The Department of Animal Sciences is one out of five departments of Wageningen University. The main themes of the Department are academic education and research, in: Animal Health & Animal Welfare, Health & Safe Food and Sustainable Systems. The Department aims to contribute to a sustainable animal husbandry, aquaculture and fisheries containing healthy and safe products.

A major thesis can be followed at different chair groups within the specializations Master of Aquaculture and Marine Resource Management (MAM) and Master of Animal Sciences (MAS). More information about research within chair groups, requirements to be able to follow a thesis and other information, check the study handbook, study guide, or make an appointment with the contact person of the chair group.

Board Member Education Commissioner II represent the students who are performing a thesis at a chairgroup. Complaints regarding a chair group can be layed down at Board Member Education commissioner II.

 The chair groups of the Department Animal Sciences are:

Animal Breeding and Genomics (ABG)

Research and thesis topics at the Animal Breeding and Genomics (ABG) group are very diverse. At its core, animal breeding involves the study of natural genetic variation between animals, and how we can use this variation to improve populations. For example, your thesis may be focused on estimating the genetic variation that is present for new phenotypes (behaviour, welfare, disease resistance), or you can develop pipelines to optimize genomic analyses. Although the emphasis of our research is on livestock populations (cattle, pigs, poultry), we study a wide variety of animal species with controlled populations including zoo, wild and aquatic species. The thesis topics at ABG can be divided into 5 main categories:

  1. Quantitative genetics
    Estimation of genetic parameters and breeding values
  2. Genomics
    Using and improving bioinformatic tools that can shed light on molecular genetics
  3. Genetic diversity
    Tracking and reducing inbreeding to manage diversity within and across populations
  4. Sustainability and breeding programs
    Breeding related to new phenotypes such as methane emission, behaviour, and welfare
  5. Big data and data science
    Automated phenotyping and computer vision

Of course, there may be topics that touch upon more than one of these categories. For example, lessons learnt from genomics may be used to improve genetic diversity. Most topics are very data-driven and involve using state-of-the-art software for advanced analyses.

Contact person: dr. Martien Groenen
Contact person education: Bart Ducro

Adaptation Physiology (ADP)

This study track within the MSc specialisations Adaptation, Health and Behaviour and Nutrition and Metabolism focuses on the challenges that animals have to cope with and the consequences this has on their (physiological) functioning, with the final aim to improve their health and welfare. These challenges mostly lie in their environment (including nutrition) and are particularly challenging around e.g. birth, hatching, weaning and lactation. This study track utilises a multidisciplinary, animal-level approach, focusing on e.g. behaviour, energy metabolism, immunology and reproductive processes.

Contact person: Bas Kemp 
Contact person education: Nicoline Soede (thesis), Inge Palm (internship)

Animal Ecology and Behaviour (AEB) Behavioural endocrinology and Resource Ecology

Behavioural Ecology (BHE)

The Behavioural Ecology Group (BHE) studies the causes and consequences of animal behaviour with a focus on social contexts. They provide education in Behavioural Ecology and Applied Animal Behaviour. Research focuses on:

  1. Behavioural Ecology
  2. Applied Animal Behaviour
  3. Behaviour of Companion Animals

Contactperson: prof.dr. Marc Naguib 
Contactperson education: Bonne Beerda

 Wildlife Ecology and Conservation group (WEC)


The Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Group (WEC) studies how humans influence wildlife. WEC examines both direct mechanisms like hunting and fire, and mechanisms that are more indirect and that are part of larger-scale processes, such as climate change.
Main research lines:
  • How individual animals perform and adapt in response to anthropogenic and natural changes; and how this affects sustainability of populations and ecosystems.
  • Study ecological interactions and their cascading effects on processes and patterns at different levels
  • Identify conservation options & test their effectiveness 
Kevin Matson: course coordinator
Joost de Jong: Bsc thesis coordinator
Pim van Hooft: Msc thesis coordinator
Anouschka Hof and Helen Esser: internship coordinator

Animal Health Management (AHM) – Host Microbe Interaction (HMI) Quantitatieve Veterinaire Epidemiologie (QVE)

This specialisation combines animal health and management at the population level with socio-economic aspects. A central theme is the spreading of contagious diseases of animals and the economic and emotional damage of such a spreading. You learn how to prevent diseases: What choices to make during such a crisis? Besides, you learn about the social and economic sides during such a crisis: What effect does a disease outbreak have on its environment? What are the socio-economic consequences for the farmer and his family and for culling the livestock? The program involves several key areas in veterinary epidemiology, such as sampling strategies, diagnostic test performance and transmission models.

Animal Health Management – Host Microbe Interaction (HMI)   

This chair group mainly researches the interaction between bacteria, nutrition and human and animal health, combining knowledge of microbiology, immunology and nutrition. For example, we study how pathogenic streptococci infect pigs, investigate genetic differences between pathogenic and harmless (commensal) bacteria, and how probiotics contribute to human and animal health and resilience. Research questions can be both fundamental and more applied, and the research ranges from molecule to population. We  prefer to work on samples from animal husbandry practice and related companies and external research institutes. HMI research mainly takes place in the lab and at the computer (in silico research). The work is mainly interdisciplinary, with people doing lab work having a lot of contact with those doing research in silico.

HMI research and teaching covers the following research fields, among others:

  1. innate immunity in the gut and the interactions of the gut immune system with gut bacteria
  2. genetic and molecular background of the pathogenic potential of Streptococcus suis bacteria in piglets and pigs
  3. molecules and genes of the microbiome in gut and oral cavity of animals and humans, in health and disease
  4. discovery of bacterial genes and molecules affecting antibiotic resistance
  5. growing in the lab, and working with, organoids (mini-organs) of gut, blood vessels, brain and airways. We want to use these artificial mini-organs, among other things, to start research on the so-called "gut-brain axis" : how gut bacteria can influence animal and human behaviour, and how Parkinson's disease might originate from the gut.


Contact person: Prof. Dr. Jerry Wells

Education contact: dr. Peter van Baarlen

Animal Health Management – Quantitative veterinary epidemiology (QVE)

Research and education of Quantitative Veterinary Epidemiology focuses on the transmission of infectious pathogens in, and between, livestock, wild animals, companion animals, and humans. We aim to understand disease dynamics and infectious disease management in order to be prepared for, prevent, and respond to animal infectious diseases worldwide. Knowledge from theoretical biology, veterinary science, animal science, epidemiology, ecology, mathematics and statistics is thereby integrated. Models are supported with data from laboratory and field studies.

Contact person: Mart de Jong

Contact person education: Bart van den Borne

Aquaculture, Fisheries and Marine Ecology (AFME) - Aquaculture and Fisheries (AFI) and Marine Ecology (MAE)

Aquaculture and Fisheries (AFI)

This chair group focuses on education and research for sustainable aquaculture and fisheries. With a focus on society relevant questions and on the interactions between aquatic organisms and their environment.

Contact person: Geert Wiegertjes
Contact person education: Geertje Schlaman-Kok

Marine Animal Ecology (MAE)

Marine animal ecology (MAE) studies how marine animals adapt in response to a changing environment. Research is focused on different organismal levels, from eco-physiology, early life-stage development, population genomics, up to whole ecological community responses. Subsequently the research is applied to gain an understanding of the consequences of anthropogenic activities to ecosystem services and conservation management.

Contact person: prof. dr. Tinka Murk
Contact person education: Diede Maas

Master of Aquaculture and Marine Resource Management (MAM)

During the master of Aquaculture and Marine Resource Management (MAM) you can choose one of the three specialisations:

  • Aquaculture, Marine Governance and Marine Resource Ecology.
  • Aquaculture

Aquaculture deals with the culture of numerous aquatic organisms (such as fish, corals, aquarium animals, shellfish, shrimp, and finfish) in a wide range of culture environments (from semi-extensive pond cultures to high-tech re-circulation systems). This specialization requires thorough knowledge and skills to maintain the biological, physical, and chemical integrity of water bodies, and insight in economic and social driving factors.

Marine Resources and Ecology
This specialization focuses on the resilience of marine ecosystems to external (human induced) pressures, including climate change, irresponsible fisheries, habitat destruction and pollution. Sustainable management of the living resources in the sea include the understanding and use of models of population dynamics and fishing yield. Furthermore, it requires insight into the ecological processes supporting the marine food chains, interaction between and within species and linkages between apparent separate ecosystems.

Marine Governance
In the specialization Marine Governance, the focus lies on improving the sustainable management of aquatic resources and marine ecosystems. This requires knowledge about the interests and strategies of not only governmental agencies, but also commercial enterprises, non-governmental organizations and other international institutions that are involved marine (harmful) activities and uses. In addition, students also get insight in ecological functioning of aquatic organisms and marine resources. The focus lies on analysing and evaluating existing regulatory, economic, and market-based policy instruments and to develop ways to ensure effective use and protection of aquatic resources and marine ecosystems.

More information on these specializations is available in this link.

If you are interested in one of these specialisations, it is advised to make an appointment with the study advisor, Milou van Silfhout. She can inform you on possibilities for a thesis, courses that might be interesting for you and other businesses.

Contact person: Vera van Berlo

Animal Nutrition (ANU)
Agricultural land use and feed production must be efficient worldwide, to maintain the economic costs low. An important way to achieve this aim is to optimise the use of feed resources, for example in terms of nutrient flows. Research in this area focuses on for what the animal uses its feed, its feed conversion(rate) and the amount of feed that is needed to grow or to produce, for instance milk or eggs. Specific topics are feed components and feed processing, feed intake and its regulation, the health of the gastrointestinal tract, absorbed nutrient metabolism, in-vitro techniques and modelling of nutrient flows. The interaction between feed and health of the animal is strongly increasing. You have the ability to focus on livestock, but at the pet industry as well.

Contact person: Wouter Hendriks
Contact person education: dr. Wilbert Pellikaan

Animal Production Systems (APS)
Approaches of animal production that go further than the individual animal level, are increasing in interest.  Many problems in animal production can only be solved by taking the interrelationships within the production sector and the sector’s relationships with the socio-economic environment into account. Animal Production Systems research focuses on themes, such as the design and analysis of sustainable production systems, animal-human interactions and nutrient and mass flows involving the efficient use of local resources and reduction of environmental loading.

Contact person: Simon Oosting
Contact person education: Eddie Bokkers

Applied Zoology (APZ) - Cell Biology and Immunology (CBI), Experimental Zoology (EZO), Human and Animal Physiology (HAP)

This specialisation is meant for students with a strong interest in areas, such as the relationship between structure and function of organ systems in animals or the endocrine control of physiological processes. Three chairgroups are involved in this specialization:

  1. Cell biology and Immunology (CBI): The main themes discussed are immune responses of animals and how animals defend themselves against harmful influences from the environment.
  2. Experimental Zoology (EZO): The relation between shape and function of the animal is the most important subject. You explore for instance how the requirements of animals and environmental factors influence the physique of the animal.
  3. Human and Animal Physiology (HAP): The physiological aspects of reproduction and nutrition are the main subjects of this chair group.

Applied Zoology – Cellbiology and Immunology (CBI)
Contact person: Huub Savelkoul
Contact person education: Marloes van Splunter-Berg

Applied Zoology - Experimental Zoology (EZO)
Contact person: Johan van Leeuwen
Contact person education: Anneke Valk

Applied Zoology - Human and Animal Physiology (HAP)
Contact person: Jaap Keijer
Contact person education: Katja Teerds

Other chairgroups, outside Department or Animal Sciences:

Business Economics Group (BEC)
Contact person: Alfons Oude Lansink
Contact person education: Monique Mourits