From September, MSc students of Animal Sciences can opt for a new specialization in the ecology of (semi-) wild animals and fish. This is a response to the wishes of students who want to see more wildlife and in-depth animal biology in the degree programme.
Foto: Marc Veraart
The six specializations offered by Animal Sciences to date all largely focus on farm and domestic animals. The two specializations Animal health & behaviour and Animal health management have been combined to form Adaptation, health and welfare, making room for Animal ecology.
‘Animal Sciences is stuck with the image of a degree that’s all about cows, pigs and chickens, which gave us the feeling that we lost students to other degree programmes,’ says programme director René Kwakkel. ‘Whereas in fact researchers in Zodiac are increasingly working on fundamental animal biology issues such as the genetic differences between wild and domesticated horse populations. They wanted that to be reflected in the programme.’
Kwakkel found out that only one quarter of the Bachelor’s students at Animal Sciences were solely interested in ‘agricultural production’. The rest have a broader interest in how animals function. Kwakkel: ‘That could be expressed for example in the decision to write a Bachelor’s thesis on exotic animals such as reptiles and rare pet breeds, as well as in the popularity of two minors, Wildlife biodiversity and The Biology of infectious diseases of humans and animals.
For Kwakkel this was a reason to make the Master’s programme more forward-looking.
Asked about the career prospects for students taking the new wildlife specialization, Kwakkel says there are various possibilities. ‘Nowadays we link the teaching more strongly with developments in research and that increases students’ job prospects.’ A committee that looks at the job prospects in this field was positive in its evaluation of the changes to the programme, adds the director.
In the new specialization students can take courses and do their final thesis in the Resource Ecology group, a chair group that studies the ecology of large ruminants in nature reserves, among other topics. Until now this chair group was not involved in the education programme at Animal Sciences. The same goes for the Aquaculture & Fisheries and Marine Animal Ecology chair groups. From next academic year the other specializations will have input from new chair groups too.
The next step will be to make changes to the Bachelor’s programme as well.