Ecology and evolutionary biology offer a perspective on biology from the level of genes to communities of species.

In the Master's Programme in Eco­logy and Evol­u­tion­ary Bio­logy, you can become familiar with a wide variety of topics in three areas: ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation biology. You can choose studies from any of these areas, as well as from other master's degree programmes. The programme is diverse and multidisciplinary: teaching is done with lectures, laboratory and computer training courses, interactive seminars, study tours and field courses. The field courses range from the northern subarctic region to tropical rainforests.

Our wide expertise extends from molecular ecology to population and community biology. The Centres of Excellence of Metapopulation Biology and Biological Interactions are located in our department.

Our programme offers you a wide range of options: evolutionary biology or genetics for those interested in ecological genetics and genomics, as well as the ability to take advantage of the high-quality molecular ecology and systematics laboratory; conservation biology for those interested in regional or global environmental problems; and ecological modelling skills for those interested in computational biology. Our training also offers Behavioural Ecology.

Why Ecology and Evolutionary Biology?

Ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation biology are not only fascinating topics for basic research, but they also have a key role in addressing global environmental challenges.

Upon graduating from the Master's degree in ecology and evolutionary biology programme, you will:

  • Have mastered the main theories and methods in ecology and evolutionary biology and be able to apply them to practical problems
  • Be able to plan and carry out a scientific research project
  • Have read the relevant scientific literature and be able to utilise your expertise in different types of work
  • Be able to work as an expert in your field
  • Be able to write good scientific English
  • Be able to work in research projects and groups
  • Be able to continue on to doctoral studies

Upon graduating, you have the capability to embark on a wide range of careers, such as University teaching and research tasks, expert and administrative tasks at research centres and companies, in the field of public administration (e.g., the United Nations, the European Union, national and provincial administration, cities and municipalities), international and national organisations and the media. In addition, the degree makes you eligible to continue with postgraduate studies in different areas of biology.

For Finnish and Swedish speaking students, the programme also provides an opportunity to study towards a biology teacher qualification.


You undertake modules producing a total of 120 credits (ECTS) according to your personal study plan. The degree consists of:

90 credits of advanced studies, including a research project (Master’s thesis, 30 credits):

  • Ecology, 5 credits
  • Evolutionary biology, 10 credits
  • Statistical methods in ecology, 5 credits
  • Master’s degree seminar, 5 credits
  • Master’s thesis course, 5 credits
  • Master’s thesis, 30 credits
  • 30 credits of alternative other studies chosen from the Programme

30 credits of optional other studies. You can choose studies from the Programme or from other Master's Programmes.

Career planning or extracurricular activities can be included in your personal study plan.

If you are studying to qualify as a biology teacher, you will need 60 credits of pedagogical studies and 60 credits of ecology and evolutionary biology in your degree. This applies only to Finnish or Swedish speaking students.

Content and themes

The programme includes studies of ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation biology. The studies are organised in modules. You can affect the content of the studies by planning your personal curriculum. You can study the following themes:


  • Ecology studies the abundance and distribution of species (animals, plants, microbes) and the interactions among them and with the environment. The perspective ranges from the molecular to the ecosystem level. In ecology, a central question is: Why are some species able to invade new habitats and displace native species? Which species are able to adapt to environmental change or migrate with the changing climate, and which species will become extinct?


  • Evolutionary biology examines the processes which support biodiversity on its various levels (genes – individuals – populations – species – ecosystems). You will learn about the theory of evolution and how to use population genetics and genomics methods in researching evolutionary issues.


  • Conservation Biology studies the depletion of biodiversity, its causes and consequences. You will learn to apply ecological theory to the problems of environmental conservation, to assess the effectiveness of methods of conservation, as well as to resolve the problems relating to conservation e.g. by modelling and computational methods. The training emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary education in the area of conservation.

You can choose studies from any of these areas, as well as from other master's degree programmes.

Language of instruction

Master’s Programme in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology is tri-lingual (Finnish, Swedish, English), with instruction given in English.

Courses and teaching

Master's Programme in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology is diverse and multidisciplinary including studies of ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation biology. Teaching methods include lecture courses, laboratory and computer training courses, interactive seminars, study tours and field courses. The field courses range from the northern subarctic region to tropical rainforests. For example, the first course in the programme (Ecology, 5 credits) includes an excursion to familiarise both international and Finnish students to taiga habitats in southern Finland. You also get to know other students in the programme during the excursion.

The language of instruction is English and all exams, reports and the Master’s thesis are written in English. Local students with Finnish or Swedish school education can also write these assignments in their native language.

Check out courses in the online course catalogue in the Studies service.

The University of Helsinki also offers Finnish courses for international students.

Master's thesis

All students undertake a master's thesis, the extent of which is 30 credits. In your thesis, you will demonstrate your mastery of scientific thinking, your familiarity with the scientific background of your thesis and the relevant research methods, and your ability to report the results. Your thesis can be done individually or as a member of a research project in which you have a clear and independent role. You must, however, write your thesis independently.

In general, you will collect the data in the field or in the laboratory, analyse them, evaluate the results critically in the light of the scientific literature, and present your conclusions in writing.

Your Master's thesis can be done in one of the the research groups of the department.

Doctoral education

As a graduate of the Master's Programme in Eco­logy and Evol­u­tion­ary Bio­logy, you can apply for a doctoral programme at the University of Helsinki or other top international universities. Further studies include 40 credits of coursework and a dissertation.

The vast majority of graduating students in ecology and evolutionary biology take part in the Doctoral Programme in Wildlife Biology Research (LUOVA).

Other examples of suitable doctoral programmes at the University of Helsinki include:

More information about doctoral education at the University of Helsinki.


In­ter­na­tional op­por­tun­it­ies

You will have the opportunity to study at universities and research institutions outside Finland within the framework of an international student exchange. You can also gain valuable experience by working as a tutor of international students or participating in the international activities of the Student Union or other student organisations. 

The teachers and researchers in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology are internationally known and respected. The research groups host numerous international researchers as visitors and workers. They also employ many graduate students from different parts of the world, which creates an international atmosphere in the programme.

Student story

Gabriele Retez studies in the Master's programme in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology to become a conservation scientist. By merging research with visual storytelling, he aims to reach a wider audience. Through his stories about the conflict between wildlife and humans, he wants to show there is a way to coexist.

At the University of Helsinki, he values especially the multidisciplinary approach and practical methods. The lack of hierarchy has also been a positive surprise. Read the full story.



Students and student life

Student life and especially the student organisation culture is exceptionally rich and diverse in Finland. Also at the University of Helsinki, more than 250 student organisations operate within the Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY), ranging from faculty and subject organisations to political and societal organisations, and from choirs and orchestras to sports and game clubs. Their activities include anniversary celebrations, academic dinner parties, cultural events, get-togethers and excursions.

As a student and member of the Student Union (HYY), you are entitled to many benefits and services. For example, affordable student housing, low-cost sports services and student-priced meals. You also get numerous discounts, for example on public transport fees across the country. 

Read more about student life, services and benefits when studying at the University of Helsinki.

Do you have questions about studies or student life? You can get answers to your questions by chatting directly with University of Helsinki students. Chat with our students!