Sustainability Science: Ecosystems, Biodiversity and Society (M. Sc.)

Masters Programme

Understanding the link between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning is central for human well-being. Human activities shape ecosystems, and ecosystems, in turn, generate the conditions that enable human societies to thrive. This Masters programme is unique in that it recognises that effective ecosystem management hinges on in-depth understanding of ecosystem processes and how they are interlinked with social-ecological system dynamics. This also includes the challenges of the ongoing climate and biodiversity crises. The Masters programme follows an interdisciplinary approach that covers concepts of fundamental and applied ecology just as much as concepts from the social sciences (e.g. governance or participation). Students studying this Masters programme will be equipped to deeply understand, navigate and influence ecological processes and social-ecological interactions. Emphasis is placed both on fundamental ecological knowledge as well as on positive social-ecological interactions such as the building of resilience and the restoration of ecosystems.

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Ecosystems, Biodiversity and Society – The Programme

  • Content
  • Structure

Ecosystems, Biodiversity and Society – The Programme


Sustainability is a central goal for humanity in the 21st century. Understanding ecological processes and navigating social-ecological interactions, in turn, is central to sustainability. The careless exploitation of natural resources has had deleterious consequences for ecosystems and biodiversity around the world. But not all human activities are necessarily harmful for ecosystems: grounded in a deep understanding of social-ecological interactions, human societies can re-build and restore resilient ecosystems.

This programme covers ecological themes such as changes in biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in the Anthropocene, as well as how these changes are shaped by and influence through feedbacks the social fabric of human communities. Social and ecological phenomena are therefore understood to be intimately connected. The appropriate governance of social-ecological complexity, in turn, can be informed by social-ecological systems thinking – including key ecological and social-ecological concepts such as ecosystem functioning, ecosystem services (or “Nature’s Contributions to People”), resilience, thresholds or tipping points, regime shifts, and participatory scenario planning. Throughout the programme, both quantitative and qualitative methods are used to better understand the complex dynamics of social-ecological systems.

In addition to building an understanding of ecosystems, societies, and the interlinkages between the two, the programme offers engagement with the idea and practice of transdisciplinarity. In so-called transdisciplinary projects, students will engage with real-world problems and the actors empowered to make real-world decisions.


The programme is structured into three phases – an introductory phase, a main phase, and a research phase.

The introductory phase takes place in the first semester. Here, students are introduced to sustainability science in general; they gain an overview of qualitative and quantitative methods as well as first exposure to the idea of transdisciplinarity; and they learn about the basic functions of ecosystems and how these are linked to biodiversity.

The main phase takes places in the second and third semester. Here, students explore in more detail the complexity and resilience of social-ecological systems – including in the context of ecosystem conservation and restoration, climate change, and interactions with real-world stakeholders. Students also deepen their methodological competences in this phase.

The final phase of the programme consists of the preparation of a Masters thesis. This phase is fully research-oriented.

The programme core is complemented with Leuphana’s complementary studies courses, organised in the three modules ‘Engaging with Knowledge and Sciences’, ‘Reflecting on Research Methods’ and ‘Connecting Science, Responsibility and Society’.

Here you can find further information on the course content of the Masters programme Sustainability Science: Ecosystems, Biodiversity and Society soon.

Study Regulations and Subject-Specific Schedule

The following link provides access to documents which set out the general conditions for examinations, an overview of the curriculum, as well as detailed and legally binding regulations.

General Assessment Regulations and the Subject-Specific Schedules

Overview of Modules Sustainability Science: Ecosystems, Biodiversity and Society (M.Sc.) ©Leuphana
Overview of Modules Sustainability Science: Ecosystems, Biodiversity and Society (M.Sc.)

Teaching Personnel

Programme Director

  • Prof. Dr. Jörn Fischer

Deputy Programm Director

  • Prof. Dr. Vicky Temperton

Teaching Personnel

  • Prof. Dr. Jörn Fischer
  • Prof. Dr. Vicky Temperton
  • Prof. Dr. Berta Martín-López
  • PD Dr. Andreas Fichtner
  • Prof. Dr. Sylvia Haider
  • Prof. Dr. David Abson
  • Dr. Heike Zimmermann
  • Prof. Dr. Markus Quante
  • Dr. David Walmsley
  • Prof. Dr. Henrik von Wehrden

Studying Abroad

Students of this Masters programme have the opportunity to spend a semester of their studies abroad. For that, we recommend the third semester. For any questions or to apply, please contact the International Center. The International Center will provide all further information on Erasmus+ funding, and on preparing for and organising your semester abroad.

Career Prospects

Increasingly, as we face the polycrises of biodiversity loss, climate change and upheaval of social systems, the world needs world changers with a solid foundation in critical thinking: people who have both a well-founded training and understanding of the key drivers and interactions in a changing world as well as possible evidence-based paths to more biodiversity and resilience allowing sustainable future. This master spans both state of the art biodiversity-ecosystem functioning research, conservation and restoration ecology and practice as well as allowing a clear understanding of the key role that humans play in affecting biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people. Since many of our current problems in the polycrisis can not be adequately solved without a whole system approach, this master will allow students to obtain the necessary in-depth grounding in both more classical ecology, as well as social-ecological and governance themes as well as the ability to link them into a whole systems approach that enable solutions and on the ground practice that is effective. This master programme combining ecology, social ecological systems approaches and governance in relation to the management of systems is unique in the academic landscape at the current time and Leuphana is very well poised to provide it. The uniqueness of this profile should provide students with excellent opportunities in terms of job prospects.

Doctoral Track

As a student in our programme, you have the opportunity to start your doctorate early via the Doctoral Track. Thus, you to become part of the scientific community of our doctoral research groups at an early stage, giving you the unique opportunity to combine your Master's and doctoral studies and, with your doctorate in sight, to obtain your Master's degree en-route.

Admission Requirements and Application

You can find all information about the admission requirements, the application and the selection procedure on our "Apply" page.

This Masters programme seeks to attract students with a background in ecology, the environmental sciences, geography, or similar. Basic understanding of ecological concepts is a prerequisite.

International Students

The study programme matches your interests? Then you will find further information for prospective international students on residence and social matters, such as visa, residence permit, health insurance or finding accommodation, on the following pages. Please note that the information for incoming exchange students and international degree-seeking students differs slightly.

Information for incoming exchange students

Information for international degree-seeking students

At a Glance

Degree awarded: Master of Science (M.Sc.)
Application deadline: EU degrees: 1 June / Non-EU degrees: 1 May
Type of programme: Thematic relevance
Study places: 25
Start date: October 1
Extent: 120 CP according to ECTS
Duration: 4 semesters
Language: English
Semester contribution: ca. 320 EUR

Contact and Counselling

First contact point

The Information Office (Infoportal) is your contact point for

Information Office

Building 8, Ground Level
Fon +49.4131.677-2277

Campus opening hours
Mon - Thu 9.00 am - 4:00 pm
Fr 9.00 am - 12 noon

Student Counselling

To make an appointment with our Student Counselling Service, please use our booking tool on our website.