University of Primorska Faculty of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Information Technologies

Conservation Biology


General information

Name of the programme: Conservation Biology
Type of programme: Doctoral, 3rd Bologna cycle
Degree awarded: “doktor znanosti / doktorica znanosti”
Language: Slovene, English
Location: Izola
Duration: 4 years (8 semesters)
ECTS-credits: 240
Mode of study: part-time

Programme coordinatortop

Asist. Prof. Vladimir Ivović, PhD

For information regarding application, enrolment and other administrative procedures please contact Student Services.

About the programmetop

The doctoral study programme Conservation Biology trains students to conduct independent scientific work in the field of conservation of species and their natural environment. During the program, students learn multidisciplinary approaches to the conservation and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystem services. The close collaboration between the PhD student and his/her mentor will enable the student to eventually establish him/herself in the Slovenian and international scientific space and contribute to the development of conservation biology as a science. During their studies, students will also acquire skills in appropriate scientific communication with the public about human impacts on populations, species, communities, ecosystems, and the biosphere, as well as appropriate skills for environmental policy making.

Educational and professional goalstop

  • Contribute to research in the field of learning about wildlife diversity and conservation, and to understanding the impacts of human activities on populations, species, communities, ecosystems and the biosphere.
  • Actively develop practical multidisciplinary approaches to the conservation and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • Train internationally successful researchers in the field of conservation biology.
  • Contribute to the development of conservation biology as a scientific science in Slovenia and internationally.

Within the framework of the set objectives and in accordance with the scientific research work of the mentor, the students will:

  • contribute to scientific research in the field of various sub-disciplines of conservation biology (conservation ecology, conservation genetics, population management, conservation parasitology, etc.);
  • be able to independently identify and summarise the causes and consequences of the Anthropocene, assess the impacts on biodiversity loss at all three levels (genetic, species and ecosystem) and contribute to solutions and actions to halt biodiversity loss and the loss of ecosystem functions and services;
  • acquire knowledge and skills relevant to the scientific field, including critical evaluation of scientific evidence and experiments, acquisition of skills in quantitative and conceptual modelling and critical decision-making in the real world;
  • develop scientific communication with the general public and with stakeholders from the various nature and environmental sectors as well as with policy makers.

Admission requirementstop

Admission to the 1st year shall be granted to applicants having: 

  • a Master's degree (second cycle); or
  • a degree from an undergraduate university study program (study programs adopted before 11 June 2004); or
  • a degree from a fast-track master’s programme with 300 ECTS credits and the duration of 5 years; or
  • a degree from a Master’s study program (study programs adopted before 11 June 2004). This candidate will be recognized study obligations in the amount of at least 60 ECTS credits.

Admission may be also granted to applicants, who completed comparable studies abroad, and who, in accordance with the law, in the process of recognition of foreign education, have been granted the right to study in the doctoral study programme.

The Faculty highly recommends prior education in the areas of biology, natural sciences, environmental sciences, biochemistry.

In case of ENROLMENT RESTRICTIONS in the 1st year, candidates will be chosen on the basis of:

  • average grade of exams in previous study cycle - 60 %,
  • grade of the final work at the previous cycle of study - 20 %,
  • number of points collected on the entrance exam - 20 %.

In the entrance exam the candidate's presentation of the previous research work, his previous achievements in the scientific and professional field (published scientific and professional articles, awards, prizes and other) and motivation letter will be evaluated. The scoring method is defined by the UP FAMNIT commission.

Continuation of studies according to the transfer criteriatop

Transfers between study programmes are possible on the basis of the Higher Education Act, Criteria for Transferring between Study Programmes and in accordance with other regulations of this field.

The transition between study programmes is the enrolment in the higher year of the study programme, in case of leaving the education at the initial study programme and continuing the study process at another study program of the same degree. The transition takes into account the comparability of the study programmes and the completed study obligations of the candidate in the initial study program.

Access to a higher year of the doctoral study programme Conservation Biology on the basis of the Criteria for Transferring between Study Programmes is open to candidates of other third-cycle doctoral degree programme, provided that the following conditions have been met:

  • the candidate fulfils the requirements for admission to the study programme of Conservation Biology;
  • completion of the first study programme which the candidate is transferring from ensures the acquisition of comparable competencies as those envisaged by the study programme of Conservation Biology; and
  • other conditions in accordance with the Criteria for Transferring between Study Programmes have also been met (a comparable course structure, course requirements completed).

Individual applications for transfer shall be considered by the relevant committee of UP FAMNIT. Apart from comparability between both fields of study, the committee shall also consider comparability between the study programmes, in accordance with the Criteria for Transferring between Study Programmes. The applicant may also be required to complete differential exams as defined by the relevant Faculty committee.

Enrolment on the basis of the Criteria for Transferring between Study Programmes is also open to candidates of a related study programme abroad who have been, in the process of recognition of their studies abroad, legally granted the right to continue their educational training in the study programme of Conservation Biology.

In the case of limited enrolment, applicants shall be selected on the basis of the average grade of all completed study obligations obtained during the study programme they are transferring from.

Course structuretop

The main components of the study programme are the following:

  • compulsory courses,
  • elective courses,
  • seminar,
  • individual research work,
  • doctoral dissertation.

After the enrollment in the 1st year, the student chooses a mentor in accordance with his/her research interests, who guides the student in his/her studies and the preparation of his/her doctoral dissertation.

The content and structure of the study programme are presented below.

Short descriptions of compulsory and elective courses are available HERE.

Table 1: Structure of the study programme
Year of study Study obligation ECTS-credits (ECTS)
ECTS ECTS/Year of study
1. Research methodology 10 60
Seminar 10
Individual research work 1 20
2 internal elective courses (each 10 ECTS) 20
2. Preparation of doctoral dissertation topic 10 60
Individual research work 2 30
2 internal elective courses (each 10 ECTS) 20
3. Individual research work 3 60 60
4. Individual research work 4 30 60
Individual research work - preparation and defense of doctoral dissertation 30

Table 2: Compulsory course of the 1st year of study
No. Course ETCS Form of contact hour
L SE T Total
1. Research methodology 10 30 - 45 75
L = lectures, SE = seminar, T= tutorial, LW= lab work, FW= field work
ECTS = ECTS-credits

Table 3: Elective courses
No. Courses ECTS Form of contact hour
L SE T LW FW Total
  CONTENT COURSES              
1. Conservation parasitology 10 30 - - 30 15 75
2. Conservation ecology 10 60 30 - - - 90
3. Systematics and evolution of selected taxonomic groups 10 30 30 - - - 60
4. Molecular marker in genomic era 10 30 - - 30 - 60
5. Conservation and management of large mammals 10 30 - 15 - 10 55
6. Conservation Biology of Large Marine Vertebrates 10 30 15 - 30 30 105
7. Conservation science, society and decision making 10 30 30 - - - 60
8. Processes, changes and protection of marine ecosystems 10 30 15 - 30 30 105
9. Anthropogenic impacts on ecosystems – selected topics 10 30 15 - 15 - 60
10. Bioinformatics tools in Conservation Biology 10 30 - - 30 - 60
11. Statistical tools in conservation biology 10 30 15 - 15 - 60
12. Spatial tools in conservation biology 10 15 15 - 30 - 60
13. Quantitative methods in systematics and ecology 10 30 30 - - - 60

Elective courses

Elective courses are divided in two segments: one is based on content, the other is methodological.

The methodological courses include the acquisition of specific methodological knowledge that is necessary for the student to carry out their own research work, while the subject courses are intended for the acquisition of in-depth specific knowledge and competencies related to his/her research work.

The student must collect at least 10 ECTS-credits with the methodological courses during the studies. The chosen subject is related to the student's research work.

Individual research work

Individual research work represents scientific research work of a student on his doctoral topic, which the student performs under the guidance and in cooperation with his mentor.

Doctoral dissertation (PhD Thesis)

The doctoral dissertation represents a new substantial contribution to the global knowledge in the field of conservation biology.

The procedure for preparing a doctoral dissertation is regulated by the Rules on the preparation and defence of the doctoral dissertation at the University of Primorska.

Advancement requirements and completion of studiestop

Advancement requirements

A student can advance to the 2nd year if he/she collects 60 ECTS of the 1st year. A student can advance to the 3rd year if he/she collects 60 ECTS of the 2nd year, 60 ECTS of the 1st year and and his / her topic of the doctoral dissertation has been confirmed. A student can advance in the 4th year if he/she collects 60 ECTS of the 3rd year, 60 ECTS of the 2nd year and 60 ECTS of the 1st year.

In special cases, student’s personal situation (e.g. motherhood, prolonged illness, exceptional family and social circumstances, recognized status of a person with special needs, active participation in top professional, cultural and sports events, active participation in university bodies), the student may be granted promotion to a higher year with a lower number of credits (but not less than 30 ECTS).

The student may repeat a year once during his/her studies.

The student who shows above-average study results may be allowed to progress faster. The decision is made by the UP FAMNIT Senate on the basis of the candidate's request and the reasoned opinion of the competent UP FAMNIT commission. The decision determines the method of faster progress.

By advancing and repeating, the student retains the status of a student and thus the rights and benefits provided by law. In accordance with the law, a student can apply for an extension of student status, but for a maximum of one year.

Completion of studies

To complete their studies, students must successfully complete all of the programme-specific study obligations and successfully defend a doctoral dissertation in the field of conservation biology.

The research must be published (or accepted for publication) prior to the dissertation defence in at least two articles in SCI-listed journals, one of which may be in the Scopus database, with both publications being first or lead author. The articles must be accepted for publication or published in journals indexed by SCI, SSCI or AHCI and have an impact factor (according to ISI) as scientific articles in category 1.01 or 1.02 in the COBISS database.

Graduate competenciestop

General competencies

  • Ability to independently search for information and acquire biological expertise and to integrate it into a multidisciplinary system with other sciences important for understanding the interaction between humans, nature and society.
  • Identification of relevant biological problems related to biodiversity loss and loss of ecosystem functions and services and acquisition of advanced basic knowledge using appropriate and modern techniques and methods.
  • Critical assessment of developments and dynamics of changes in the field of nature protection and understanding of the importance of sustainable management and use of renewable natural resources.
  • Ability to analyse, synthesise and predict solutions and the consequences of factors with anthropocentric influence on living nature.
  • Understanding of conservation biology as an interdisciplinary science that requires a holistic approach to solving nature conservation problems, taking into account all aspects of life.
  • Ability to independently plan and conduct scientific research and the ability to work in a working group (teamwork).
  • With the help of the acquired competences for the transfer of knowledge to the public and stakeholders working in the field of nature conservation and environmental protection, they will be able to act in the wider social community.

Subject-specific competencies

  • The ability to understand complex principles of conservation biology and their relevance to the protection of biodiversity, protected areas and species, including:
    • complex patterns and processes that shape biodiversity in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems at the genetic and species levels and make important contributions to ecosystem functions;
    • the concept of structural and functional connectivity (demographic and evolutionary interdependence) between populations and communities;
    • the importance of sustainable population management;
    • the importance of microbial ecology for ecosystem functioning;
    • the importance of parasitism as one of the main causes of evolutionary change in the living world, and the impact of globalisation on the spread of disease and its threat to public health and local biodiversity;
    • natural and anthropogenic factors threatening biodiversity at local and global scales;
    • concepts of metapopulations, opportunistic species and metacommunities;
    • principles of species behaviour in a changing environment from an evolutionary perspective;
    • mechanisms of adaptation of wild organisms to changes in the environment according to their genetic variability and epigenomic records;
    • the importance of maintaining a balance between the protection of ecosystems and the use of ecosystem services;
    • social components and systems important for the conservation and populations management.
  • The ability to apply appropriate scientific methods to understand environmental factors and basic approaches for the conservation of endangered species and their habitats and to solve or mitigate general environmental problems, through:
    • planning methods for the management of populations of threatened species in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems;
    • carrying out laboratory analyses using classical techniques and modern genetic and genomic techniques;
    • the use of bioinformatics tools in comparative genomics, metagenomics, transcriptomics and proteomics;
    • the application of the most appropriate modern methods of multivariate statistics and the processing and interpretation of the results.

Graduate employment opportunitiestop

The doctoral study programme Conservation Biology trains experts who are able to conduct research in national and international settings and provide guidelines for nature protection in a critical time of biodiversity crisis, contributing directly to solving the most important challenges of our time. At the local and national levels, the need for well-trained personnel in the field of conservation biology is most evident in the scientific research institutions (universities, public and private research institutions) and some non-governmental organizations working in the field of conservation. Experts in the field of conservation biology are also employed by companies that have recognized the importance of protecting species and ecosystems.

Tuition feetop

  • The TUITION FEE for each year of study is determined in the Price list UP FAMNIT.
  • The CO-FUNDING OF DOCTORAL STUDIES will be open to all students who meet the requirements from the Decree on co-Financing of doctoral studies and Criteria for the selection of candidates for co-funding tuition fees in doctoral studies at the University of Primorska. More information is available here.