Wildlife Conservation Genetics


About this course

In this course we will start by discussing the basic concepts of conservation genetics. We will discuss how to measure genetic variation using pedigree and molecular data. We also discuss the various evolutionary forces that shape genetic variation in both wild and captive populations. The relevance of biodiversity in relation to scientific, ethical and societal questions will be dealt with in a variety of (guest) lectures. You will learn how to evaluate populations in genetic and non-genetic terms (e.g. considering demography and life history). Then, we will discuss various strategies to manage populations in order to keep them genetically healthy and to ensure adaptability to changing environments.
Key elements in the course are:

  • basics of genetic variation and its importance;
  • measuring genetic variation;
  • the evolutionary forces that shape genetic variation in populations (mutation, migration, drift and selection), with an emphasis on the dynamics of genetic variation in small populations;
  • the concept of effective population size;
  • inbreeding: how to measure inbreeding and its consequences;
  • the extinction vortex;
  • genetic management of captive and wild populations;
  • defining and prioritising management units;
  • scientific, ethical and societal questions regarding conservation genetics.
    These issues will be illustrated with successful and unsuccessful examples from a variety of species.

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:

  • explain and calculate measures of genetic variation based on pedigree and/or molecular data.
  • demonstrate how evolutionary forces shape genetic variation in populations
  • relate measures of genetic variation to the genetic health of a population.
  • explain the interplay between genetic variation and other factors in the broader conservation context (e.g. demography, life history, biodiversity)
  • explain how to define and prioritise management units for conservation
  • use genetic management tools and underlying concepts in wild and captive conservation plans and programs.
  • evaluate a conservation breeding program in terms of demography and genetics, and formulate recommendations for future population management.

Formative outcome: reflect on various (scientific, ethical and societal) perspectives, including criticisms, regarding conservation genetics.

Required prior knowledge

Assumed Knowledge:
GEN11806 Fundamentals of Genetics and Molecular Biology

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Wageningen University.


  • Start date

    10 March 2025

    • Ends
      2 May 2025
    • Term *
      Period 5
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    • Register between
      1 Jun, 00:00 - 9 Feb 2025
    Enrolment starts in 3 days
These offerings are valid for students of Utrecht University