Learning outcome

The Nordic Masters in Biodiversity and Systematics curriculum emphasizes
four key components:

  • Scientific knowledge
  • Practical skills
  • Independent academic thinking and ability to convey knowledge
  • Ethics and sustainability in a global perspective

Upon completion of the programme students will have a broad overview of living organisms and the relationship between them, have specific identification skills in one of more organism groups allowing for inventory of species and natural habitats, be familiar with nomenclatural rules, be able to describe evolutionary mechanisms leading to speciation and account for the species concepts, in practice be able to produce and assess molecular systematic information, understand the role of biodiversity in a global perspective and the ethical and economical aspects of conservation, and have practice in conveying scientific information to academic groups as well as to the public.

Applications such as biodiversity monitoring, nature conservation management and environmental law are avilable as complementary courses.

Upon completion, receiving a minimum grade of Pass of all the courses and the degree project, students will receive a Master of Science in Biology

The Nordic Masters setup

The MSc in Biology with specialization 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 Masters in Biodiversity and Systematics provides an intellectually challenging learning environment with roots in a research group and a wide range of courses, distributed across the Nordic countries, 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 22 courses that can be divided into four categories. The curriculum should include at least one course from each category.

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. A course emphasizing the specific conditions met in Arctic and Alpine environments seen across different organism groups, and the role of Climate Change in the area, is also offered. 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 elect 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.

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.

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.

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.

Thesis work

The length of the thesis is optional and amounts to 30, 45 or 60 hec. 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.

Admission requirements

Bachelor of Science in Biology (180 hec), or equivalent degrees that are based on courses in Biology amounting to at least 90 hec. All credits in the Degree need to be from an accredited university. The applicant’s university education must also include a thesis, term paper or equivalent proof of proficiency in academic writing.

English Proficiency Requirements

I. English level B at the Swedish upper secondary level.


II. Language tests

TOEFL IBT (internet based) test result of at least 90 points, with score of at least 20 in written test

TOEFL (paper based) test result of at least 575 points, with score of at least 4.5 in written test

IELTS test result of at least 6.5 with no individual score below 5.5.

The test result must not be older than 2 years on the last date for application.


III. Exemptions

Some students may be exempt from submitting formal test evidence for Course B. Please consult to see the list of exemptions.