Track title: Plant Biology: Without plants, all higher life would cease
Plants transform the solar energy that drives nearly all living processes on Earth. These organisms are the primary source of human and animal nutrition. They are also critically important in terms of environmental changes to the biosphere as a whole.
This track is research oriented. As a student with an interest in molecular biology, you can join the research programmes of the groups Molecular Plant Physiology, Plant-Microbe Interactions, or Plant Ecophysiology. If you have an interest in ecology, you can join the research programmes of the groups Ecology & Biodiversity, Plant Ecophysiology, or the Netherlands Institute for Ecology (NIOO).
All research groups focus on a variety of fundamental and applied research questions. Your research training will involve investigations at the level of cells, individual plants, plant populations, or ecosystems, and it may involve field observations along with laboratory work.
One of the strengths of the Plant Biology track is that it places knowledge of molecular and cellular mechanisms in an ecological or agricultural context, helping you to bridge the gap between molecular biology and ecology.
Track title: Fungal Biology: Key players in cycling the elements on Earth
Although fungi are less visible than plants, they are key players in degrading organic material. Through their role in the production of bioethanol, fungi contribute to the production of environmental friendly sources of energy. Fungi can establish mutual beneficial symbiosis with plants and animals, but they can be devastating pathogens as well.
If you have an interest in microbiology, you can join the research programmes of the groups Microbiology, Plant-Microbe Interactions, or the Utrecht Fungal Biodiversity Centre. With this research-oriented specialisation track you will have the opportunity to work on fundamental research topics such as “How fungi choose from Nature’s menu”, “The fungal protein factory”, “Fungal biodiversity”, and “Control of mushroom diseases.”
Track title: Ecology & Natural Resource Management: Protect the Earth
This specialisation track uses an interdisciplinary approach to provide you with the tools to address environmental concerns brought on by human society and industrialisation. You'll learn how to sustainably manage and protect the Earth's natural resources.
Ecology & Natural Resource Management prepares you to generate and disseminate knowledge in the ecological and environmental sciences. Members of the participating research groups offer lectures on the latest developments in the field of ecology of natural resources. Guest lecturers from commercial enterprises and government and non-governmental organisations provide the context for these developments from their day-to-day work.
For your research project, you may select from the research groups Ecology & Biodiversity (Biology), Energy & Resources (Copernicus Institute), or the Netherlands Institute for Ecology (NIOO). In addition, you will have the opportunity to do an internship outside the University in a private company, consultancy, governmental institution (ministry, province, or municipality), advisory board, NGO, or applied research centre, either in the Netherlands or abroad.
Track title: Biomarine Sciences & Palaeoecology: Effects of global change on life on Earth
In this track, you will focus on the effects of the global climate change that we face today by studying biotic responses to past environmental changes in oceans and on land.
Although oceans cover 70% of the Earth, our knowledge of marine processes and ecosystems is still limited. The Biomarine Sciences option for this track is dedicated to examining the role of marine processes (such as ocean acidification) in global ecology, oceanography, and climatology in the past, present, and future.
Palaeoecological research focusses on analysing fossil biota and molecules recovered from continental and marine deposits. If you choose this option, you will address questions such as “What can we learn from the behaviour of plants and plankton in the fossil record? What does that tell us about climate change and human impact that triggered dynamic biotic processes such as extinction, migration, and evolution?”
Through this track, you can pursue research topics offered by the groups Marine Palynology and Palaeoecology (Faculty of Geosciences) and by the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research (NIOZ). The MSc courses are available at both Utrecht and NIOZ, in combination with courses available at other institutions.
Track title: Behavioural Ecology: Protect animals and their habitats
This track is research oriented and offers you an interdisciplinary setting in which to explore animal behaviour in relation to ecology, social behaviour, conservation, and welfare.
The Behavioural Ecology track takes a multi-level approach to understanding the causes and consequences of animal behavior. We do this through the integration of evolutionary and proximate approaches, taking a unique multidisciplinary approach to animal behavioural research. Coursework covers a variety of taxa (particularly primates, birds, and fish).
During your studies, you can join the research programmes of the groups Animal Ecology (Biology, Utrecht University), 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 (Antwerp Zoo). These highly regarded research groups offer you the ability to work on topics such as animal migration and ecosystem connectivity, social cognition and behaviour, social learning and animal innovation, ecology of animal personalities, animal welfare, zoo breeding programs, and wildlife conservation.