Master's of Science in Ecology

Department of Environmental Sciences
Research Group Plant Ecology
University of Basel
Schönbeinstrasse 6
CH-4056 Basel
Tel. ++41 (0)61 267 35-00 or -09
Fax ++41 (0)61 267 35 04
Department of Environmental Sciences
Research Group Conservation Biology
University of Basel
St. Johanns-Vorstadt 10
CH-4056 Basel
Tel. ++41 (0)61 267 08 31
Fax ++41 (0)61 267 08 32


The Life Sciences and Environmental Sciences Programs of the University of Basel offer a 1.5 year master (MSc) course for graduates (BSc) of biology or environmental sciences. Course modules cover a wide spectrum of plant and animal ecology, ecosystem science and conservation biology.

Studying the interactions among organisms, between organisms and their environment, ecosystem processes and human influences on ecosystem integrity and biological diversity.

Within the Basel life science program there is a 1.5 year Master’s course for graduates with a background in biology (Bachelor or equivalent). The course builds upon the strength and leadership in functional ecology and conservation biology of the associated institutes and covers plant and animal sciences as well as ecosystem sciences.

Why choose an MSc in Ecology in Basel?

  • We offer a broad spectrum of course modules from which you choose your preferred topics. We offer attractive field courses in Switzerland and abroad.
  • We employ modern laboratory methods, including molecular techniques. In our field work, we integrate plant and animal biology.
  • We emphasize theory based and experimental approaches.
  • Our research and teaching focuses on attractive biota such as highly diverse meadow systems, mixed forests and alpine ecosystems in Switzerland as well as arctic and tropical biota.
  • DIB is well known for its excellent research in population biology, biodiversity and conservation as well as global change research. We run unique research facilities such as the highest biological laboratory in the Alps at Furka Pass and the Swiss Canopy Crane (SCC) in a forest near Basel.
  • Last but not least: we are situated in charming buildings in the heart of old Basel at the banks of the River Rhine and in the Botanical Garden with its inspiring plant collection. Basel is situated in the Northwest of Switzerland at the border of France and Germany.

The Basel master program Ecology

Our program is designed for a 1.5 year study composed of one term (4 months) of course-work, a 9 months Master’s project and 2 months for the preparation of finals. However, our university poses no restrictions on the length and depth of your studies, so this is a recommendation.

Graduates who have not had any previous training in ecology can substitute Master modules by attending our 6-week ecology block course (or parts of it) at the end of the summer term (conservation biology and animal ecology, end of May to mid June and/or plant ecology and ecosystem ecology mid June to early July).

A «Master’s in Ecology» is awarded for a minimum of 90 credit points: 30 for courses, 50 for the MSc project, and 10 for the final exam. Courses (lectures, seminars, practical work, essays) can be assigned to (and passed) one by one or (preferentially) in modules of three to six credit points each, or a mix of modules and individual courses. Credits can be obtained at any time before the final exam (free sequence).

We accept and encourage students to attend one of the modules or individual lectures outside of Basel (for instance with our partners at the University of Zurich and the Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich).

Master’s projects can be laboratory (e.g. greenhouse) or field oriented. Examples of topics can found on our webpages. See also the list of publications of the two responsible research units.

The common teaching language is German, however, we offer all courses in English, should it be necessary.

Offered topics

The following topics cover teaching units for 3–6 credit points each (corresponding to 3–6 full term hours per week or a total of 6–12 full days of course-work):

  • Community ecology and biodiversity
    organismic interactions – quantitative vegetation analysis – plant and animal distribution – biodiversity indicators
  • Global change biology
    global warming – CO2-enrichment – eutrophication – land-use changes – extinctions
  • Alpine ecology
    life processes in the cold – treeline ecology – clonal organisms – gene ecology
  • Conservation biology
    habitat fragmentation – genetic erosion – manage-ment issues – restoration ecology – rare species – zoo biology – assessment of habitat quality
  • Population biology
    population genetics – pollination biology – demo-graphy of plants and animals – reproductive biology of rare species
  • Ecosystem ecology and ecophysiology
    terrestrial systems (forest, grassland) – ecosystem processes (water, carbon, nutrient cycles) – stable isotopes – dendroecology – aquatic systems – soil ecology

Various topics are offered in cooperation with the Section of Plant Physiology of the Institute of Botany, the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center, the Institute of Zoology, the Department Biozentrum, the Swiss Tropical Institute, the Department of Geosciences – all in Basel, the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI, Villigen), the Swiss Federal Institute of Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL, Birmensdorf), the Swiss Ornithological Institute, the Natural History Museum Basel, the Basel Zoo.