Master's Programme in Biology – Ecosystems and Aquatic Ecology

120 credits

The Master's Programme in Biology, specialising in Ecosystems and Aquatic Ecology, adopts a holistic perspective on nature. The focus is on lakes and rivers as well as their physical, chemical and, in particular, biological processes. By studying their interactions, you will become acquainted with how ecosystems work and how humans affect them. This specialisation prepares you for jobs in water and natural resource management and is connected to ongoing research.

Autumn 2023 Autumn 2023, Uppsala, 100%, On-campus, English

Our society is dependent on several ecosystem services. For instance, inland waters are used for fisheries, recreation, water supply and energy production. There are also other human activities such as agriculture, forestry and urbanisation. These affect natural ecosystems, which can lead to reduced water flow, eutrophication, pollution, the spread of invasive species, and climate change. Solid knowledge of ecosystem structure and function is key to the sustainable use of natural resources.

In the programme with a specialisation in Ecosystems and Aquatic Ecology, you will study the interactions between organisms and their environment. Ecology of inland waters (lakes and rivers) is an important part of the programme, but topics related to other natural and constructed ecosystems will also be included in the programme.

In this specialisation of the programme, you will

  • learn how ecosystems work, and in which way they are affected by human perturbations
  • get a broad and holistic perspective on nature, by crossing disciplinary boundaries such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Hydrology; however, with a focus on inland waters
  • gain skills to analyse and judge the status of ecosystems and natural resources, by using practical exercises.

This specialisation has a strong link to natural resource management and water management, thanks to its holistic perspective and broad approach to ecosystems and inland waters, as well as its incorporation of catchments as natural units for planning and management. There is also a strong link to ongoing research. Advanced knowledge in ecosystems is also becoming more and more important to tackle the ongoing environmental change.

The Master's Programme in Biology, with a specialisation in Ecosystems and Aquatic Ecology, is the choice if you aim to work at authorities, consultancies and other organisations dealing with the management or conservation of natural resources, water or other aquatic resources. It also prepares you for an international research career in environmental science, aquatic science, or ecology.


The programme leads to the degree of Master of Science (120 credits) with Biology as the main field of study. After one year of study, it is possible to obtain a degree of Master of Science (60 credits).

Year 1

In the first year, you will take four courses in the following order:

1. Limnology (level D): the course aims to give you a broad understanding of the fundamentals of aquatic ecosystems, focusing on inland waters. This course integrates the hydrology, chemistry and biogeochemical cycling of inland waters with knowledge about different organisms and biological communities, and how these interact with each other. An important component of this course is a one-week field course at the Norr Malma field station (Erken Laboratory), where you conduct your own projects to get hands-on experience with aquatic ecosystems.

If you have already taken courses in limnology with corresponding content in your Bachelor's studies, you can choose one of the alternative courses in Ecology (level D), Toxicology (level D) or Evolutionary Processes.

2. Applied Ecosystem Ecology: you learn to work with catchments (river basins) as natural units for the management and protection of natural resources. You will learn how to identify catchments and get an overview of how terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems interact, linked by the flow of water through the catchment. Human perturbations on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems are addressed in detail, such as physical alterations, pollution, the introduction of non-native species and exploitation of species populations. You plan and conduct field samplings, analyse samples, and get thorough training on geographical information systems (GIS). The legislation and applied water management at national, European and international levels are discussed and compared.

3. Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function: the course aims to deepen your knowledge of ecosystems. The interaction between organisms, food webs, chemical and physical conditions and biogeochemical processes are addressed in detail, and examples stretch from microorganisms to fish. This course focuses on understanding the role of biodiversity in ecosystems, and the ecosystem characteristics that are important for biodiversity. One part is about measuring biodiversity and its significance to ecosystems. The course will combine theories with practical training, which means you will get to apply the scientific approaches in designing, planning, conducting and evaluating your own experiment. There are also sections dealing with a scientific publication, good scientific practice and research ethics.

4. Ecosystems in the Anthropocene: the Earth is in the epoch of humans, the Anthropocene, because of the drastic, rapid and multifaceted human impact on nature. This course gives you advanced knowledge on how Earth's ecosystems react to global environmental change, and an understanding of the interconnectivity between environmental change, ecosystem processes and human society. Potential future scenarios are discussed, including possible ways toward sustainable socio-ecological systems. The course will also include modelling and a field study to give you a deep understanding of human's central role in Earth's ecosystems.

Year 2

During the second year of the programme, you are free to select additional elective courses, such as a research training course, for example, in one of the research groups in limnology or plant ecology at the Department of Ecology and Genetics.

You will conduct a Master's thesis of 30, 45 or 60 credits under the supervision of professors and researchers. We can also supervise Master's theses that are conducted with partners from outside of the University, for instance, government authorities, companies or NGOs.

Courses within the programme

See the programme outline for courses within the programme.

Biology instruction at Uppsala University is done in close connection to current research. All teachers for the individual courses in the Master's Programme in Biology are active scientists, ensuring that you will get an education that reaches the absolute forefront of the respective field.

The courses provide factual knowledge and practical training in the form of laboratory work and field trips, as well as the ability to solve problems, think analytically and work scientifically. Communication training is integrated into all courses of the programme.

The Master's Programme in Biology has a strong international character, and all courses are taught in English.

Specialising in ecosystems and aquatic ecology, you will be ready for various types of jobs. You can, for instance, work at a government authority dealing with nature conservation or aquatic resource management. In the private sector, you can, for instance, work at an environmental consulting agency conducting evaluations, inventories, or environmental impact assessments for different customers. You may also work at an NGO or other organisations dealing with water and natural resource management and environmental change (e.g. WWF, Fishing Associations). As a biologist, you can also become a teacher or science journalist.

There are common organisations and legislations within the EU (e.g. the water framework directive, or Natura 2000), as well as within other international collaborations within natural and water resources. Therefore, you can also explore further the international job market after graduation.

You will also be well-prepared for PhD studies and an international research career.

Regardless of the professional career, you have in mind, the common base is a broad and solid understanding of different types of ecosystems.

Career support

During your time as a student, UU Careers offers support and guidance. You have the opportunity to take part in a variety of activities and events that will prepare you for your future career.