This programme is designed to equip you with a range of contemporary ecological and transferable skills that will provide an invaluable basis for your career.

Study Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
12 months or 24 months
Study Mode
Full Time or Part Time
Start Month
Location of Study

Our MSc programme provides flexibility to enable you to gain knowledge and skills to meet your career aspirations, whether in research or as a practising ecologist. You will have the opportunity to gain hands on experience of everything from field survey to chairing discussions, from statistics and modelling to report writing and from identifying important ecological questions to researching them and writing a scientific paper. Previous graduates have gone on to the top of their chosen profession in research, consultancy, conservation, policy, education and advocacy.

Throughout the programme you will receive core training in plant community ecology, animal population ecology, GIS and experimental design and analysis (which includes use of R). You can select from a broad range of optional courses allowing you to tailor your studies to your interests and career aspirations. Students wishing to gain research training may take advantage of our renowned advanced statistics course and join our informal ecology research group seminars throughout the year. Those interested in applied ecology may choose to study catchment management, marine spatial management and conservation management planning, amongst others. A key course for those aiming to work in consultancy is Environmental Impact Assessment. The opportunity to place your ecological study in a broader, interdisciplinary context is provided through a very popular course on ecology, conservation and society.

An important component of the programme is the individual research project which enables you to develop expertise and contacts in a topic of your own choosing. Preparation may begin as early in the year as you like. You can also participate in our popular week-long field research skills course held at our field centre in the stunning surroundings of Bettyhill on the north coast of Sutherland. This course will take place during the Easter period.

What You'll Study

Semester 1

Semester 1

Compulsory Courses
Experimental Design and Analysis (BI5009)

15 Credit Points

This course is uniquely tailored for biologists and will provide students with the required background theory and practical 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 analysing real data. Throughout this course, we will introduce you to using the programming language R to implement modern statistical modelling techniques. You will use the flexible linear and generalised linear modelling frameworks to analyse biological data with emphasis on robust and reproducible research methods.

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Plant Ecology (PL5001)

15 Credit Points

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 becoming 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 helps your writing in subsequent courses.

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Population Ecology (ZO5304)

15 Credit Points

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.

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Optional Courses

Plus zero or one from the following:

Statistics for Complex Study Designs (BI5302)

15 Credit Points

This highly regarded course will take your understanding of statistics to the next level and provide you with the skills and confidence to analyse your complex biological data. Through a combination of lectures, computer based practicals and group work you will gain an understanding of how to deal with pervasive issues in the analysis of real world biological data such as heterogeneity of variance and spatial and temporal non-independence. Hands on computer tutorials will allow you to apply statistical models using modern statistical software (R) to real data, collected by researchers to answer real biological questions.

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Molecular Ecological Techniques (EK5301)

15 Credit Points

The course will develop the student’s awareness of how molecular genetic techniques, including modern ‘omics technologies, can be used to inform our understanding of aspects of ecology, evolution, population biology and conservation science. The course will describe the underlying central dogma of molecular biology that explains how genetic diversity arises and can be harnessed as molecular markers. It will then review the contribution of molecular genetics in individual, population and species level studies.

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Semester 2

Semester 2

Compulsory Courses
Applications of GIS (EV5517)

15 Credit Points

Structured workshops provide you with opportunities to become familiar with ArcGIS software and to build your employability.

An individual project allows you to explore a specific application that you are interested in and demonstrate your proficiency with the software and your command of the conceptual underpinnings.

Flexible teaching and learning environment allows for individualised learning and enrichment for students with existing skills in GIS.

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Introduction to Ecological Field Research In Northern Scotland (EK5512)

15 Credit Points

Through structured time in a variety of ecosystems close to the Bettyhill Field Station in the North of Scotland, students gain an understanding of how to ask questions about ecological patterns and processes, how to sample using simple field techniques to answer these questions.

By planning and executing an independent project, students will demonstrate a critical understanding of an ecological concept and aspects of experimental design relevant to their research question.

By participating in a residential field course, students will develop their team working skills and build a working relationship with their peers in the postgraduate programme.

Through an oral presentation of their project work, students will gain experience in communicating science in a concise and structured way.

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Optional Courses

Plus two or three from the following:

Ecology, Conservation and Society (EK5510)

15 Credit Points

This course looks at current theory and practice in the interface between ecology, conservation and society. We will explore diverse topics, including how ecology is changing, sustainability science, interdisciplinary approaches, citizen science, policy workshop, communicating science, conservation conflicts and data visualisation.

Sessions are composed of lectures and workshops from staff and guest speakers, and structured in-class activities, which will challenge you to consider problems and evidence from different perspectives. These will increase your capacity for self-reflection and awareness of ethical and moral issues embedded in problems often framed as ecological.

Four short discussion essays are required; you will get detailed feedback for improving your writing skills. Weekly student-led discussions allow you to develop your capacity for attentive exchange, informed argument and reasoning, and skills in facilitating discussion.

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Catchment Management (EK5511)

15 Credit Points

Field visits to examine river systems and forested catchments provide context and opportunities to discuss a diverse set of environmental management problems with professionals working in the field.

Practical sessions provide structured activities focused on the identification of freshwater invertebrates and applications of GIS approaches for analysing data to support catchment management planning.

You apply theoretical and practical knowledge to a case study, demonstrating your capacity to evaluate site specific data and to interpret relevant legislation and regulation.

Working individually and with a group you will write and present a management plan for a location of your choosing.

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Marine Spatial Management (ZO5518)

15 Credit Points

You develop an appreciation of the level of understanding of the physical and biological oceanography, biodiversity, trophic interactions, species survival and reproduction issues required to implement spatially explicit, sustainable ecosystem-base management, conservation and effective marine spatial planning.

Lectures from marine ecologists, industry consultants and government scientists working in applied marine management provide insights into current issues.

Practical work provides training in use of R, Excel, data analysis and strengthens your written communication skills.

Group and individual working strengthen your critical thinking and problem-solving skills and support the development of strong oral communication.

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Environmental Management Plan (EV5801)

15 Credit Points

Students examine why and how management plans are created for conservation and other sites. Field work in a multiple use site is followed by data analysis, practical tasks and writing provides training required to construct a management plan.

Structured practical sessions provide experience with spreadsheets, ArcGIS and other technical software and increases your confidence with data handling and analysis.

The main assignment in the form of a management plan allows you to develop your skills to a professional standard.

The mixture of science and management offers you a unique range of skills required by employers.

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Marine Biodiversity (ZO5820)

15 Credit Points

This course will introduce you to the vibrant marine life in tropical, temperate and polar ecosystems on our planet, from both an evolutionary and ecological perspective. It gives you the opportunity to describe and identify biodiversity, discover how species are adapted to the marine environment, and investigate the impacts of climate change on marine organisms. This course focuses on coral reefs, soft bottom habitats, open ocean, polar systems, rocky intertidal, sponge gardens, and deep sea.

The course uses a team-based learning approach that promotes the development of your research, communication, and teamwork skills. Students will gain hands-on experience in computing, wet lab practice, and fieldwork.

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Environmental Impact Assessment (EK5804)

15 Credit Points

Lectures and seminars provide background information about the origins and development of EIA, and how EIAs are implemented in the UK and elsewhere. Visiting speakers and a field visit provide practitioner perspectives on the role of EIA in development decisions.

Workshop sessions focus on case studies to provide insight into issues that arise and provide an opportunity to develop transferable skills valued by employers, such as team-working, time-management, presentation and critical appraisal.

Through an EIA report you investigate a proposed development in depth to identify likely environmental effects, judge their significance, and propose how they should be assessed and mitigated.

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Marine Conservation Management (ZO5809)

15 Credit Points

Effective engagement with conservation of marine biodiversity requires an open mind, creativity, patience and an appreciation of shared learning. This course is structured to help you develop those essential skills while building your understanding of current issues in marine conservation and how conservation professionals engage with these issues.

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Semester 3

Semester 3

Compulsory Courses
Project in Ecology and Conservation (EK5907)

60 Credit Points

The three-month individual Research Project can cover any area of ecology and/or conservation and is undertaken under the supervision of a member of staff who is an expert in your chosen field. Many projects are also done in collaboration with an external organisation. The project provides opportunities for you to develop your abilities and skills, generate hypotheses and design ways of testing them and to analyse, report and discuss your findings. You will learn to take responsibility for implementing your own plans and modifying them as necessary. The project is written up in the style of a scientific paper manuscript or a consultancy report.

View detailed information about this course

We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

How You'll Study

The programme comprises a combination of taught modules, each of which will involve lectures/seminars and practical work. There is a one week 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 developed by the student in consultation with a supervisor (a member of the School of Biological Sciences) and often with an external collaborator. The project title can be selected from an extensive list or based on the student’s own suggestion.

Learning Methods

  • Field Trips
  • Field Work
  • Group Projects
  • Individual Projects
  • Lab Work
  • Lectures
  • Research
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials
  • Workshops

Assessment Methods

The programme is assessed entirely by continuous assessment. There are no exams. The assessments have been developed to provide training in key transferable skills. For example, a conference presentation, paper review, debate, preparation of a policy brief or chairing a discussion. Assessments for more applied courses include an environmental impact assessment and management plan. The final assessment is your project report submitted in the form of a scientific paper manuscript.

Why Study Ecology and Conservation?

  • 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. Our plant and soil ecology group is ranked number 1 in the UK for overall research excellence (REF 2014).
  • 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.

What Our Students Say

Leanne Riddoch United Kingdom

Leanne Riddoch <small><i>United Kingdom</i></small>

Leanne Riddoch United Kingdom

The programme encompasses a range of skills which are so important in this field, including statistics for biologists, GIS and population modelling. There are also many opportunities made available, including weekly seminars and career mentoring.

Chinedu Nsude Nigeria

Chinedu Nsude <small><i>Nigeria</i></small>

Chinedu Nsude Nigeria

The integration of field trips in almost all course modules is amazing. I am also pleased to have been selected as a Young Leader for the Scottish Wildlife Trust during my degree.

Cheung Ying Tsang Hong Kong

Cheung Ying Tsang <small><i>Hong Kong</i></small>

Cheung Ying Tsang Hong Kong

When I complete my masters degree I hope to work in an international green group to focus on initiating new projects on habitat conservation.

Entry Requirements


The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.

A UK 2:1 honours degree (or international equivalent), in a biological, environmental or physical science, geography, or other relevant subject; applicants with a 2ii (or equivalent), particularly with some relevant experience, may also be considered. We also consider individuals with degrees in a wider range of disciplines who are clearly motivated by the programme and have some relevant experience.

Please enter your country to view country-specific entry requirements.

English Language Requirements

To study for a Postgraduate Taught degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:

IELTS Academic:

OVERALL - 6.5 with: Listening - 5.5; Reading - 5.5; Speaking - 5.5; Writing - 6.0


OVERALL - 90 with: Listening - 17; Reading - 18; Speaking - 20; Writing - 21

PTE Academic:

OVERALL - 62 with: Listening - 59; Reading - 59; Speaking - 59; Writing - 59

Cambridge English B2 First, C1 Advanced, C2 Proficiency:

OVERALL - 176 with: Listening - 162; Reading - 162; Speaking - 162; Writing - 169

Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

Document Requirements

You will be required to supply the following documentation with your application as proof you meet the entry requirements of this degree programme. If you have not yet completed your current programme of study, then you can still apply and you can provide your Degree Certificate at a later date.

an up-to-date CV/Resumé
Degree Certificate
a degree certificate showing your qualifications
Degree Transcript
a full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) (original & official English translation)
Personal Statement
a detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme

Fee Information

Fee information
Fee category Cost
Home / RUK £10,200
Tuition Fees for 2021/22 Academic Year
EU / International students £21,500
Tuition Fees for 2021/22 Academic Year

Additional Fee Information

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.


Eligible self-funded international Masters students will receive the Aberdeen Global Scholarship. Visit our Funding Database to find out more and see our full range of scholarships.

Aberdeen Global Scholarship (EU)

The Aberdeen Global Scholarship is open to European Union (EU) students.

This is a £2,000 tuition fee discount available to eligible self-funded Postgraduate Masters students who are classed as International fee status and are domiciled in the EU, plus another £3,000 discount for eligible Postgraduate Masters students who would have previously been eligible for Home fees (Scottish/EU) fee status.

View Aberdeen Global Scholarship


The programme focuses on providing training in state-of-the-art methods that will be invaluable both for careers in academic research and as a professional ecologist, for example in ecological or environmental consultancy or conservation. The UK’s Natural Environment Research Council and the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management have both published lists of the 'most wanted' skills in the ecological and environmental sector. Our MSc programme has been specifically designed to provide you with these sought after skills so that you are highly competitive in whatever career you choose to follow.

In addition to acquiring discipline-specific skills, the course work activities within 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. Previous graduates have gone on to the top of their chosen profession in research, consultancy, conservation, policy, education and advocacy.

Industry Links

We collaborate with colleagues in research institutions all over the world and have active involvement with local, national and international governmental and non-governmental organisations including, for example, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Marine Scotland, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, British Trust for Ornithology, Scottish Wildlife Trust, National Trust for Scotland and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.

1st in UK for Soil and Environmental Science

Soil and Environmental Science research at the University of Aberdeen is ranked number 1 in the UK (REF 2014)

1st in Scotland for Environment and Ecology

We are ranked 1st in Scotland for Environment/Ecology (US News & World Report of Best Global Universities Rankings 2020)

What our Alumni Say

Julianne Dirks

Julianne Dirks

Julianne Dirks

Job Details
Alaskan Fisheries Observer
Graduated 2020

My peers were a fun, talented, tight-knit group of people that supported one another, explored Scotland, and learned from each other. I became highly competitive in my job search by having this degree. My MSc allowed me to expand my search of titles to look for in the job application process, be confident in the skills I can bring to companies and think creatively to problem solve. My studies here also led me to great networking connections for future career possibilities.

Cephas Asare

Cephas Asare

Cephas Asare

Job Details
Programme Officer (in charge of Fisheries), Hen Mpoano, Ghanaian NGO
Graduated 2019

My work before coming to Aberdeen was focused on small scale fisheries in Ghana and how to sustainably manage it. With my studies in Aberdeen, I’m well adapted to making robust ecological data analysis to inform management decision from the NGO perspective. Thanks to my course in R! Currently I’m working on a project funded by the European Union with a focus on reducing child labour in fisheries.

Bruce Gardiner

Bruce Gardiner

Bruce Gardiner

Job Details
Seasonal Ecologist, Jacobs Engineering Group
Graduated 2019

The field trips and practical elements of the course were very enjoyable especially as lots of the students on the course are now pursuing practical field job roles, as well as the camaraderie that came from having a small course cohort. If you get the opportunity, take the time to explore the older bits of the city and the rural parts of Aberdeenshire just a few miles outside the city. There are so many lovely places to go and explore that are just off the beaten path.

Diana Rodríguez Cala

Diana Rodríguez Cala

Diana Rodríguez Cala

Job Details
Program Assistant, Planta! Plant Life Conservation Society
Graduated 2018

The whole experience was marvellous. I learnt not only in the academic field but in the practice. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet researchers and practitioners from different institutions, who are regularly invited to give seminars about particular topics. I especially remember one about the work of environmental rangers in Scotland and another one about wildlife-human conflicts. My class was really diverse in terms of geographical regions and experience, and that was exciting for me!

Our Experts

The programme will be delivered by a multidisciplinary team of world renowned and vastly experienced experts in ecology and conservation.

Other Experts
Professor Xavier Lambin
Dr Lesley Lancaster
Professor Stuart Piertney
Professor Michelle Pinard
Professor Beth Scott
Dr Alex Douglas
Professor Justin Travis
Dr Louise Ross
Dr Kara Layton
Dr Philip Smith
Professor Paul Thompson
Programme Coordinator
Dr Sarah Woodin

Information About Staff Changes

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.


Image for Greenhouses


Our plant growth facilities include controlled environmental growth chambers and glasshouses for teaching and experimental work.

Image for Cruickshank Botanic Garden
Cruickshank Botanic Garden

Cruickshank Botanic Garden

The Cruickshank Botanic Garden is situated on our King's College campus. It is used to support both our teaching and research; existing to promote the diversity and importance of plants and their role in the natural world.

Image for Bettyhill Field Station
Bettyhill Field Station

Bettyhill Field Station

This field centre located in Sutherland, one of the most scenic areas of Britain, is used for teaching and research in ecology and environmental sciences.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

Student Recruitment & Admissions Service
University of Aberdeen
University Office
Regent Walk
AB24 3FX