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. Our wide expertise extends from molecular ecology to population and community biology.

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.

What is Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB)?

Get to know the EEB programme structure in a compact form.

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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 programme in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, you can:

  • master the main theories and methods in ecology and evolutionary biology
  • plan and successfully carry out scientific research projects
  • write good scientific English
  • work in research projects and groups
  • apply your skills to solving practical problems
  • learn transferable skills
  • be employed as an expert in different types of work both in public and private sector
  • continue in research training towards PhD with your skills and solid theoretical background

Upon graduating, you have the capability to embark on a wide range of careers, such as:

  • in research and teaching in universities or other institutions of higher education
  • as an expert in a wide range of public, private and third sector research institutions and organizations
  • in administration at the local (cities, provinces) and national level (e.g. ministries) and internationally (e.g., United Nations, European Union)
  • in the media.

The degree also provides scientific qualifications for doctoral education in many areas of biology.

Content and themes

You can affect the content of the studies by planning your personal curriculum. The programme includes studies of ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation biology. You can choose studies from any of these areas, as well as from other master's degree programmes.

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 undertake modules producing 120 credits 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, 5 credits
    • Statistical methods in ecology, 5 credits
    • Quantitative Methods in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 5 credits
    • Master’s thesis courses 1 and 2, 5+5 credits
    • Master’s thesis, 30 credits
    • 30 credits of alternative studies chosen from ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation.
  • 30 credits of optional studies. You can choose studies from the Master’s Programme in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology or from other master's programmes, Language center, Biodiversity Education Network or complete them as part of a student exchange abroad.

Career studies and extracurricular activities can be included in your personal study plan.

If you are studying to qualify as a biology teacher, you will complete 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 who have been accepted to pedagogical studies during their Bachelor’s studies.

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.

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

Language of instruction

Master’s Programme in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology is tri-lingual (Finnish, Swedish, English). All teaching in Master’s Programme in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology is given in English. You can also take exams and complete work, such as your Master's thesis, in Finnish or Swedish.

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 research groups of the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences.

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).

Doctoral programmes at the University of Helsinki include:


In­ter­na­tional op­por­tun­it­ies

Students have an opportunity to study at universities and research institutions outside Finland within the framework of an international student exchange.

Students can gain valuable experience by working as a student tutor of international students or by participating in the international activities of the Student Union or other student organisations. 

Local and international students are encouraged to interact in all courses and common activities. International students can include language courses in Finnish in their degree. Students can choose to do their master's thesis and internships abroad.

Students are exposed to a lively and engaging international community in the programme, at the Research Programme in Organismal and Evolutionary Biology and at the faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences at large. Teachers and researchers at the faculty are internationally known and respected scientists and research groups host numerous international visitors and researchers. They also employ many PhD students from different parts of the world, which creates an international atmosphere in the programme.

Students and student life

Student life and especially the student organisation culture is exceptionally rich and diverse in Finland.

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.