GEN-31302 Population Genetics


Credits 2.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Knowledge clip0
Group work0
E-learning material0
Course coordinator(s)prof. dr. BJ Zwaan
Lecturer(s)J van den Heuvel
prof. dr. BJ Zwaan
Examiner(s)prof. dr. BJ Zwaan

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

Genetics, Statistics, both at MSc level. It is necessary to have followed an online course at Wageningen University before, or the special Onboarding course for distance learning. To get access to the Onboarding course, send an email to:


Note 1: This course has a maximum number of participants. The deadline for registration is one week earlier than usual. See Academic Year.( -> Registration for Courses.
Note 2: The period mentioned below is the period in which this course starts. For the exact academic weeks see the courseplanning on
Note 3: This course is offered online and it takes about 20 hours to complete the weekly task. There are assignments with deadlines and non-synchronous interaction with teachers and fellow students.  An online exam is offered at the end of the course. 

This course explains genetic evolution and its relationship to phenotypic variation, of natural, captive and domesticated populations of living organisms, ranging from microbes to plants and animals. The course deals with the dynamics of genetic variation, by evaluating the effect of and the equilibrium between mutation, natural selection, genetic drift and migration. Understanding the dynamics of genetic variation, and its translation to a phenotype, is not only important for understanding past and predicting future evolutionary change, but also for its relationship to biodiversity. Furthermore, population genetic insights are essential for plant and animal breeders to exploit genetic variation. The course cover five themes ranging from evolutionary theory to the effects of mutation, selection, migration, and genetic drift.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- learn and understand the historical relationship between evolutionary theory and population genetics;
- comprehend the importance of studying the behaviour and dynamics of genetic variation in extant populations to understand evolutionary processes;
- define and describe the important population genetic concepts, natural selection, mutation, migration, and genetic drift;
- understand and mathematically describe how these concepts relate to evolution and how they affect genetic variation;
- apply these population genetic concepts to problems related to the genetic dynamics of natural, captive and artificially selected populations;
- infer consequences of population history for the current genetic characteristics of populations, and vice versa, to infer population history from current data.


Knowledge clips, individual and group exercises, online discussion, E-learning modules.


The exam contains essay questions in combination with population genetic calculations.


Book 'Introduction to Genetic Analysis' 11th edition, Griffiths et al

Compulsory for: MPSDLSpec. Plant Breeding DLMSc2DL