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Conservation Biology


Admission requirements

You must be a master student.

Contact information

Coordinator: K. Trimbos, dr. W.L.M Tamis


Conservation Biology studies the relations between human activity, environmental quality and biodiversity. It thereby contributes to the protection and sustainable use of natural resources, with a focus on biodiversity. The general framework is based on causal chains; both in the physical environment (from drivers, via chemical, physical, biological pressures, via states, to impacts) and society (from impacts, via responses of different actors, to drivers). Principles from both the ecological and the social sciences are used to investigate these relations at a range of spatial and temporal scales. The research is both problem- and resolution-oriented. The focus is on biodiversity, but the problem is always placed in a multi-disciplinary perspective. In the mornings lectures are given. Self working teams, preparation of assignments and possibly excursions will be scheduled in the afternoons. In the first week ecological restoration is the leading theme. Ecological restoration is the repair of ecosystems, damaged by over-exploitation, toxic substances, nutrients, exotic species and habitat destruction. In addition, information about ecological restoration principles and techniques will be presented and discussed. Important questions to be dealt with concern i.e. sustainable forestry practices (bio-fuels), and desired management of nature parks (e.g., regulation of hunting and fisheries, including those practiced by indigenous people). How important are the different conservational problems in different areas and systems? How to develop conservation plans taking into account all the different threats to biodiversity? Also in the first week an ecological restoration assignment will be given, into which the knowledge and skills of the following three weeks will be integrated in view of ecological restoration. Each of the following three weeks will be dedicated to one of the research lines of the department of Conservation Biology of the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML). The second week will focus on the consequences of biodiversity loss for the functioning of complex food webs and communities. This includes the problem of secondary extinctions, loss of ecosystem function, and changes in community composition that prevent successful recovery after disturbance. In the third week the impacts of (changes in) land use will be dealt with, with a focus on human dominated (western) landscapes. An important topic will be agriculture and nature, but also case studies on specific faunal groups (e.g., meadow birds, urban birds) will get attention. The last week will focus on the effects of biological stressors, mainly the introduction of exotic species, by self study of the book Invasion Ecology. Main impacts are then on the level of ‘natural’ populations of indigenous species. At the end the presentations of assignments and a short exam are used to evaluate the knowledge and skills of the students.

Learning goals

Course objectives:
The objective of this course is to give the student a state-of-the-art insight of scientific developments in Conservation Biology, and to learn to use this information in an integrative way.

Final qualifications:
Knowledge of effects of stressors on ecosystems and biodiversity; knowledge of the effects of land use and the spatial arrangement of habitat on populations of threatened species and knowledge on ecological restoration. Learned skills include risk-analysis of biodiversity loss and the invasion of exotic species, and the use of conceptual environmental models to assess effects on endangered populations. The development of integrated assessment and restoration plans for damaged ecosystems is one of the final skills.


27 October 2014 – 21 November 2014

In the mornings, the environmental themes and related topics are discussed based on presentations by internal and external experts and selected literature. The afternoons are preserved for assignments, mainly writing a short paper, preparing for exams, or preparing a symposium. A combination of different education techniques will be used.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, excursions, assignments, presentations, and working groups.

Assessment method

The presentations of assignments and a short exam are used to evaluate the knowledge and skills of the students.


Blackboard will be used for course information.

Reading list

Reader and lecture hand outs.


Via USIS and enrollment in Blackboard

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for more information on how to apply.


Costs: Depending on the weather there will be some costs for excursions of about 40 € and there are costs for one book (50 € if new).

This course is a prime opportunity to learn about the consequences of biodiversity loss and about the way forward to restoring natural environments.