Ecology and Conservation, MSc

Ecology and Conservation, MSc


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 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.

What You'll Study

Stage 1

Compulsory Courses

Stage 1 compulsory courses include:

  • BI5013 - Ecological and Environmental Data Analysis Using R
  • EK5016 - Field Skills for Ecology
  • ZO5322 - Contemporary Methods for Population Modelling
Getting Started at the University of Aberdeen (PD5006)

This course, which is prescribed for all taught postgraduate students, is studied entirely online, takes approximately 5-6 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks.

Topics include orientation overview, equality and diversity, health, safety and cyber security and how to make the most of your time at university in relation to careers and employability.

Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’.

Optional Courses

Plus one of the following courses:

  • BI5314 - Advanced Ecological Statistics using R
  • EK5314 - Ecology, Conservation and Society
Stage 2

Compulsory Courses

Stage 2 compulsory courses include:

  • EK5515 - Catchment Management
  • EK5813 - Molecular Ecology and Conservation Genetics
Applications of GIS (EV5517)

15 Credit Points

Lectures and structured workshops develop your knowledge of the principles and practice of geographic information systems, and familiarise you with ArcGIS software, enhancing your employability.

An individual investigation 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.

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

Environmental Impact Assessment (EK5804)

15 Credit Points

The course provides background information about the origins and development of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, and its implementation in the UK and elsewhere. It also highlights the significance of impacts associated with selected developments addressed in detail in seminars. The lectures and seminars are supported by workshop sessions focusing on case studies and providing insights into the issues that arise during the EIA. The course also provides an opportunity to develop transferrable skills valued by employers, such as team-working, time-management, communication of science, and critical appraisal. Throughout the course you will work with genuine EIA materials utilised during different stages of the EIA process, to identify likely environmental effects, judge their significance, and propose how they should be assessed and mitigated.

Stage 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.

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.

Fee Information

Fee information
Fee category Cost
UK £12,200
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year
EU / International students £27,000
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 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.

Funding Opportunities

  • The James Henry Scott Scholarship – Funded by The Swire Charitable Trust, the scholarship covers full international postgraduate tuition fees of £27k plus a maintenance award of £5k. Candidates must be from Mainland China or Hong Kong commencing one of the MSc postgraduate degrees offered by the School of Biological Sciences in September 2023. The application deadline is 1st June 2023.


Self-funded international students enrolling on postgraduate taught (PGT) programmes will receive one of our Aberdeen Global Scholarships, ranging from £3000 to £8,500, depending on your domicile country. Learn more about the Aberdeen Global Scholarships here.

To see our full range of scholarships, visit our Funding Database.

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 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.
  • 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.

Amelia Cardy United Kingdom

Amelia Cardy <small><i>United Kingdom</i></small>

Amelia Cardy United Kingdom

One of the reasons I chose the University of Aberdeen was due to the easy access to the countryside and rivers. My favourite part of the course so far has been the Plant Ecology course which was filled with field trips and hands on learning.

Entry Requirements


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

Minimum entry requirement for this programme is a degree in a biological, environmental or physical science, geography, or other relevant discipline at 2:1 (upper second class) UK Honours level, or an Honours degree from a non-UK institution which is judged by the University to be of equivalent worth. Candidates with at least a 2:1 or equivalent in other disciplines may be considered if they can demonstrate relevant experience and motivation.

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

Aberdeen Global Scholarship

Eligible self-funded post graduate taught (PGT) students will receive the Aberdeen Global Scholarship. Explore our Global Scholarships, including eligibility details, on our dedicated page.

Aberdeen Global Scholarships


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.

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REF 2021

We are ranked in the top quartile for Research Power in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences in the latest Research Excellence Framework

Nature on our Doorstep

Current and former students tell us why they choose to study biological and environmental sciences at Aberdeen

What our Alumni Say

Vivian Bisset

Vivian Bisset

Vivian Bisset

Job Details
Countryside Ranger, National Trust for Scotland North East Ranger Service
Graduated 2019

My time spent at the University of Aberdeen was some of the best of my life. I made lifelong friendships, lasting connections with lecturers, built a strong network, learned valuable lessons and skills to support my career and had fun while doing it all. Each course I studied was balanced between taught materials as well as practical assignments, fieldwork and hands-on experiences. I can’t recommend the MSc Ecology and Conservation programme enough for anyone who might be considering it. Do it!

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 Kara Layton
Dr Philip Smith
Professor Paul Thompson
Programme Coordinator
Dr Thomas Bodey

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.


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

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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.

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Zoology Museum

Zoology Museum

The museum’s displays are worldwide in scope, from protozoa to the great whales, including taxidermy, skeletal material, study skins, fluid-preserved specimens and models.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

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