MSc Global Change: Ecosystem Science & Policy

Graduate Taught (level 9 nfq, credits 120)

The current environmental changes affect both natural ecosystems and civil societies. Global change refers to planetary-scale changes occurring in complex socio-ecological systems, which are affected by climatic and non-climatic drivers (e.g., changes in human society). Understanding the intricate, medium- to longterm changes in our land, air and water requires advanced scientific knowledge in measurement, modelling and prediction. This joint international MSc course between the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science and Justus Liebig University (JLU) Giessen, Germany is the response to these challenges. 

Visit our website to discover more about this unique opportunity to study in both Ireland and Germany and make a difference!

Download the UCD Science Graduate Taught Courses brochure (pdf)

  • The first semester is based at UCD Ireland between September and December. 
  • This is followed by a 6 week minimum internship in a company or institution of your choice (for example: Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Agriculture Organisation, UNFCCC and Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change offcies, Rural Investment Support for Europe foundation, ICLEI (Local Government for Sustainability), Postdam Institute for Advanced Sustainability STudies, Irish Environmental Network, European Forest Institute).
  • The second taught semester is based in JLU, Giessen, Germany between March and August.
  • The last semester is devoted entirely to an individual research project, which can be undertaken in either UCD or JLU or a host instiutions. 
  • You will gain expertise in global change processes (soil, air, water), plant-soil-atmosphere interactions; skills to work at the science and policy interface; environmental law and international regulations as well as specific communication skills.

Click here for Frequently Ask Questions

Careers & Employability

Graduates may pursue roles as policy advisers, scientific analysts or researchers in government, international organisations, NGOs, research institutes or consulting companies. There are also many opportunities for further studies. The skills acquired, particularly through the completion of the minor thesis provides a strong foundation for PhD research.

Prospective employers include the Environmental Protection Agency, Governmental Departments, European Commission; European Environment Agency as well as various international organisations (e.g. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; United Nations Environment Programme; International Union for the Conservation of Nature, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation).

Curricular information is subject to change

Full Time option suitable for:

Domestic(EEA) applicants: Yes
International (Non EEA) applicants currently residing outside of the EEA Region. Yes

The MSc in Global Change: Ecosystem Science and Policy degree is aimed at individuals who intend to pursue a career in the wide field of ‘Environmental issues’ with the skills to understand the science as well as communicating policy-relevant evidence to diverse audience.


This is an international joint degree programme between University College Dublin (UCD) and Justus-Liebig-University Giessen (JLU), which provides students with a unique working environment of learning in a cross-cultural setting. The student will experience living in a different culture, make friends with students from different countries and gain increased independence and self-confidence. A key element of the programme is a learning environment that combines academic and professional approaches in an international context. The programme suits skilled and motivated science graduates wishing to develop a scientific career in researching natural and managed ecosystems, as well as those aiming to contribute to evidence-based environmental policy.

The programme combines the well-established international profiles of JLU and UCD and draws on the research and teaching expertise in those institutions as well as on national and international collaboration. This course integrates major research groups, bringing together complementary, multi-disciplinary expertise including fully-resourced ecosystem experiments and field-scale study sites. Both institutions have facilities to allow students and staff to have access to major technology platforms essential to the conduct of world-class cutting-edge research. This is also reflected in the teaching content of this programme, which is continually adapted and drawn from the latest international research projects and policy-related developments.

Graduates will benefit from the experience of world-class educators from both UCD and JLU who will train graduates in the scientific methods required to study the effects of environmental change on ecosystems around the world and to transfer the gained knowledge into policy-relevant information. The assessments undertaken represent real world applications and are constantly developed as a tool to achieve a deeper mastery of the subjects. Of great importance to the gained learning experience is the inclusion in the core curriculum of an employment-focussed work placement (six weeks contact time). In addition to providing graduates with strong scientific training in the interpretation of ecosystem science, this programme will provide students with the skills necessary to participate in environmental policy making processes.

  • Ability to use and interpret a wide range of datasets
  • Communicate policy-relevant evidence to diverse target audiences in an unambiguous way
  • Develop strategies for continuous professional development and continue self-directed learning required to enhance their career ambitions.
  • Maturity to pursue study as well as critically appraise scientific information
  • Participate in ecosystem research using the latest research methods and data management tools
  • Perform environmental work and research in a confident manner by applying relevant tools in data collection, management, analysis and reporting
  • Understand and promote the development of policy in terms of adaptation and mitigations for natural and managed ecosystems, thereby supporting sustainable livelihoods
  • Understand the ecosystem science underpinning our knowledge of global environmental change

You can download  a brochure on the structure and the taught modules (core and optional) at both UCD (winter semester) and JLU (summer semester).

UCD Core Modules

Credit Points

ENVB40370 Data Analyses & Interpretation (On-line)


BIOL40780 Designing Global Change Research Projects


ENVB40130 Global Change Ecology


BIOL40140 Science and Policy


ENVB40040 Environmental Impact Assessment


ENVB40370 Data Anal. & Interpretation


BIOL40120 Work Placement (Global Change)


BIOL40130 Research Project (Global Change)


Optional module (5 CP needed)


ENVB40540 Introduction to Ecological Mapping with open source software (QGIS)


ENVB40310 Peatlands and Environmental Change


MEEN40090 Energy Systems and Climate Change


ENVB40410 Management of Sustainable Fisheries (On-line)


ENVB30130 Ecology & its Appl. O/L



JLU Core Modules

Credit Points

BIOL40680 Global Change: Modelling and Advanced Techniques


BIOL40690 Adaptation to Global Change (JLU)


BIOL40580 Policy Consulting - Environmental Policy and Development Cooperation (JLU)


BIOL40230 Resource Economics and Environmental Management (JLU)


BIOL40160 Biodiversity Informatics (JLU)


BIOL40740 Sustainable agro-ecosystems


Optional module (6 CP needed)


BIOL40600 Econ Dev & WorldAgMarkets(JLU)


BIOL40660 Methods in Global Change Research


ENVB40560 Natural Resources & Eco (JLU)


BIOL40700 Stress Ecology (JLU)


BIOL40710 Into the footsteps of a researcher (JLU)


BIOL40570 World Food Economy (JLU)


BIOL40750 Global Governance: Erosion, stagnation or transformation: liberal world order in crisis? (JLU)


ENVB40550 Humanitarian Disasters and its Impact on Transition Management (JLU)


MSc Global Change: Ecosystem Science & Policy (F038) Full Time
EU          fee per year - € 8410
nonEU    fee per year - € 25600

***Fees are subject to change

The annual tuition fee is valid for the whole duration of this Master programme, that is 16 month. You will be registered at both universities for the entirity of the programme and this fee also covers for 3 semester contribution in Justus Liebig University.

Tuition fee information is available on the UCD Fees website. Please note that UCD offers a number of graduate scholarships for full-time, self-funding international students, holding an offer of a place on a UCD graduate degree programme. For further information please see International Scholarships. There is also ERASMUS mobility scholarships as well as other funding mechanisms for German students through the DAAD (please email

For more information select your country here

This Masters programme is distinctive in that it offers students the opportunity to spend 6 to 8 weeks on a work placement. You will be placed in a setting that reflects your own interests. You can also ask the programme co-ordinator to review a particular internship (e.g. a company of your choice that you might be interested in working for). The work placement can be carried in any country of your choice. Placements may vary considerably but students will normally be placed in industry, government, non-government or research agencies where they will obtain a breadth of practical experience to complement their degree programme. Through this work placement, you will acquire transferable skills which will make you a sought after and effective employee. 

A Programme Internship Manager is dedicated to helping the students securing a work placement and helping them with their applications, CVs, cover letters as well as giving them mock interviews and advise on work ethics.

Click here for more information and examples of hosts/employers.

This unique joint international programme has been accreditated by the German agency AQAS before it commenced and has been re-accreditated after 5 years.

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  • This programme is intended for applicants with a Bachelor degree in an appropriate life sciences discipline, such as biology, agriculture or environmental science (including zoology, ecology, biochemistry, geology and physics). A bachelor degree (NFQ Level 8) with honours 2(2) (GPA 2.48 or higher) or international equivalent is required.
  • Applicants whose first language is not English must also demonstrate English language proficiency of IELTS 6.5 (no band less than 6.0 in each element), or equivalent.
  • These are the minimum entry requirements – additional criteria may be requested for some programmes 

Graduate Profiles


Yana Bersunukayeva 2017/18

" Having completed my undergraduate degree in environmental science I have gained an invaluable practical approach to the subject however, I wanted to gain knowledge in the policy aspect of environment. This Masters program was an ideal solution to fill in my knowledge gap in environmental policy and law while also providing me with an opportunity to study abroad in Giessen, Germany. Additionally, as part of the Master’s, I have chosen to undertake my 2-month internship as an environmental scientist with RPS, an engineering consultancy firm.  The internship provided me with a working knowledge of carrying out Environmental Impact Assessment Reports (EIARs) and introduced me to an environmental consulting environment. The internship position with RPS has enabled me to secure a position with Roughan and O’Donovan consulting engineers for a position of Graduate Environmental Scientist upon completion of the Masters degree."



Sean Schmitz, 2016/17

"Since the beginning of 2018, I have been working at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies e.V. (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany as a research associate. The story of how I got here, though, is perhaps as uniquely intertwined with the Global Change program as it can get. It began with the internship portion of the program, which I completed at the IASS in the first few months of 2017. It was through another Global Change alumni, Rebecca Kutzner, that I even heard about the institute in the first place, as she had been working there for a few years by then. A polite email and a skype call later and I had myself an internship. Luckily it went well enough that I was able to come back to the IASS later that year to write my thesis within the same project, Climate Change and Air Pollution (ClimPol). By the end of the thesis, it became clear to me that what is often lacking in science is not resources to conduct the research, but rather the researchers to do it. For that exact reason, I began my current position in the project to continue what I had started with my thesis. To put it bluntly, I wouldn’t be where I am without the Global Change program. It provided me with both the opportunities and the connections to allow me to succeed, for which I will always be grateful."


Claire McVeigh 2015/16

"I am currently in the second year of my PhD in the School of Natural and Built Environment at Queen’s University, Belfast, where I am researching weathering of bedrock in blanket bogs and the potential influence of this on atmospheric carbon levels. The multidisciplinary nature of the MSc in Global Change: Ecosystem Science and Policy allowed me to gain an understanding of a wider range of topics than a straightforward environmental science course, including environmental law, economics, and communication of scientific information. In addition, the placement portion of the course allowed me to see what a job in research was really like, which encouraged me to undertake PhD research. The programme not only gave me a solid knowledge base in environmental and ecosystem science from which to begin my own research, but also an understanding of the political and economic factors that can influence environmental policy and the importance of effectively communicating scientific information."





Martin Sunnus, 2013/14

"I work at the “Regierungspräsidium Tübingen”, which is a government authority in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. My job is to reduce air pollution. I deal mostly with emissions from road traffic in urban areas. During the MSc Global Change programme I acquired the scientific skills needed to evaluate data pertaining to air quality and develop practical solutions according to the level of pollution. Additionally, I gained a deep understanding of the political and administrative frameworks that are both the basis and the boundaries for my work."



Elena Barth 2014/15

uring my undergraduate studies in Environmental Management I learned a lot about ecosystem science and project management. However, I felt that my education lacked an important part on policy processes if I wanted to make my plans of working in international cooperation come true. This is why I chose the master´s course Global Change: Ecosystem Science and Policy. It gave me the possibility to deepen my understanding of international environmental policy and science communication. For my thesis I went to Colombia and investigated on a coral reef restoration project in the Caribbean. The knowledge I had gained during the master´s course enabled me to do research not only on the ecological dimension of coral reef loss, but to also highlight social-economic and political aspects of the issue. 

Currently, I am working as an intern for Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the German federal agency for international cooperation. I support the team of Blue Solutions, a project that is dedicated to the protection and conservation of the world´s marine and coastal biodiversity.




Rebecca Kutzner, Germany, 2013/2014.

"After graduating with a bachelor degree in Geoscience 2012, where I learned about past climates and inter-connections within the earth system, I wanted to gain more insight into current ecosystems and their regulation. In 2014 I graduated from the MSc program “Global Change: Ecosystem Science and Policy” which taught me a variety of skills regarding ecosystems and their interaction with the ground and atmosphere. I gained knowledge of political as well as economical mechanisms, dominating decision making processes, also concerning various ecosystems. That knowledge as well as those skills were and are very useful in my different work environments since then. During my time (2014-2018) at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies e. V. in Potsdam, Germany, I was able to extend the gained skills of my MSc degree, like the statistical program ‘R’, while working in the science-policy-interface with cities and German ministries regarding air quality issues. Continuing my research at the Université Paris-Est à Créteil in France, the learned skills of different programs during my master courses like MATLAB as well as statistical analysis are never to be underestimated."



In additional to all the facilities locted in UCD, especially within the Earth Institute and UCE Rosemount Environmental Research Station, students benefit from the state-of-the-art global change research and practical training campus at JLU, Giessen Germany. There is fully equiped modern research station hosting the world-wide longest running Free Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (FACE) facility. Moreover methodological practical training in modern climate change research are available at the research station This includes stable isotope facilities and the methods for modern global change ecology, such as modern techniques to quantify climate relevant trace gas emission from terrestrial ecosystems. 

The following entry routes are available:

MSc Global Change: Ecosystem Science & Policy FT (F038)
16 Months
Full Time
Rolling *