International Nature Conservation

Course content

This course will help students understand some of the key issues related to the conservation of nature and provide the student with knowledge of why wild nature is currently in decline, why this matters, and how biology coupled with other disciplines can be used to identify solutions. The module structure of the course follows the general framework of a) State of biodiversity, habitats and ecosystem services; 2) Pressures on species, habitats and ecosystem services, and 3) human Responses to conserve species, habitats and ecosystem services. This will include topics such as: 1) Why should we measure trends in Biodiversity and how does this help us achieve conservation?; 2) How do we balance conservation with the need to extract natural resources to support peoples livelihood and national economies?; 3) How is general biological theory used in conservation?; 4) Do we know which are the best ways to conserve nature?; 5) How does biology interface with social science and politics to achieve conservation goals? 6) Are conservationists winning or losing the battle to save wild nature? The course will contain examples from different geographical scales; from Denmark, the European Union, and globally. Guest lectures will be invited to illustrate particular themes, and more specifically to link the scientific base within the formal lectures to the real world situations on the ground and within national and international policy. Reading material will primarily come from the peer-reviewed literature as well as reports from NGOs and intergovernmental organizations.


MSc Programme in Biology - restricted elective
MSc Programme in Nature Management - restricted elective
MSc Programme in Sustainable Forest and Nature Management - restricted elective

Learning outcome

This course aims to build on the bachelor level course on Conservation Biology and will help the student develop further understanding of international conservation and policy orientated science. The aim of the course is to provide the student with a solid understating of the status of nature around the world, the diverse array of factors that influence conservation on the ground, and some of the responses that are being undertaken to reduce the loss of biodiversity, in particular through the use of international conventions and agreements. Guest lecturers will present material to show how the conservation of nature works in the real world, and where science fits into that process. Biology and biodiversity theory as presented in the Conservation Biology Course will underpin this course, but importantly in this course we will also move beyond the purely biological aspects. Many of the conservation challenges are social, human, economic and political in nature and the course will reflect this. The course aims to provide a solid platform and set of ideas and issues for students to develop into a Masters in International Nature Conservation, or potentially continue onto a PhD or a career in conservation related work.

After taking the course, the student will have gained an understanding of the state-of-the-art in conservation science, focusing on the challenges that affect the planet and its biodiversity today, and what the world is doing about these challenges. The student will be able to distinguish between factors altering communities (climate change, nitrogen deposition, acidification, and shifts in grazing regimes), destroying habitats (cutting down forests, cultivating grasslands, trawling) or affecting species directly without necessarily destroying the habitat (bushmeat hunting, fishing, wildlife trade). They will also be able to understand how different approaches (species protection, habitat management and nature reserves) differ, how they address other value-laden considerations (for example, are gorillas more important than worms) and their cost/benefit considerations (i.e. is it more important to have a costly program to secure the survival of a single charismatic species or is it better to focus on protection of habitats in general?).





By completing the course the student can:

  • describe the status of wild nature on the planet
  • describe the way that biodiversity and ecosystem services are changing, explain why this matters, and describe what the world is doing to try and address the declines that are seen



By completing the course the student can:

  • analyze the main scientific questions that conservation scientists are working with and the interface between biology and biodiversity, and social and political science and economics
  • explain how economics and a consideration of ecological services may improve prospects for the conservation of biodiversity
  • explain how climate change will impact the world’s habitats, species, and ecological services



By completing the course the student can:

  • evaluate the real impacts of global development on the world’s biodiversity
  • evaluate how protected areas work in terms of conserving biodiversity
  • evaluate the possibilities to manage or restore habitats to maintain their biodiversity
  • evaluate the possibilities to manage species to prevent them becoming extinct
  • evaluate the effects of conservation actions (field based, policy based) and the evidence for the effects
  • evaluate the political tools we have to assist conservation efforts and explain how they work.

The teaching will be a mix between lectures, guest lectures, theoretical exercises, computer based exercises, role plays, and discussion sessions.

See Absalon.

One or more relevant courses in biology, conservation, human geography, biodiversity, international politics, or community based conservation.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

Students will receive a grade according to the standard grading system within Copenhagen University.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Type of assessment details
The examination consists of two parts: (1) active participation and a report during the course, which together weight 50 % of the final grade; and (2) 50% written exam (2 hours). The course is passed if the final grade is passed irrespective of the grading of the subparts.
Exam registration requirements

It is a requirement that the students participate actively in 80% of the lectures and exercises.


All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners

Re-exam: As ordinary exam.

Criteria for exam assessment

In order to obtain the grade 12 the student should convincingly and accurately demonstrate the knowledge, skills and competences described under Learning Outcome.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 30
  • Preparation
  • 114
  • Exercises
  • 35
  • Excursions
  • 5
  • Project work
  • 20
  • Exam
  • 2
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 3
35 students
Study Board for the Biological Area
Contracting department
  • Globe
  • Department of Food and Resource Economics
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Jonas Geldmann   (9-726f6d746c75697676487b7d766c36737d366c73)

Bo Dalsgaard (BD), Jonas Geldmann(JG), Neil Burgess (NB), Lars Dinesen (LD) Naia Morueta-Holme (NMH), Niels Strange (NS) and several guest lectures.

Saved on the 22-03-2023

Are you BA- or KA-student?

Are you bachelor- or kandidat-student, then find the course in the course catalog for students:

Courseinformation of students