nl en

Conservation Biology


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

None, but Environmental Science is recommended.


This is an introduction to the discipline of Conservation Biology. The course consists of three sections:

(1) Analysing the conservation situation

We will start with an introductory section will showcasing the history and perspectives of conservation biology and patterns and trends in biodiversity in general. We will discuss the value of and threats to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (including habitat modification, invasive species, pollution, climate change and overexploitation). We will discuss questions such as: What different types of conservation targets are there, how do you diagnose a trend, how can one systematically study the impact of different threats and assemble evidence?

(2) Planning conservation actions and strategies

The second section of the course deals with the decline of populations and biodiversity. Here, we will discuss different conservation approaches and tools (including for example conservation genetics, restoration ecology, protected area networks), and their advantages and disadvantages in different contexts, as well as other important considerations for setting up a conservation programme (for example, what is the end goal and why; and how do you measure progress?).

(3) Societal challenges for conservation

In this last section of the course, we will elaborate on the reality of implementing scientific theory into conservation practice. It will become clear why the incorporation of societal, political and/or economic considerations is important to the success of conservation programmes.

Throughout the course, we will use case studies to discuss ecological and evolutionary concepts that are relevant to diagnosing and treating the decline of populations, species and ecosystem health, and to compare and contrast different conservation approaches. In addition to class presentations on selected topics, students will conduct a research project with a conservation action plan as the end product – this will entail literature study, comparing different conservation approaches and interpreting the results in a socio-economic context.

Course Objectives

With regards to content, at the end of this course, students are able to:

  • Describe and discuss processes that lead to declines in populations, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning

  • Explain the relevance and use of ecological and evolutionary theories and principles for conservation biology

  • Discuss how the concept of context dependency applies to conservation biology

  • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of different conservation approaches

  • Explain how an interdisciplinary approach is essential to addressing conservation challenges

With regards to skills, at the end of this course, students are able to:

  • Conduct a situation analysis for a conservation case, using data from the scientific literature, highlighting the drivers of decline, direct threats and traits of the population/ecosystems that may assist and/or hinder conservation efforts

  • Critically evaluate conservation approaches for appropriateness and feasibility for different case studies

  • Construct a conservation action plan for a case study, based on a situation analysis, stakeholder analysis and critical evaluation of different approaches, and communicate the plan to a lay audience


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The main mode of instruction will center around lectures and discussions on principles, current topics and case studies in conservation biology. Students play an active role in the teaching and learning process: through presentations about case studies, complex problems, and student-led discussions. In addition, students will complete individual and group assignments.

Assessment Method

Assessment will occur through an exam and individual and group assignments. Participation in class will also determine part of the final grade.

  • Journal article discussion (group assignment: 20%) – Week 2 to 6

  • Conservation action plan (group assignment: 35%) – Ongoing

  • Class participation (individual: 10%) – Ongoing

  • Exam (individual: 35%) – Week 8

Reading list

While there is no required course book – if you require more background or additional supplementary reading on many of the topics that we will discuss in class, the book Conservation Biology for All, by Sodhi & Ehrlich 2010 is available for free download at .


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Michiel Veldhuis,
Dr. Emily Strange,