher density of these species around rivers.

Dr. Frank van Langevelde

New items are coming.

Dr. Pim van Hooft

Diseases in natural populations: the genetic viewpoint. Spread of infectious diseases (like avian influenza, bovine tuberculosis and swine fever) is an increasing threat to many ecosystems. Studying the role of molecular processes (genes and their expression) herein in their ecological context provides a perspective that is crucial for understanding disease spread. Especially the new field of ecogenomics is expected to provide major new insights. In this thesis you will evaluate the role genetics can play in studying disease spread in natural populations.

Ecogenomics: where are we now and were are we going? Most genomic studies to date rely on model species. However, genome sequence information, new technological and bioinformatics platforms and reducing costs now enable comprehensive surveys of adaptive genetic variation in natural populations, better known as ecogenomics. In this thesis you will analyze what is the current state of affairs and what are the potentials for future research and applications.

The role of population genetics in conservation management. Technical advances in areas such as high-throughput sequencing, microsatellite analysis and non-invasive DNA sampling have led to a much-expanded role for genetics in conservation. Two important areas in this respect are conservation genetics and landscape genetics. In this study you will investigate to what extent these research areas are and can be used in landscape-based decision-making processes.

Dr. Milena Holmgren

I am interested in understanding ecosystem dynamics. Most of my current work relates to three main themes:

1) evidence for persistent alternative states and the mechanisms explaining them,

2) effects of resource pulses, particularly inter-annual rainfall fluctuations, on plant and herbivore populations,

3) the role of positive interactions and the mechanisms explaining them.

There are many opportunities for developing a thesis around these research themes. Some concrete examples are:

  • Plant functional traits and the dynamics of arid ecosystems
  • Effects of resource pulses on ecosystem dynamics
  • Soil-plant feedbacks in arid systems
  • Regional plant diversity patterns in tropical forests