UN Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life on land

Undergraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

In 2015 the United Nations adopted 17 interconnected Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) addressing the global challenges of poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, prosperity, peace, and justice. The goals are to be achieved by 2030. In order to realize this, we urgently need to act and to engage the younger generations.


This course focuses specifically on SDG 15: Life on land: "Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss". It has 12 specified targets related to how to preserve and sustainably use the Earth¿s terrestrial species and ecosystems.


Human influence on the natural processes of the planet has been so massive in the last 200 years that the Holocene epoch in the time after the last glaciation has ended and we now live in the Anthropocene era, with mass eradication of animal species, climate change and physical changes in the Earth's surface. Thus, humans have transformed their natural environment over thousands of years by cultivating the soil and dominating plants and animals. This course discusses the human influence on these processes, and the possible solutions needed for sustainable development. Here, resilience and sustainability in social-ecological systems are key concepts. The course focuses on clearly defining the SDG challenges and possibilities, rather than giving the students complete solutions.


Sustainable development is a theme that concerns all students, and the course is therefore open to all. The teacher uses active learning methods, and the students play key roles in discussing the opportunities and challenges pertaining to SDG 15.


Through active learning, the student learns about SDG 15 and its targets and indicators, their scientific basis, and their interrelatedness to the other SDGs. The students will train in:

  1. Finding, using, and evaluating international reports, governmental white papers, and scientific literature relevant to SDG 15.
  2. Identifying different stakeholders and their motivations.
  3. Composing and using scientifically sound arguments when debating SDG 15.
  4. Developing social-ecological systems thinking in order to contribute to actionable knowledge for sustainable development.
  5. Composing and presenting a poster in the course final symposium as part of a larger group.


The student will also get a basic understanding of the properties (physical, ecological, environmental, climate change) of terrestrial systems that contribute to making the challenges under SDG 15 global, and the key governmental and intergovernmental arenas for decision-making relevant to SDG 15.


Check out posters from earlier courses here.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the course the student should have the following learning outcomes:


The student:

  • Can identify the main processes that contribute to the challenges faced by life on land (SDG 15).
  • Can describe the SDG 15 targets, indicators and central trade-offs and synergies in light of 2030 Agenda.
  • Can explain the history and outlines of the most important international agreements and conventions relevant for SDG 15 and the sustainable development agenda.
  • Can identify the key governmental and intergovernmental arenas for decision-making relevant for SDG 15



The student:

  • Can describe the main challenges for life on land grounded in evidence-based knowledge.
  • Can analyse and interrelate SDG 15 targets in light of the other SDG targets.
  • Can identify different stakeholders and recognise their motivations.
  • Can evaluate existing research and identify research needs related to SDG 15.
  • Can master different types of presentation techniques, e.g. poster presentation, debate and essay writing.


General competence

The student:

  • Can find, navigate, and make connections between scientific literature and the literature of reports, conventions, and policy documents.
  • Can compose and use knowledge-based arguments for relevant societal debates, both orally and in writing, individually and as part of a team.
  • Can provide constructive peer feedback, based on critical and solution-oriented views.
  • Can reflect on whole-system thinking (social-ecological systems) to create actionable knowledge for sustainable development.

ECTS Credits


Level of Study

Master level

Semester of Instruction


This course has a limited capacity, enrolment is based on application. The application deadline is Wednesday in week 2 for the spring semester. Please see this page for more information. You will receive confirmation of whether you received a seat in Studentweb no later than Monday the week after the deadline.

It is compulsory to attend the first lecture/orientation meeting, or you risk losing your seat. If you are unable to attend the first lecture, you must contact the Study Section (studie.bio@uib.no). The time of the first lecture/orientation meeting can be found in the schedule on the course website or on Mitt UiB.

Required Previous Knowledge
Recommended Previous Knowledge
Fundamental ecological understanding (e.g. ecological subjects in the bachelor program: BIO102, BIO201, SDG110).
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
Access to the Course
The course is open to all students at University of Bergen.
Teaching and learning methods
This course is mainly based on active learning methods, where the students play a key role in their learning. Student will work in groups, with individual assignments and group assignments, including:
  • individual essays
  • group presentations
  • peer reviews of their fellow students assignments
  • preparing for and performing a debate
  • preparing a poster and presenting it at a course conference
Compulsory Assignments and Attendance
  • Mandatory attendance at the first lecture and on at least 80% of the learning activities.
  • Compulsory participation on project groups / excursions.
  • Forms of Assessment
    Portfolio assessment consisting of:
    • Written assignments, individually and in groups
    • Presentations
    • Poster and essay presented at the final course symposium
    Grading Scale
    Assessment Semester
    In teaching semester
    Reading List
    The reading list will be available within July 1st for the autumn semester and December 1st for the spring semester
    Course Evaluation
    The course will be evaluated by the students in accordance with the quality control system at UiB and the department.
    Examination Support Material
    Programme Committee
    The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.
    Course Coordinator
    Contact information for the course coordinator is available at MittUiB, alternatively contact the student advisor.
    Course Administrator
    Department of biological sciences