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

Autumn 2024 Autumn 2024, 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 connection 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:

Limnology (level D): The course aims to give you a broad understanding of the fundamentals of aquatic ecosystems. This course integrates the hydrology, chemistry and biogeochemical cycling of inland waters with knowledge about different organisms and biological communities. The course also includes a one-week field course at the Norr Malma field station (Erken Laboratory).

Applied Ecosystem Ecology: You will learn how catchments (river basins) function as natural units for managing and protecting natural resources, and gain an understanding of the interaction between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The course includes practical training including geographical information systems (GIS).

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function: The course aims to deepen your understanding of ecosystems by exploring the interactions between organisms, food webs, chemical and physical conditions and biogeochemical processes in detail. This course will combine theoretical knowledge with practical training, enabling students to design, conduct and evaluate their own experiments.

Ecosystems in the Anthropocene: This course provides advanced knowledge on how Earth's ecosystems respond to global environmental changes, as well as the connections between environmental change, ecosystem processes and human society. The course will also include modelling and a field study.

Year 2

During the second year of the programme, you have the option to choose additional elective courses, such as a research training course in one of the research groups in limnology or plant ecology. You will conduct a Master's thesis of 30, 45 or 60 credits under the supervision of professors and researchers.

Courses within the programme

Courses within the programme are listed on the Department webpage or found in the programme outline.

Biology instruction at Uppsala University is closely integrated with ongoing research. All teachers in the Master's Programme in Biology are active scientists in their respective field, providing you with an education that stays up-to-date with the latest advances in the field. The teachers on the program are open to discussion and we expect you to be active during lectures and laboratory sessions.

The courses offer a combination of theoretical 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. You will also gain the skills to solve problems, think analytically and work scientifically both individually and in groups.

Communication training is integrated into all courses of the programme - something that is increasingly in demand in the workplace. Exercises in oral and written presentation are a strongly integrated part of the teaching, as are exercises in discussions and debates.

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.