The programme of the International Master of Science in Agro- and Environmental Nematology is globally unique in being the only course of its kind, focused on nematology, which is dynamic, interactive, and multidisciplinary in its approach, attracting students from across the world. Nematodes, or roundworms, are the most numerous Metazoa on earth. As a virtue of their relatively short lifecycle nematodes are able to respond to environmental perturbations, food availability and recovery and are consequently, important as indicators for environmental monitoring, such as bio-indicators of pollution and ecological succession. They exist also as parasites of plants or animals, being among the most damaging pests of crops known to man, and result in some of the most debilitating diseases of humans and livestock. However, certain species are well placed for exploitation in bio-control programmes with some now used as a mainstream pest management strategy. The MSc Nematology at Gent University deals with the fundamental as well as applied aspects of Nematology, concerning all groups of nematodes in all possible environments: natural soils, agricultural soils, aquatic sediments of freshwater, or marine habitats. It fulfils the needs at an international level for training and delivering highly qualified nematologists, ultimately furnished a multidisciplinary knowledge in all fields of nematology and related sciences.
Key objectives of the programme include: (1) disseminate knowledge of nematode effects on crops and their role in disease complexes; (2) transfer of information to implement sustainable farming practices and improve agricultural productivity under rapidly changing environmental and climate conditions; (3) facilitate the use of nematodes as biological control agents; (4) advance the knowledge of nematodes in their role as ecosystem service providers.
To create a more conducive and locally appropriate link for capacity building in the South, the programme adopts a new strategy through satellite programmes in Ethiopia and Kenya. In Ethiopia (Jimma University) a Summer Course in Nematology is organised in cooperation with our alumni. The programme at IITA-icipe Nairobi in Kenya includes a Basic Nematology Crash Course (BNCC) for local students and a mobility track for the MSc nematology students. As part of their curriculum, the latter includes professional internships in Kenya, a course focused on specific developmental needs and the training of local students during the BNCC. A further introduction of nematology within the curriculum of universities in the South and the establishment of an exchange programme are herewith a key focus of the programme.