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Curriculum

First semester

IF_1.SemesterIn the first semester, students will complete three core modules and three modules of the elective track.

The initial core module Research Skills aims to convey key competencies that students will need for the whole scientific process - from generating ideas to communicating results - during the remainder of the program. This includes, e.g., their MSc thesis or other assignments. The second core module Forest Inventory Design provides the necessary tools for forest inventory designs, and to facilitate the students with the necessary knowledge and skills to develop inventory designs that can provide the information forest managers need to make the right decision according to their specific management goals. In the third core module Forestry Economics and Management, students will gain fundamental knowledge in forestry and business economics as well as forest enterprise management. It seeks to give a background of standard economic methods link them to informed decision making.

Building up on the above core modules, the first elective track module “Forest Resources and their Goods and Serviceswill provide an overview of global forest resources and how they are being used, in particular for the production of wood and biomass, and facilitate an understanding of trends in the forest resources and their drivers in the present, past and future. A focus of the module is on the analysis of synergies and trade-offs in the provision of productive and other ecosystem services and on reviewing management options for different ecosystem services.

Since tree plantations play a rapidly increasing role in the global supply of commodities, participants of the module Plantation Forestry will learn principles of sustainable plantation management, focusing on application of models (growth and yield, harvesting), analyses of large inventory data sets, and development of strategic management plans. 

Large efforts have been undertaken and major political initiatives started to facilitate the storage of carbon in forests and their products. The module Carbon Forestryis a unique opportunity for students to acquire the necessary skills needed to develop projects for land-use based mitigation and the knowledge of related climate policy instruments at national and international levels.

Second semester

The second semester will also commence with two core modules. The concept of “Ecosystem Management”, which is an important paradigm for the management of natural resources, will be studies in the first core module. It is based on the objectives of sustainable use and conservation of natural resources as well as fair and equitable sharing of benefits from ecosystem goods and services. Ecosystem management recognizes that ecosystems are complex and interconnected systems, which function on a range of spatial and temporal scales. During a one-week excursion students will be given the opportunity to apply many of the competencies learned in previous modules and evaluate the strengths and limitations of the approach using a case study of a forested landscape in Central Europe. The core module “Soil Ecology & Management” is concerned with our least renewable resource in forests. It provides an introduction to soil forming processes and their relevance for ecological site conditions. The module provides methods for field analyses of soil formation and ecological soil properties as well as the assessment of soil potential, including practical training. Problems of forest soil degradation through human impacts and solutions possibilities for soil protection will be discussed.

The semester continues with three modules of the elective track.

Governance can be understood as a key element for international sustainable forest management. Governance of forests is characterized by an increasing complexity with multiple sector policies impacting on forests, with a multitude of diverse actors being involved and with policies taking place at multiple levels from the local to the global. The Module International Forest Governanceunfolds this complexity. It provides an overview of existing concepts and enables an empirically grounded understanding of international forest governance. Problem oriented learning, referring to timely and relevant cases supports absorbing information about key international processes and actors. Options for alternative ways of (good) governance will be subject of discussion in the module. Students take part in a role play and negotiate a forest convention, to sense the atmosphere of international forest governance. 

In the module Integrated Land Use Management participants will explore the potential of locally adapted management systems that integrate different types of land uses, such as forestry and agriculture, either through combination in the same area or through a mosaic of land-use types in the landscape. These systems are seen as more sustainable alternatives to conventional, industrial style land use systems because they take account of the livelihood systems of local populations, protect their natural resources to a greater extent and provide a wider range of ecosystem goods and services in the same area. Students will learn a range of approaches (ecological, economic, social, and political) to analyze these systems and propose projects for concrete case studies.

Reconciling conflicting forest management objectives such as the production of timber and the conservation of biodiversity is a continuous challenge that is addressed in a number of modules. In the Close-to-Nature Forest Managementmodule, students will have the challenge to do just that applying many of the competencies gained in previous modules to develop a management plan for a concrete patch of forests based on their own analysis of forest conditions and considering a wide range of planning criteria and management options. In addition, students will be trained in silvicultural techniques to analyze forests and implement management objectives on the ground.

Third semester 

In the third semester, students can chose from a wide range of elective modules to match their specific qualification goals (a total of 25 ECTS-credits required). They can also select German taught modules and negotiate individually the content of “Current Topic” modules with lecturers in the program. Electives which may be particularly suitable to students of the International Forestry paradigm comprise:

  • Biomass Resource Assessment
  • Natural Hazards and Risk Management
  • Spatial Information Systems
  • Landscape Ecology
  • Ecosystem Services: Chances and Challenges
  • Economics of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

The University of Freiburg offers also a wide range of opportunities to learn different languages, which may help to prepare the necessary skills for the internship, for the field work or MSc thesis carried out abroad, or to communicate with fellow students.

Also the internship is scheduled between the second and third semester, but can also be carried out at any other time, if needed.

Fourth semester

The fourth semester is devoted entirely to the research and writing of the master thesis, which must be completed within six months of the thesis registration date.