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Scales of Biodiversity


Admission requirements

The course is open for students that are enrolled in the Minor Biodiversity and have followed the first two courses. A minimum background on general concepts in biodiversity and overall evolutionary patterns are preferred.


This six-week course Origins in Biodiversity integrates dimensions of biodiversity in various scales of space and time. The biodiversity that we see today has not always been like this. Many species have originated millions of years ago, and stem from ancestors that have gone extinct. Using examples from zoology, botany and palaeontology, we study the emergence and diversification (speciation/extinction) of biodiversity following different approaches and data (e.g., phylogenies, fossils). These historical processes will be linked to present-day patterns of biodiversity across different spatial scales: continents, regions or ecosystems. The module provides the theoretical background on the evolutionary processes behind these patterns. Particularly geographical, geological and evolutionary aspects are discussed. We will have hand-on practice with different data types (e.g., DNA, phylogeny) and taxonomic groups (e.g., microbes, fungi, cycads, mammals). You will learn how to communicate eco-evolutionary processes in an outreach video, and work in teams on case studies to tackle ongoing hypotheses in this field.

Course Objectives

After completion of the course students can:
1. Integrate taxonomic, genetic, morphological, spatial and temporal information to map and analyze biodiversity patterns in space and time.
2. Describe, explain and discuss the ecological and evolutionary processes that have shaped biodiversity at geological, historical and spatial scales.
3. Communicate the processes underlying the origin of biodiversity across scales to a lay audience using scientific video making.
4. Carry out an in-depth case study and critically discuss your findings with peers and experts.


A detailed schedule will be provided on Brightspace before the start of the course.

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, practicals, demonstrations, fieldwork

Assessment method

The overall assessment comprises three parts: Video for 20%; Case study report 50%; Case study presentation 30%. Each assignment should be finished with at least a 6.0.

Reading list


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information. Exemptions are minor students and fall semester for 1st year bachelor students: the student administration will enroll these groups for courses.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.

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


Course coordinator: Dr. Renske Onstein, Prof.dr. Paco Barona Gomez


Brightspace will be used for communication and exchange of documents