Master track Behavioural Ecology

This specialization programme is research oriented and is designed for students with an interest in animal behaviour in relation to ecology, social behaviour, conservation and welfare.

The Behavioural Ecologymaster track takes a multi-level approach to understanding the causes and consequences of behaviour, with integration of evolutionary and proximate approaches. Students can conduct their major research project the research programmes of the groups Animal Behaviour and Cognition (Biology, Utrecht University), Animals in Science & Society (Ethology & Welfare, Veterinary Sciences, Utrecht University), the Netherlands Institute for Ecology (NIOO) and the Centre for Research and Conservation of the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp at Antwerp Zoo. You can work on research topics such as: ‘social cognition and social behaviour’, ‘animal welfare’, and ‘zoo breeding programs and wildlife conservation’, and ‘ecology of animal personalities’. The programme provides a unique multi-disciplinary approach to animal behavioural research, with work covering a variety of taxa, ranging from great tits to primates.


The main components of this two-year Master’s programme (120 EC) are research training during two student research projects and advanced theoretical education. The aim of the research projects is to train students as independent researchers. Under the guidance of an experienced researcher, you will work on a well-defined project of your choice, and practise all aspects of research, during your major research project (55 EC) and minor research project (31 EC). For the theoretical education, you take part in advanced theoretical courses (in total 15 EC), follow seminars, and write a Master thesis or a research proposal on a topic of your choice (7,5 EC), under the supervision of a staff member. You have 12,5 EC free electives to follow courses or to expand your research project. The programme can only be followed full-time.

Entrance requirements for Behavioural Ecology

A BSc in Biology with knowledge of behavioural, evolutionary and ecological aspects of animals, at a level equivalent to a Utrecht University Bachelor’s in Biology, including a course in biostatistics. The level 3 course Socio-ecology, Utrecht University, or an equivalent course is compulsory.
BSc in other than Biology, Higher professional education (HBO) and higher education in applied sciences (HLO) applicants will be assessed on an individual basis. Previous education will have to relate to the content of the Master's programme. If it is determined that deficiencies can be addressed by means of a pre-Master programme, the student will be invited for an interview. It will then be decided whether the student is eligible for the Master programme. It may be required to enter an individually designed pre-Master’s programme (three to six months). This will have to be completed before admission to the Master programme.

Career opportunities

The Master degree provides an excellent starting point for a scientific career at a university or research institute. The programme also prepares for jobs at consultancy firms and private or government nature protection or restoration organisations.

More info

General information on following a master at the Utrecht University:
Website for Graduate School of Life Sciences:
Website for Environmental Biology:

Contact with regard to this track