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MSc Biological Sciences: Freshwater & Marine Biology

Master (ISCED 2011 level 7)


Duration 4 semesters
Entry level Bachelor
Cost see website

Water covers about 70% of our planet and sets it apart from every other planet we know. Water plays an important role in the global climate and is a source of food, minerals, energy and recreation. Aquatic ecosystems teem with organisms, ranging from tiny phytoplankton and zooplankton to coral, fish, and whales. Unfortunately, aquatic ecosystems are also used as ‘dumping grounds' for much of society's waste and are profoundly affected by global change.

In the two-year track Freshwater & Marine Biology in the Master’s programme Biological Sciences you will immerse yourself in research ranging from tropical marine biology to the ecology of wetlands ecosystems.

Is Freshwater & Marine Biology the study for you?

It is, if you:

  • have a solid background in biology;
  • are eager to expand your knowledge and skills in freshwater or marine ecosystems;
  • want to learn to address issues of global interest;
  • are looking for the freedom to compile your own programme;
  • want the advantages of a small-scale programme, where students and staff all know each other and you have the opportunity to become part of the national and international research network of the staff. 

What does Freshwater & Marine Biology have to offer me?

The Netherlands is a world leader in water management and aquatic research. The track Freshwater and Marine Biology applies this expertise to its investigation of lake, river, sea and ocean ecosystems. It is unique in the Netherlands in that it devotes attention to both freshwater and marine ecosystems and integrates the scientific disciplines relevant to aquatic ecosystems.

In this two-year track you will reflect on topics such as:

  • impacts of climate change on freshwater and marine ecosystems
  • harmful algal blooms and water management
  • the role of aquatic microorganisms
  • the biodiversity of coral reef ecosystems
  • food-web interactions and fisheries
  • sediment-water interactions
  • the responses of aquatic organisms to changes in water quality


The primary focus of the programme is research, conducted either within the university, at other research institutes in the Netherlands or abroad. The following research areas are offered to students within the university:

  • Aquatic Ecology and Ecotoxicology
  • Aquatic Microbiology
  • Marine Microbiology
  • Tropical Marine Biology
  • Theoretical Ecology

And there are several options at institutes outside the UvA:


Courses offer you the foundation required to conduct research in the biology, chemistry and physics of aquatic systems. The programme's curriculum covers a variety of topics in different disciplines, including algal blooms, hydrodynamics and phytoplankton, effects of climate change, water management, benthic ecology, microfilms, coral bleaching, natural products in sponges, aquatic ecotoxicology etc. These courses incorporate theory with laboratory and field work.

Majors or Tesla Minor: if you want more than research

Students of the Master’s programme Biological Sciences have further the option to choose one of three professional majors (60 EC) or minor (30 EC), each designed to train a specific set of skills needed as a secondary school teacher, in policy and communication or elsewhere outside the academia.:

The major Teaching
Prepares students to become a teacher in Biology at secondary schools and Higher Vocational Education (Dutch: HBO). This major is offered by the Interfacultaire Lerarenopleidingen (ILO).

The major Science Communication
Prepares students for a role in communication between science and other societal sectors. This major is offered by the Athena Institute of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU).

The major Science in Society
Trains skills such as reading and writing policy advisory reports, management and leadership, and organisation, and is meant for students with a broad interest in current affairs, social issues, policy, management and entrepreneurship. This major is offered by the Athena Institute of the VU.

Minor Tesla
Trains skills needed in interdisciplinary environments by tackling real business or societal cases with external partners. This minor has recently been developed by the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies at the Faculty of Science (

Structural components
Practical/Field work

Application procedure

Application Procedure:

After registering in Studielink(link is external) (manual Studielink(link is external)), within 48 hours you will receive an email with your UvA student number (UvA-net ID) and an email with instructions for the next step of the application process. You need your UvA-net ID to submit your online application via Datanose.

In Datanose, we expect you to upload the following documents:

  1. A motivation letter
  2. Your Curriculum Vitae
  3. A copy of your high school grade list and diploma
  4. A list of courses of your final year (if you have not yet finished your current academic programme)
  5. A copy of your Bachelor transcript and diploma, including an explanation of your University’s grading system
  6. A description of your Bachelor thesis/project
  7. Two academic reference letters
  8. Proof of English proficiency

If you have any questions about these documents, please contact the International Team.

Please make sure to upload documents in the PDF format. When needed merge scanned documents into one PDF before you upload the file. When you still need to finish your current programme please make sure to add a list of courses you still need to finish before you can request graduation. Applicants who (will) hold more than one academic degree must merge copies of both academic transcripts into one PDF.

As soon as you submit the online form your application will be acknowledged and a decision about admission will be taken as soon as possible. An admission will always be conditional as we must still verify your documents. For this we will request original certified and translated copies of your secondary school certificates and academic records after we finished the online application procedure.

Please note the procedures for MSc Programmes are not always the same. Some programmes might have additional requirements. For more information about additional requirements, check the web pages of the programme.

After your application you will receive information per email on how to complete your registration and how to apply for a visa or residence permit. 

Application deadlines

EU/EEA students: 1 May

Non-EU/EEA students: 1 February

Grant opportunities

The Faculty of Science aims to attract talented students to its international classrooms. It offers several scholarship programmes designed to offer - both Dutch and international - motivated students the opportunity to pursue a Science degree at the University of Amsterdam. More information can be found here.

Learning outcomes

Graduates of the Master's programme in Freshwater & Marine Biology (formerly Limnology & Oceanography) will have had excellent research training that allows them to pursue their PhD at the UvA or at other universities, academic institutes and international research organisations.

Alternatively, graduates are qualified for careers in, for example,

  • management and research within water boards
  • consultancy firms
  • science-oriented non-profit organisations
  • governmental agencies
  • education


Applicants should hold:   

a Dutch Bachelor of Science degree or its equivalent in Biology. A Bachelor course in Aquatic Ecology and/or Marine Biology is required for all students. Students without such a Bachelor course can follow a self-tuition course combined with an intake interview before entry into the Master's programme.

a Bachelor degree in Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Biomedical Sciences, Psychobiology or Future Planet Studies. These programmes may also qualify, but your suitability and knowledge will be assessed prior to admission. In case of deficiencies, following a pre-master's programme of Bachelor courses might be necessary. An interview may be part of the procedure.

Additional requirements 

  • a bachelor’s Grade Point Average (GPA) of 6.5 or higher (according to the Dutch grading system). The GPA is the average of the bachelor’s course grades weighed by course/study load.
  • you must have obtained the Bachelor's degree within 4 years
  • you must have completed a Bachelor's Thesis (experimental work) of at least 15 ECTS credits. The subject of the Bachelor's thesis must show affinity with, and advanced knowledge of, Marine and/or Aquatic Biology. 

Selection criteria  

Up to, but no more than, 110 students are admitted to the Master’s Programme as a whole. If more than the maximum number of candidates are found suitable, candidates will be selected on (in random order):

  • Study programme
  • GPA score
  • Study progress Bachelor’s programme
  • Subject of Bachelor’s thesis
  • Motivation

Additional information for international students 

International applicants must also fulfil other general entry requirements set by the Faculty of Science regarding academic background, academic average and proficiency in English. More information here(link is external).

ISCED Categories

Conservation and environmental management
Marine Geology
Physical and chemical oceanography