Find a Degree Postgraduate Taught Programmes Ecology and Conservation
MSc Ecology and Conservation

Programme Details

The Master’s programme provides training in ecology and conservation with taught modules based on current research of contributing scientists drawn from diverse ecological disciplines.

In addition to core ecology and skills training, there is a choice of modules providing research training for those students intending to go on to do a PhD and more applied modules for those seeking careers in conservation and management, consultancy etc.

All students will gain multi-disciplinary skills and practical experience of working in active research environments alongside established scientists, with the potential to also collaborate with practitioners, and will be trained to develop and execute individual projects.

Our graduates have demonstrated that this MSc provides an excellent springboard for successful careers in research, conservation, consultancy, environmental protection, policy, education and advocacy, to name but a few.

MSc 12 months full-time or 24 months part-time | On-campus learning | September start

Why study this programme?

  • Aberdeen provides you with a unique learning environment with unrivalled access to coastal, mountain and freshwater habitats for both fieldwork and recreation.
  • The University has a long tradition and excellent reputation for teaching and research in Ecology and is home to one of the largest and most vibrant groups of academics in this subject area in Britain. Masters ecology has been taught here for over 50 years and our generations of graduates are to be found in leadership in ecological professions around the world.
  • You will be taught by ecologists who are internationally renowned researchers and experts in their field, and who are actively involved in the application of ecological research to environmental management and nature conservation.
  • The programme is flexible so that you can choose the extent to which you wish to focus on gaining research skills or applied ecology skills, or to combine both.
  • The programme is skills-based, meaning that as well as learning theory you will be continually applying that knowledge to real world tasks and situations.
  • Your project will become a key feature of your CV and is often a first step to further research or a job. In helping you develop your project we enable you to link in to our vast network of colleagues and organisations within the academic, non-governmental, government and industrial sectors.

Contact Information


Compulsory Courses

Experimental Design and Analysis (15 credits)

This course is uniquely tailored for biologists and will provide students with the required background and skills relevant to modern ecology and biology. The unique format of example-led lectures and real-world based practicals will provide you with a foundation to become confident and proficient in dealing with real data. Throughout this course, we will introduce you to using the programming language R (an industry standard) to implement modern statistical modelling techniques. You will use the flexible linear modelling framework to analyse biological data. In addition to linear and generalised linear modelling, the course introduces generalised additive modelling and multivariate statistics. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Intoduction to GIS (7.5 Credits)

Introduction to GIS will provide you with the opportunities to become familiar with ArcGIS software and understand the application of GIS technologies to address ecological research questions.

  • Provide increasingly important GIS skills on your CV
  • Practical based course so you learn how to use GIS as well as getting the theory
  • Range of real research examples used in terrestrial and marine ecology

Read full details in our course catalogue.

Plant Ecology (15 Credits)

Integrated lectures, field trips, data exercises and discussions provide a broad overview of theoretical plant ecology and its practical applications. You will participate in data collection in sand dune, heathland and woodland habitats and become familiar with a range of plant species. Key skills in vegetation survey, monitoring and research are taught. Class field data are used as the basis for understanding ecological processes and for learning vegetation analysis methods. You will practice writing skills in a data report and essay, supported by “clinics” and by individual help to students. Detailed feedback will help your writing in subsequent courses. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Population Ecology (15 Credits)

The course is structured as a series of weekly themes, which each reflect areas of current research in animal ecology. The content of the course is research-based, drawing on case studies from research-active staff within the School of Biological Sciences. The topics cover a range of ecological and spatial scales: from single species’ population dynamics to community dynamics, and from local to macro-scale processes, with a focus on the application of current ecological knowledge and theory. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Research Project Planning (7.5 Credits)

  • Enables students to identify the rationale, questions, methods and logistics associated with their summer research projects;
  • Time-tabling is unstructured to allow students the flexibility to meet with their supervisory team, undertake preliminary analyses and arrange logistics;
  • Assessment designed to capture the key aims and methods of the project, and this work can be used as the basis of the main introductory chapter in the final thesis.

Read full details in our course catalogue.

Elective Courses

Links take you to our course catalogue in a new tab/window.

Research Project (60 credits)

  • Independent research project that can cover any area of ecology, and which may be computer, laboratory, greenhouse or field based;
  • Provides a thorough training in managing all aspects of a research project from inception to delivery of a thesis in the format of an international scientific journal;
  • Projects can be based anywhere in the world and often are associated with on-going cutting-edge research by academic staff;
  • Collaboration with external organisations is encouraged to enable students to gain a greater range of experience.


The programme is assessed entirely by continuous assessment. There are no exams. Many of the assessments have been developed to provide training in key transferable skills. For example, in addition to written reports they may take the form of a conference presentation, review of a paper, participation in a debate, preparation of a policy brief, chairing a discussion. Additional assessments for more applied courses, that are particularly relevant for consultancy positions, are an environmental impact assessment and a management plan. The final assessment is your project report which is submitted in the form of a manuscript, prepared as required for submission to a scientific journal.


The programme comprises a combination of taught modules each of which will involve lectures/seminars and practical work. There is one 10-day residential field course (at Bettyhill, Sutherland) plus several day-long field trips from Aberdeen. Emphasis throughout is on active participation in class discussions, presentations and group work. The individual research project is devised by the student in consultation with a supervisor (a member of the School of Biological Sciences).


The programme focusses on providing training in state-of-the-art methods that will be invaluable both for careers in academic research and outside of academia, for example in ecological or environmental consultancy.

The UK’s Natural Environment Research Council has published an analysis of the “most wanted” postgraduate and professional skills in the ecological and environmental sector.

Our MSc programme has been specifically designed to provide you with sets of these most wanted skills such that you are highly competitive in whatever career you choose to follow.

In addition to acquiring discipline-specific skills the course work activities without our programme are designed to provide you with ample opportunity to develop generic skills required by employers including critical thinking, problem solving, team work, written and oral presentation, time management and interdisciplinarity

A second (2:2) class Honours degree or equivalent in a biological science, geography, maths, physics or computer science.

Please check the In My Country pages to find out if your degree is equivalent.

We look at applications on a case by case basis and in recent years we have also accepted individuals with a range of backgrounds including first degrees in English, Philosophy and Social Sciences who were clearly motivated by the programme and had some work experience in a relevant field, for example ecological consultancy, conservation, etc.

Document requirements

For this application we need at least:

  • An official full Bachelor degree transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) so far (original & official English translation)
  • Degree certificate (if you have already graduated)
  • Academic reference letter OR a reference letter from your employer (if you have 2+ years of work experience in an industry relevant to the programme)
  • Detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme
  • Ideally - current CV/resume

It is important when submitting an application that you ensure you have completed all the necessary sections and enclosed all the relevant documentation to ensure that your application can be processed as quickly as possible. Any missing document may result in delay.

English Language requirements

Even if you have been educated in the medium of English you must meet our English Language requirements (certain countries may be exempted from this requirement). Full details are available on our English language requirements webpages. This programme requires that you meet the 'Postgraduate Standard' level of English proficiency.

University of Aberdeen offers also pre-sessional English courses that when successfully completed will remove language conditions for studying at the University of Aberdeen. Further details are available on the Language Centre website.


Tuition Fee Rates 2016/17 - MSc Ecology and Environmental Sustainability

  • UK/EU students: £4,500
  • International students: £17,200

Further information about tuition fees and cost of living for both UK/EU and International students can be found on the Finance and Funding web pages.


Prospective students should visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database

University of Aberdeen Alumni Discount Scheme

The University of Aberdeen is very pleased to offer a 20% discount on postgraduate tuition fees for all alumni who have graduated with a degree from the University of Aberdeen.  More Information can be found here.

(Please note this cannot be claimed in conjunction with any other scholarship award)


Related Information

General Information

Student Recruitment & Admissions Service
University of Aberdeen
The Hub
King's College

Tel: +44 (0)1224 272090 / +44 (0)1224 272091
Fax: +44 (0)1224 272576