The master’s degree in biology with specialisation in biodiversity and systematics is designed to tailor individual student’s interests and goals. Our elective portfolio offers a wide range of subjects, and courses are continually updated to reflect developments in all areas of biodiversity and systematics research. The thesis is a substantial element of work that focuses learning on an area of particular interest to the student.

The Nordic master’s degree in biodiversity and systematics provides an intellectually challenging learning environment with roots in a research group, and a wide range of courses, distributed across Scandinavia, combining theoretical studies with practical elements. The courses will be taught as a combination of assisted e-learning and intensive field or lab sessions where students and teachers meet for a short period of time at the host university or at a field station.

The programme offers a total of 17 courses that can be divided into four categories. The curriculum should include at least one course from each of the four categories in addition to a thesis project.

Biodiversity – identification
Biodiversity – classification
Systematic theory
Tools and skills
Thesis work

Biodiversity – identification

The courses introduce the students to available identification literature in the targeted organism group (algae, bryophytes, vascular plants, lichens, fungi, vertebrates (birds) and invertebrates (marine and terrestrial focus)), and provide the students with practical identification skills and the experience needed as foundation for further knowledge development. Each course comprises a field element of practical taxonomic exercises where students and teacher(s) come together. Preparations as well as report completion are based on e-learning. Students should select at least one course from this category in order to meet the learning outcome of being able to make inventories of species and natural habitats.

Course code Biodiversity – Identification ECTS HEI Course leader Period
BIOS5311F Identification of marine microalgae and macroalgae* 5 UiO Wenche Eikrem 12
BIOR73 Bryophyte morphology and identification* 5 LU Nils Cronberg 2
BL7036 Insects: Inventory and identification* 5 SU Dave Karlsson 14
1BG394 Diversity and identification of marine invertebrates* 5 UU Mikael Thollesson 11
BIO502 Ornithological identification methodology* (Swedish page) 5 GU Urban Olsson 12

*Includes field and or lab sessions

Biodiversity – classification

Students should elect at least one course from this category in order to meet the learning outcome of having a broad overview of living organisms and the relationship among them when they complete their studies. Five courses focusing on the systematics and classification of various organism groups are offered. These are Algae and microbial diversity, Plant diversity, Fungal diversity, and Animal diversity (vertebrates and invertebrates). In addition there is a specialization on parasitic life forms. The courses are mainly given as e-learning, but may include group meetings with practical elements.

Course code Biodiversity – Classification ECTS HEI Course leader Period
1BG376 Fungal diversity and evolution 10 UU Martin Ryberg 9-10
BIOR96 Plant systematics and diversity* 10 LU Nils Cronberg 11-12
BL7034 Animal diversity – vertebrates 10 SU Sven Kullander 7-8
BL7044 Animal diversity – invertebrates* 10 SU Ulf Jondelius 4-5

*Includes field studies

Systematic theory

Fundamental and molecular systematics is a mandatory course that gives students the ability to generate sequences and to assess molecular systematic information. Emphasis is put on phylogenetic thinking and species concepts. There is also an element of molecular identification (DNA barcoding). Advanced phylogeny is a progression on the basic course that introduces students to various theoretical models used for analyses of relationships. An intensive computer lab session is included. With the models and computer skills achieved in the latter course, students can move on and study Diversification in time and space. This course focus on phylogeography, biogeography and speciation and has a distinct evolutionary perspective.

Course code Systematic Theory ECTS HEI Course leader Period
1BG393 Fundamental and molecular systematics (compulsory)* 10 UU Petra Korall 2-3
BIO404 Advanced phylogenetics 10 GU Christine Bacon 4-5
BI3810 Diversification in time and space 10 NTNU Olena Meleshko 7-8

*Includes lab sessions

Tools and skills

The category comprise a mandatory course named Alpha taxonomical principles teaching students nomenclatural rules and principles for species description and key construction, which are essential aspects of taxonomic revisions. The course Bioimaging will give students practice in techniques used for illustration of biological specimens and include lab sessions. The course Curation and biodiversity informatics concerns techniques for preservation of specimens and information storage in databases. Informatics toolbox for systematics focuses on bioinformatics and how to handle large amounts of data. Both are strictly assisted e-learning courses. For students who wish to include practical molecular laboratory work in their thesis there is a progression on the Fundamental and molecular systematics course called Advanced molecular lab skills where techniques for primer design and haplotype separation among other things are presented. The course comprises an element of intensive laboratory training. Furthermore, International biodiversity resource management will take up the role of biodiversity in a global perspective and the ethical and economical aspects of conservation. This is mainly an e-learning course.

Course code Tools and skills ECTS HEI Course leader Period
BIO401 Alpha taxonomical principles (compulsory)* 5 GU Roger Eriksson 1
BIO468 International biodiversity resource management 5 GU Christine Bacon 10
1BG395 Informatics toolbox for systematics 5 UU Martin Ryberg 9
BL7035 Curation and biodiversity informatics  5 SU Anders Telenius 6

*Attendance required

Thesis work

The length of the thesis is optional and amounts to 30, 45 or 60 credits but may depend upon your home university so be sure to check what applies. Thesis work may extend over several semesters, and be interspersed with courses giving practical or theoretical training.

Students are admitted to the university at which their thesis work is supervised. At the time of admittance each student, together with the tutor, establish an individual curriculum designating the courses to be included in the master degree. Each course in the programme is offered by only one of the cooperating universities. Students apply for admission to courses listed in their curriculum at the particular universities hosting them.

Read about thesis project suggestions